He certainly would not have been interested in strollercising, although his form-fitting 18th century breeches might have gotten him through a few spin classes before falling apart. He most certainly would not have made a pass or leered at any of the moms, being far too North German Protestant for that sort of behavior, but also believing as he did that sex should be confined to marriage and engaged in strictly for the purposes of reproduction. And he had some very fine and feminist things to say about the evils of objectifying the female body.
Yet even if these credentials were enough to get him into the Golden Gate Mothers Group, the solitary and humorless Immanuel Kant would probably have freaked out enough moms to get the group's man-ban reinstated.
But these are all hypotheticals. The point is that Kant would have had no personal interest in joining this group, though he would disapproved of its ban on men, and this on purely ethical grounds. That is basically my position, too.
What are these purely ethical grounds? Fortunately, I don't have to lay them out, because another dad blogger (Backpacking Dad) with far greater knowledge of the philosophical tradition already has. It's worth a read for its concision and comprehensiveness.
The idea is basically this: looked at from any of three contending frameworks for ethical evaluation -- the Kantian, the Utilitarian, and the classical (Aristotelian) framework of moral virtue -- the GGMG man-ban does not really pass the test. BD writes:
I think the policy banning men from joining the Golden Gate Mothers Group is philosophically weak. It doesn’t seem defensible on any of the classic moral grounds, and it would be very difficult for someone to adopt a consistent moral perspective on the world that included this ban as a specific element.
Who cares? Well, Backpacking Dad, being a philosopher, and apparently one versed in ethical philosophy in particular, cares about whether the rules we live by can be rationally grounded. Since most of the rules we live by require consensus in order to be adopted, it's not a bad idea to be able to make arguments for them based on an explicit system of reasoning. That's what he tries to do.
Backpacking Dad's first critique is from the Kantian perspective, or an analysis based on the application of Kant's philosophical version of the Biblical 'Golden Rule,' what Kant called the categorical imperative. Can one apply this rule in all cases in a purely disinterested way? Not really, because to do so would mean that, if it were moral for every group "promoting the comfort and security of new mothers [to exclude] men from their groups," no men could form such groups, because they would have to exclude themselves.
(Another way of testing the ban from a Kantian perspective would be to ask, "would I will it that all groups, in order to promote the safety and security of their members, be able to exclude at least one type of individual of their choosing?" I'd like to hear BD's appraisal of this formulation, which I think is the defense most likely to be employed by the GGMG. It seems that it would run into all sorts of headaches in terms of how, if universally applied, it would be possible to guarantee that every "type" is guaranteed its own group and access to the same numbers of groups, when it may be likely that some groups find themselves the objects of multiple exclusions.)
BD walks through two more evaluations, one from a utilitarian and another from a classical moral virtue perspective, more or less failing it on both counts. I'll skip the moral virtue evaluation, since I don't think it will make sense to most people, my own Kantian self included. From the utilitarian, or 'greatest good for the greatest number' perspective, the man-ban runs into quantitative difficulty in that the overall good it is intended to advance -- the security and comfort of women -- is likely countervailed by the harm it does to men who are rejected, children who are denied enrichment, women who would like to join but who disapprove of the ban, and the skewing of social capital and resources away from these and other individuals.
Not being of Utilitarian persuasion, I think this sort of cost-benefit analysis is itself morally troubling, although this is how most public policy actually gets developed. But granting that within the Utilitarian framework, a case could be made that past injustice and discrimination against women could be cited to justify the present exclusion of men, BD argues that the man ban would still be problematic because it is such a blunt instrument:
[W]hat is the rule that is really being forwarded by this specific ban? Is it really to reduce male oppression? Then why not let unoppressing males in? Is it because it’s too hard to tell who they are? Why not have a probationary period? The blanket ban, at the least, seems like a nuclear solution to what might be a severe problem, but not one that cannot be addressed through less discriminatory policies.
What's this? So here we have what strikes me as the core of a reasonable and constructive proposal that forces the GGMG to answer for the harms of its exclusionary policy, while offering a way out through a series of more refined admissions tests. Instead of declaring men to be just beastly and banned from the outset, the GGMG is asked to put out some rules and a process that define what is acceptable behavior and what will get people (men) kicked out if these rules are violated.
That, it seems to me, is far more seemly than a justification for exclusion that is made on the grounds of "your children will be excluded because we feel uncomfortable bitching about our husbands not helping with childcare when you are next to us helping out with childcare."
Then, at least, organizations like the GGMG may benefit from the advantages of enrolling non-beastly dads and their children, which is one of the best ways to ensure that the friends and children of non-beastly dads are themselves even less beastly going forward into the next generation.