Politics in Minutes (2016)

Equality and difference

The idea of equality is a fundamental value of liberal politics and much of women’s political activity has been directed towards achieving full equality with men. However, the concept of equality has been problematic. Feminists have pointed to the fact that there are also differences between women in class, race and sexuality. Equal rights within the law therefore become meaningless without ensuring equal opportunities.

Many feminists argue that biological differences should not be taken into account, for fear of making women into a ‘special case’ and hence marginalizing them. While some feminists welcomed, for example, the appointment of a Minister for Women, others saw it as patronizing. However, it is also argued that in today’s world there are social, economic and cultural reasons why some issues can be seen as primarily affecting women, among them rape, domestic violence, pornography and female genital mutilation (FGM) and that these must be recognized and addressed.