the dilemma of difference

cross posted at the exponent

i recently began research for my thesis into public policy and the way it affects women. one theme that i keep running into again and again is what feminist legal scholar Martha Minow calls the dilemma of difference. in her book Making All the Difference: Inclusion, Exclusion, and American Law, she writes:

“The dilemma of difference may be posed as a choice between integration and separation, as a choice between similar treatment and special treatment, or as a choice between neutrality and accommodation.”

this is an area rife with landmines for feminist scholars. some believe that women should only accept equal treatment without regard to biological differences such as pregnancy if women have any hope of reaching a modicum of equality. their argument is that by accepting special treatment, women risk reinforcing the age old narrative of women’s vulnerability and inferiority. but those who argue for special treatment believe that policy needs to be put in place that addresses the unique needs women have from men. they also believe that failing to acknowledge the differences does little to remedy systematic inequality. Read the rest of this entry »