Women-only spaces and the right to exclude

Abstract

The central question of the paper is: do women have the right to exclude transwomen from women-only spaces? First I argue that biological sex matters politically, and should be protected legally—at least until such a time as there is no longer sex discrimination. Then I turn to the rationales for women-only spaces, arguing that there are eight independent rationales that together overdetermine the moral justification for maintaining particular spaces as women-only. I address a package of spaces, including prisons, changing rooms, fitting rooms, bathrooms, shelters, rape and domestic violence refuges, gyms, spas, sports, schools, accommodations, shortlists, prizes, quotas, political groups, clubs, events, festivals, and terms. The arguments of these two sections taken together make a strong case against self-identification as the basis for legal sex (because legal sex will generally determine inclusion). In the last part of the paper, I address the objection that my conclusion was obtained through linguistic sleight of hand, which I answer by saying that choices about how to refer to transwomen don’t change the underlying fact that the basis for exclusion is generally sex, not gender identity.

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Holly Lawford-Smith
University of Melbourne

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Are women adult human females?Alex Byrne - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (12):3783-3803.
What Is Really Wrong With Compelled Association?Seana Valentine Shiffrin - 2005 - Northwestern University Law Review 99 (2):839-888.

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