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21/2/14 Sex and Gender Feminism Lecture 6. Introduction ✤ The Sex/Gender Distinction ✤ Traditional Feminist Accounts of Womanness ✤ Objections to Traditional.

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Presentation on theme: "21/2/14 Sex and Gender Feminism Lecture 6. Introduction ✤ The Sex/Gender Distinction ✤ Traditional Feminist Accounts of Womanness ✤ Objections to Traditional."— Presentation transcript:

1 21/2/14 Sex and Gender Feminism Lecture 6

2 Introduction ✤ The Sex/Gender Distinction ✤ Traditional Feminist Accounts of Womanness ✤ Objections to Traditional Accounts of Womanness ✤ Objections to the Sex/Gender Distinction ✤ Contemporary accounts of Womanness & Gender

3 The Sex/Gender Distinction ✤ People used to hold Biological Determinism: sex determines gender ✤ 19th Century: women as sluggish, passive, and conservative because they conserve energy ✤ 70s: women should not pilots due to hormonally instability ✤ 90s: much research supposedly showed that differences between men & women were due to the particular thickness of the tissue connecting womens’ brain hemispheres ✤ In response: feminists argued that gender is a social/cultural phenomenon

4 Traditional Views of Womanness ✤ Gender and Womanness is socially constructed

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6 Traditional Views of Womanness ✤ Chodorow: feminine personalities develop in early infancy in response to parenting practices ✤ Mackinnon: Gender as sexuality: femininity as being treated as an object for the satisfying of men’s desires. ✤ (Gender Realism) There is a single feature or set of features that women have in common that makes them women

7 Objections to Traditional Accounts of Womanness (in virtue of gender realism)

8 Spelman Against Gender Realism ✤ 1. White Solipsism ✤ But the problems with narrow understanding of womanness does not undermine gender realism

9 Spelman Against Gender Realism ✤ 2. Inseparability of womanness from race and class ✤ A: If gender were separable from race and class, then women would experience their womanness in the same way ✤ B: If gender were separable from race and class, then we would have no trouble imagining that a white woman would have just the same understanding of herself as a woman if she had been black ✤ If gender is so inseparable from race and class, then there is no one property of being a women that all women share ✤ But RE A: (i) It is compatible with B that women all share the same feature but experience it differently (merely epistemic); (ii) womanness might not be the kind of thing that can be experienced like this; (iii) Worry that this objection proves too much

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11 Spelman Against Gender Realism ✤ 2. Inseparability of womanness from race and class ✤ A: If gender were separable from race and class, then women would experience their womanness in the same way ✤ B: If gender were separable from race and class, then we would have no trouble imagining that a white woman would have just the same understanding of herself as a woman if she had been black ✤ If gender is so inseparable from race and class, then there is no one property of being a women that all women share ✤ But RE A: (i) It is compatible with B that women all share the same feature but experience it differently (merely epistemic); (ii) womanness might not be the kind of thing that can be experienced like this; (iii) Worry that this objection proves too much

12 Spelman Against Gender Realism ✤ 2. Inseparability of womanness from race and class ✤ A: If gender were separable from race and class, then women would experience their womanness in the same way ✤ B: If gender were separable from race and class, then we would have no trouble imagining that a white woman would have just the same understanding of herself as a woman if she had been black ✤ If gender is so inseparable from race and class, then there is no one property of being a women that all women share ✤ But RE A: (i) It is compatible with B that women all share the same feature but experience it differently (merely epistemic); (ii) womanness might not be the kind of thing that can be experienced like this; (iii) Worry that this objection proves too much ✤ But RE B: (i) other reasons why we might not be able to imagine these things: lack of ability to imagine being of a different race or class (ii) this is only an epistemic issue not a metaphysical one

13 Spelman Against Gender Realism ✤ 3. The social construction of gender undermines gender realism ✤ But equivocation on Realism ✤ But essential features need not be intrinsic features ✤ Being the President of the US, Being a wife in our culture, Being a friend,

14 Spelman Against Gender Realism ✤ Are Gender Realists and Spelman talking past one another? ✤ The debate as about how gender, race, and class intersect: Do they add up [building blocks] or are they simply not independent things? ✤ It seems that they are not (at least wholly) independent things

15 Butler against Gender Realism ✤ In proposing a uniform account of womanness feminist gender realists imply that there is a correct way to be gendered a woman ✤ It is not possible to use the term ‘woman’ purely descriptively. ✤ Making claims about what it is to be some thing is always exclusionary ✤ But: Substantive Vs Formal Accounts

16 Objections to the sex/gender distinction

17 Is sex classification purely biological? ✤ Uniformity in shape, size, and strength within sex categories depend on exercise opportunities. ✤ Some people’s chromosomes do not match their genitalia ✤ But this only shows that the XX/XY + genitalia way of making the biological distinction doesn’t work

18 Butler against the sex/gender distinction ✤ Sex and gender are the same thing as they are both socially constructed ✤ However this does not establish that sex and gender are the same thing

19 The counter-intuitive consequences of the distinction ✤ Could we take someone’s gender away from them and leave them the same person? 1.For a week last summer, James was a woman 2.For a week last summer, James was a US senator 3.After seeing John’s body, I realised that John is a woman 4.After seeing John’s body, I realised that John is a US senator

20 Contemporary Accounts of Gender and Womanness

21 The Representation Problem ✤ (Gender Realism) There is a single feature or set of features that women have in common that makes them women ✤ If gender realism is false, then there is nothing that women have in common ✤ But if there is no real group ‘women’, it is incoherent to make claims on their behalf

22 Desiderata for an account of womanness ✤ Must take account and reflect the particularity of women and the intersection between gender, class, and race ✤ Mustn’t be exclusionary or at least over-exclusionary ✤ Should not make ‘woman’ as convention dependent as ‘US senator’ or ‘judge’

23 Haslanger’s View ✤ S is a woman iff S is systematically subordinated along some dimension (economic, political, legal, social, etc.) and S is “marked” as a target for this treatment by observed or imagined bodily features presumed to be evidence of a female’s biological role in reproduction ✤ Problems: ✤ Is this too dependent on convention? ✤ Follows that we should abolish woman ✤ Is the queen a woman? ✤ Women not in bodies marked female

24 Haslanger’s View ✤ Distinguishes 3 types of project: conceptual, descriptive, and analytical ✤ Worry: analytical projects give us answers to questions we were not asking ✤ The analytical project with gender hopes to explain persistent inequalities between male an females in a framework sensitive to differences between males and female ✤ That it follows that the queen might not be a woman and that we should abolish women is not a problem for this type of account

25 Bach’s View: Gender Kinds are Historical Kinds ✤ Some kinds are historical kinds

26 Bach’s View: Gender Kinds are Historical Kinds ✤ Some kinds are historical kinds ✤ To be of a certain gender is to have features that associates one with what has historically been deemed a particular gender ✤ (Binary) Gender systems have a certain interdependent set of components ✤ Can take account of the particularity of women and their experiences: can particularise historical gender kinds ✤ Not too convention dependent ✤ Is it too exclusionary?

27 Butler’s Account of Gender ✤ Gender is not something that one is it is something that one does (Gender Performativity) ✤ If it is a performance, then must there not be a performer behind the gender performance? ✤ Don’t some of our expressions of our gender reflect who we are? ✤ Is Butler engaging in the same task as gender realists? ✤ Is gender entirely subjective on Butler’s view?

28 Butler’s Account of Gender ✤ Butler’s view is not exclusionary and takes account of particularity ✤ But radically departs from our concepts of ‘woman’ & ‘man’ ✤ Butler + Haslanger?

29 Summary ✤ Spelman and Butler’s objections to the metaphysical essentialism of traditional accounts of womanness do not undermine this metaphysical essentialism ✤ Problems and Prospects for contemporary accounts of Womanness and Gender


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