Habermas, feminism, and law: beyond equality and difference?
In this paper, I argue that Habermas’ proceduralist model of law can be put to feminist ends in at least two significant ways. First, in presenting an alternative to the liberal and welfare models of laws, the proceduralist model offers feminism a way out of the equality/difference dilemma. Both these attempts to secure women’s equality by emphasising women’s sameness to men or their difference from men have placed the onus on women to either find a way of integrating themselves into existing institutions or to confront the so-called question of women’s difference. The proceduralist model renders this dilemma irrelevant. Instead, it proceeds from the fact of sexual difference; a fact that produces competing and conflicting needs and interests that require interpretation by both men and women. This, I argue, marks a change in the very way we conceptualise the so-called problem of women’s difference, insofar as the question is no longer framed in these terms. Second, I argue that this deliberative process over the interpretation of conflicting interests affects a fundamental shift in the nature of legal institutions themselves, insofar as law is no longer a vehicle for promoting male interests.