Difference between freedom and equality

Basic political values

Ute Gerhard

To person

Dr. phil., born 1939; Prof. em. at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main; Founding director of the Cornelia Goethe Center for Women's Studies and Research into Gender Relations. [email protected]

Freedom has a higher, more radiant sound than equality. The departure to freedom pervades history in the great freedom movements and, when we look around the world, remains as topical and indispensable as ever. Freedom encompasses - there is agreement on this in liberal democracies - both personal freedom of action to do everything, provided it does not harm others, as well as political freedom from arbitrary rule and violence. It is also secured by a number of special constitutional freedoms such as freedom of expression, religion, assembly, association or occupation. But these guarantees are always at risk. "I woo citizens for the realm of freedom", this motto of the first political women’s newspaper in Germany from 1849, published by Louise Otto, emphatically sums up all these freedoms as a prerequisite for realizing equal rights for women as well.

The right to equality, the recognition of people as equals, on the other hand, is more complicated, does not go without saying, and despite all recognition of equal freedom, it always needs to be concretized or an understanding of what exactly is meant, how much equality or in what respect equality is to be established. The redemption of the legal principle of equality is therefore threatening, at least uncomfortable for those who have something to lose, because it attacks existing conditions, pushes for change and division of rule and property. In the course of history, at the latest since 1789, since a political program of social justice was derived from the philosophical and theological doctrine of the equality of all people with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, equality has repeatedly fallen into disrepute as "equalization". In the slogan "Freedom instead of socialism", the suspicion and denunciation of equality have recently been misused into a catchy propaganda formula. Even after the end of the "Cold War" confrontation, the neoliberalism that dominated the market largely abandoned the guiding norm of equality.

It is correct that equality without freedom leads to dictatorial conditions, freedom without equality hinders the freedom of all those who have fewer resources, unequal opportunities or no privileges. For the theorists of bourgeois society, too, it was clear that freedom cannot exist without equality and that a democratic form of government requires "extensive equality of social position and wealth" [1]. This means that the two basic values ​​of democracy, freedom and equality, necessarily complement each other, rule each other, and are in dialectical tension. [2] "Constitutional history thrives on this tension between equality and freedom," says the explanatory notes in the comments on Article 3 of the Basic Law, "and opinions are divided on the respective attempt at reconciliation". [3]

The history of women and women's rights is a striking example of how the denial of legal equality for "half of humanity" leads to lack of freedom, paternalism and abuse of power, especially in bourgeois societies that understand each other as liberal. The arguments against equality, and in general women's human rights, were outlined in Western philosophy, in the traditional gender order and in social practice. Nevertheless, new justifications and excuses were needed as to why women are different and not human in the legal sense, [4] why after the bourgeois revolutions all feudal subjugations and dependencies had to be dissolved, but the "rule of the man in the house" [5] as well as his sole right of representation Outwardly, it became a cornerstone of the civil legal system and thus marriage as an institution became the nucleus of the state.

The reason was the systematic separation between public and private sphere, between male and female gender roles, between body and mind, nature and culture, wage labor and housework. And it is part of a primarily gender-specific dialectic of the Enlightenment that precisely at the time when "human rights were being preached loudly and from the rooftops" [6], gender diversity became the principle of order that dominated all science and politics, and legitimation became more masculine Domination and violence served. Not only philosophy or political theory, but in particular the human sciences, above all medicine and jurisprudence, and in their practical application also pedagogy "enthroned the difference between the sexes as the all-explanatory basis of science and culture". [7]

This prevention of equal rights for women, the contradictions and discrimination that arose from the polarization and institutionalization of hierarchical gender roles and the functionalization of gender differences, has meanwhile been thoroughly analyzed in all of its disciplines in women's and gender studies. She exposed it as a patriarchal counter-reaction against the conceivability and demand for freedom and equality of women, at least not as a result of the so highly valued reason. [8] Was the harsh resistance to equality between women due to the power of habit or "gender egoism" and the "man's need for comfort", as the legal sociologist Marianne Weber assumed? [9] Or was it a consequence of "self-inflicted immaturity", "theirs The cause is not a lack of understanding, but a lack of resolution and courage "? [10]

Only in centuries of struggles, in ever new "waves" and lively international exchange, the women's movements of the 19th and 20th centuries in Europe and parts of the world were able to gradually improve the inferior, unequal legal position of women. And yet we should not forget how short the term of some legal achievements is also in Germany: The right to the same school education and study has existed since 1908, the right to political suffrage since 1919. Equal rights in private life, which for married women is a precondition for their political Participation and codetermination was, but it was a long time coming. Even after the constitutional assurance in Art. 3 GG, equality in the family was formally achieved in West Germany only in 1977 with the abolition of the primary duty of women to do housework.

At the same time, we know how unequal the living conditions, participation and career opportunities of men and women still are today, how unequal everyday care for children and families is still distributed between the sexes. It is not the place here to deal with the structural, political, ideological and individually practical causes of unrealized legal equality for women. What is more interesting is whether the instruments offered by the values ​​of freedom and equality are still usable in view of the complexity of such fundamental social changes and individual requirements.

In fact, the "new" women's movement of the 1970s was not primarily concerned with equality, but with autonomy and self-determination in private as well as in politics. It saw itself worldwide above all as a liberation movement, in contrast to the "women's rights hate" of the historical women's movement. The women's right skepticism, fed by historically bad experiences, had tended to increase with their disappointment over the unrealized, formal equality. In the heated debate among feminists about equality and difference at the beginning of the 1990s, there were therefore radical voices for whom "the traditional political vocabulary" - the concept of equality, freedom or democracy - "in toto suspicious ", was no longer useful, because these terms" constituted the patriarchal order of the world "and were therefore not" innocent ". [11] For some, this resulted in the demand for gender-specific, gender-specific rights, for" female freedom ", because the fact that there are two genders is indissoluble in our law, in our political language. Neither gender can represent the other. [12] For other theorists, such absolutizing of the gender difference as well as the recognition of the differences among women were the occasion, to question the "totalizing gestures" [13] of an identity encompassing all women qua gender, i.e. to deconstruct gender as a leading category.

Once again, equality - now among feminists - had no market value, was equated with being equal (sameness), Identity confused, misunderstood as approximation. Even Helene Stöcker, radical feminist and pacifist, objected 100 years ago in her paper "Our revaluation of values": "No, no, don't want to be a man, want to be like a man (...): what should that help us! "[14]

The question of how much equality to allow and which differences are to be taken into account has accompanied the modern history of women's emancipation since the French Revolution. While Olympe de Gouges in her "Declaration of the Rights of Women and Citizens" of 1791 basically gave priority to legal equality and called for no special "legal benefits" for women, but rather equal duties and participation, [15] Mary Wollstonecraft made a plea for dierechte der Frau "of 1792 placed the recognition of the special female way of life, education and morality at the center of their legal demands. [16] The tension between the appeal to the difference of the sexes and the demand for equality is therefore also called the "Wollstonecraft Dilemma" and describes the difficulty of arguing about legal equality with men on the one hand, and of rejecting the assimilation to hegemonic masculinity on the other. It is the apparent paradox of insisting on the right to equality and at the same time demanding that differences be taken into account.

For the "victory of the principle"

The juxtaposition of equality and difference - so the conclusion of many voices in the meantime - is a "wrong alternative" [17], which neglects the social conditions as the cause of inequality. From a legal and political point of view, it is therefore always necessary to negotiate and argue about the respects in which the differences are relevant and must be taken into account - this reflects the laborious and unfinished history of the principle of equality and equality. Equality presupposes the diversity of people, otherwise this guiding norm of human rights made no sense, and this legal principle can only be about equality of one certain Page, act in respects essential for the chances of life, never about identity or assimilation. The yardstick for gender equality can therefore in no way be the "normal male biography", but must be based on a degree of freedom and equality that is possible for all people (men and women).

With the insistence on equality, the freedom to lead a self-determined life is always touched. What this means in detail for equal freedom for women must be determined in the respective context and negotiated in legal agreements. Certainly the political balance of power, equal participation and representation - hence quotas, for example - play an indispensable role up to now. After all, the law, the principle of equality and freedom, now stands on the side of women as well as that of all other disadvantaged and oppressed. In the history of democracy and women's movements, the claim to rights, especially equality, was the decisive political lever to perceive inequality and injustice as such and to bring them to the fore.

If scientific analyzes and feminist criticism are currently particularly the unjust and unequal division of labor in the reproductive area, with regard to all activities of care, support and care for otherscare), and thus bring up not only a problem of gender-specific but also international division of labor, is a central field in which the women's movements, like other civil society actors [18], are currently fighting for the relevant aspects of equality and thus new standards for justice claim. The revaluation of values ​​and political priorities in relation to the social practice of caring for men and women is a fairly revolutionary undertaking that, along with the division of labor, also calls into question the previous structures of economic power and inequality.