Equal or Different?
The debate over equality, its meaning and how or if it may be achieved, and its relevance to women's liberation - a debate that is often referred to in feminist writings as the equality-difference debate - is, as was argued in the introduction, central to feminist analysis and discussion. This equality-difference debate is all the more difficult to overcome as it is a debate whose terms are not easily defined. Put crudely, it is a debate over whether women should struggle to be equal to men or whether they should valorize their differences from men. But the terms equality and difference are themselves contested terms with a multitude of meanings, and so the equality-difference debate is a highly complex one. If women are claiming equality with men, then with which men should they be claiming equality? And on what issues? Should they claim equality of opportunity or equality of outcome? And if women want to valorize their differences, then are these natural, biological differences or differences that are the result of particular social and economic conditions?
These are just a few of the many questions that are provoked by the equality-difference debate and they illustrate why it is such a difficult debate for feminists and why it has led, at times, to a seeming impasse between feminists on opposite sides of the divide. Some have tried to overcome this divide by using postmodernist or