Must Feminists Identify as Secular Citizens? Lessons from Ontario
GENDER EQUALITY: DIMENSIONS OF WOMEN'S EQUAL CITIZENSHIP, Linda C. McClain, Joanna L. Grossman, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2009
43 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2008 Last revised: 29 Apr 2015
Date Written: 2009
Must feminists identify as secular citizens? Jurgen Habermas would undoubtedly respond affirmatively. Habermas conceptualizes liberal states as post-secular, peopled by citizens who are either religious or secular. When his theory of the post-secular state is applied to the Canadian controversy about religious arbitration of family matters, it provides a framework for identifying feminists as secular citizens. Although this controversy was resolved in favour of feminist secular citizens, it is not over. Religious citizens now threaten to bring a constitutional challenge. The contest would involve a confrontation between two rights guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: religious freedom and sex equality. However, this contest might be complicated by the emergence of a new group of feminists claiming to value both religious freedom and sex equality. Since they refuse to choose between these values, their claim resembles those of intersectional feminists who refuse to choose between their race and/or sexuality and their feminism. Just as the Charter is unlikely to recognize and protect intersectional claims, so too is Habermas unable to conceptualize the post-secularism of citizens who identify as both religious and feminist. Thus, we will have to wait for law and theory to catch up to life.
Keywords: feminism, equality, religion, Canada
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