feminism and care ethics

Emily is excited to start her new job. She just finished her degree from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and is going to work for a New York gem dealer who specializes in goods from Africa. After her initial training, Emily will join the company president on some gem sourcing trips to Tanzania, something she has always dreamed about doing. She’s also excited to work for a company that purchases gems from small miners in tiny African villages. These are hard-working poor people who live in very poor conditions, and she hopes to get to know some of them. Since Tanzania is one of the main gemstone suppliers to the United States, she’s particularly pleased that some of the profit goes back to people who need it more than her. Having a strong sense of justice, Emily doesn’t particularly like the idea of U.S. companies taking most of the profits. A few weeks into her job, Emily is a bit disappointed to learn that the trips to Tanzania are only made once or twice a year. And, her boss Mukkesh explains, they don’t actually visit the regions where gemstones are mined. Rather, they purchase their gems in the large city of Arusha where the main gem dealers reside. These dealers, in turn, pay the miners through brokers. The miners themselves never leave their villages in the bush, Mukkesh says. In fact, he’s never met a miner him- self, despite his many trips to Africa. Nor has he ever visited a mine. What she next learns is even more disappointing. It turns out that the gem dealers take a cut of the profits, and so do the Tanzanian brokers. The return to the miners themselves is thus far less than Emily expected. When she expresses her dissatisfaction about this, Mukkesh responds: “Look, it’s not like we’re treating anybody badly. Like a lot of other businesses, we don’t have much contact with the people we deal with. I’m glad that the miners get paid fairly—we pay them the same everyone else does. But I don’t meet with these people. I don’t know much about how they live or even where the live, exactly. Their problems aren’t my concerns; after all, we’re not some sort of family.” “I get it,” Emily says; “but I’m still not very happy about it.”
THOUGHT QUESTIONS
1. In this and other businesses, do you share Emily’s concerns for the people who work “at the bottom of the food chain”? Or, like Mukkesh, do you feel that busi- ness is just business, and shouldn’t become a personal matter? What are your reasons?
2. What values drive Emily’s viewpoint and her reaction to what she learns about the workers?
3. Given the essentials of caring, do you think it possible for Mukkesh to pursue a more caring relationship with the miners? What are some of the barriers to doing this?
4. Why can’t a business relationship be more like “family?” What could serve as a basis for mutuality between Emily or Mukkesh and African miners?
5. Who is taking a justice perspective, and who is taking a care perspective? Is one perspective better or more appropriate to the situation than the other? Which is harder to put into practice?

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