Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Lavender McKittrick-Sweitzer

Second Advisor

Jishnu Guha-Majumdar


Martha Minow’s concept of dilemmas of difference, widely influential in feminist philosophy of law, exposes how hidden patriarchal norms are reified in legal institutions and harmfully categorize oppressed groups. Though Minow primarily focuses on how such dilemmas impact interpersonal relationships, I argue that her work can be applied to the relationship between nonhuman animals, human beings, and our legal institutions. Just as certain patriarchal norms establish categories that mask the true roots of difference and thus make it more difficult for non-dominant groups to obtain justice, so too do implicit anthropocentric norms mark out nonhuman animals as different from human beings and similarly disadvantage them in the eyes of the law. As such, I utilize the conceptual frameworks of ecofeminist philosophy to expose the presently concealed anthropocentrism that undermines just legal standing for nonhuman animals. In doing so, I make a strong claim for reforming our legal institutions in order to resolve the unique dilemma of difference which nonhuman animals face.