A cada dois anos, a American Philosophical Association escolhe o melhor artigo de filosofia política do biênio para receber o prêmio Gregory Kavka Prize além de dedicar uma mesa especial ao artigo (veja aqui o post sobre o artigo de Thomas Pogge ganhador da última edição do prêmio). A ganhadora do biênio 2014-2015 foi a professora de Filosofia e Estudos de Gênero Carol Hay (University of Massachussets at Lowell) com o artigo The Obligation to Resist Opression publicado em 2011 no Journal of Social Philosophy.
In 1944, the year after the Great Bengal Famine, 45.6% of widowers surveyed ranked their health as either “ill” or “indifferent.” Only 2.5% of widows made the same judgement. This subjective ranking belied their actual situations, because as a group the widows’ basic health and nutrition tended to be particularly abysmal. These women were starving, and yet most of them claimed not to be sick. One explanation for this unwarranted stoicism is that, unlike men who were similarly situated, these women reacted to the scarcity of food by coming to believe that what little food there was should not be wasted on them.1 Amartya Sen has argued that the reason the Bengali women formed these desires while the men did not is that they had already internalized prevalent sexist social mores that granted women’s interests less importance than men’s.2 Because these women did not believe their interests mattered as much as others’, they did not experience their starvation as worth complaining about.
It is a terrible thing that, to satisfy the less dire needs of the men around them, these women were willing to give up the food that they needed to live. And it is a terrible thing that this happened because these women came to believe that their own needs were unimportant when compared with those of men. But I also think that the women have something to answer for. Rather than standing up for themselves, they accepted starvation. And, when they were being conditioned by sexist social norms to think that this was right, they did not (or did not effectively) reject this idea. In short, while these women were terribly wronged by an oppressive society, they also wronged themselves by failing to resist this oppression.
That it is wrong to oppress others, to take the food they need or deny them the social conditions necessary for the self-respect they deserve, is hardly controversial.3 But that those who are oppressed can also do wrong in not resisting their oppression is rather more so.4 In this paper I defend this controversial claim: I argue that people have an obligation to resist their own oppression and that this obligation is rooted in an obligation to protect their rational nature. First, I present a Kantian account of the obligation to resist one’s oppression as an obligation oppressed people have to protect their rational nature; next, I defend this Kantian account by demonstrating some of the ways oppression can harm people’s rational nature; and finally, I show how the obligation to resist one’s oppression need not be as overly onerous as it might initially appear to be.