Some Internal Problems with Revisionary Gender Concepts

Philosophia 48 (1):55-75 (2020)


Feminism has long grappled with its own demarcation problem—exactly what is it to be a woman?—and the rise of trans-inclusive feminism has made this problem more urgent. I will first consider Sally Haslanger’s “social and hierarchical” account of woman, resulting from “Ameliorative Inquiry”: she balances ordinary use of the term against the instrumental value of novel definitions in advancing the cause of feminism. Then, I will turn to Katharine Jenkins’ charge that Haslanger’s view suffers from an “Inclusion Problem”: it fails to class many trans women as women. Jenkins offers a novel norm-relevancy account of woman to avoid the Inclusion Problem. Unfortunately, Jenkins’ account has serious internal problems, i.e. problems by Jenkins’ own lights: it is unintelligible, or it suffers from an Inclusion Problem of its own. After that, I will develop novel arguments for the conclusion that the project of Ameliorative Inquiry is both incoherent and also impossible to complete—at least, impossible to complete in a trans-inclusive way. Trans-inclusive feminism, therefore, would do well to move beyond Ameliorative Inquiry. Insofar as that’s not possible, trans-inclusive feminism inherits the incoherence of Ameliorative Inquiry.

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Tomas Bogardus
Pepperdine University

Citations of this work

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