By In Discussions, Ethics Discussions at PEA Soup Comments (30)

Ethics Discussions at PEA Soup: Katharine Jenkins’ “Amelioration and Inclusion: Gender Identity and the Concept of Woman,” with précis by Talia Bettcher

Welcome to what should be an exciting discussion of Katharine Jenkins’ “Amelioration and Inclusion: Gender Identity and the Concept of Woman,” published in the most recent issue of Ethics and available open access here. Talia Bettcher has kindly contributed a critical précis, below the fold. Please join us!

 

Trans people regularly struggle with having our identities respected in mainstream society. Not only can this be deeply emotionally wounding, such invalidations are sometimes accompanied by acts of sexual and physical violence. Indeed, these invalidations are often institutionalized: Trans women, for example, can be housed in male prisons, detention centers, and homeless shelters. It’s fair to say that identity invalidation (“misgendering” as it’s sometimes called) is implicated in various forms of trans oppression. Unfortunately, some versions of (non-trans) feminism also have had a long history of excluding trans women from the category woman and therefore from various feminist organizations and projects: That is to say, they have been complicit in trans oppression.

Since many philosophers see the analysis of concepts as our business, it would seem we should have something interesting to say about the question “What is a woman?” There are differences, however, between apparently neutral questions and expressly political ones for which ethical-political aims may shape the project. In this spirit, Sally Haslanger (2012) proposes an ameliorative inquiry into the concept woman that asks what concept feminists should aim to get people to use in light of their goals of ending sexist oppression (the “target concept”). While she recognizes gender terms are used in many ways, she adopts a “focal analysis” in selecting one sense, hierarchical social classes, as primary (Haslanger, p. 228). Very roughly, she says one functions as a woman in some context just in case one is subordinated on the basis of presumed female sex (i.e. female biological role in reproduction) in that context (p. 235). And she says that one is a woman just in case one typically (“regularly, and for the most part”) functions as woman (p. 234). (She also provides an analogous account of man in terms of privilege (ibid)). Such an account is expressly revisionary since a woman not so subordinated wouldn’t count as a woman in the ameliorative project. One of the intended benefits of the analysis, however, is its avoiding excluding women marginalized by race or class (e.g. by analyzing woman in terms of some imagined commonalities that turn out to belong only to the non-marginalized women) (Jenkins, p. 1-2).

Katharine Jenkins lucidly shows, however, that Haslanger’s account does lead to the exclusion of some trans women. Only trans women typically subordinated on the basis of presumed female sex will count, either because they’re read as non-trans women or because they’re taken to have altered their bodies in ways relevant to biological sex. This excludes trans women presumed biologically male, either because they don’t present publicly as women, or because their presentation is viewed as pretense, as well as trans women regarded as women on the basis of gender identity, rather than presumed biological sex (even those subject to sexist oppression!). Any trans woman who doesn’t typically “function as a woman” won’t count as a woman in Haslanger’s account (Jenkins, p. 7-10).

Jenkins sees no problem with an ameliorative project per se: If trans women are included among the “we” of the ameliorative project (“ameliorative agents”, she calls them) the goals of respecting trans women’s gender identifications will be among those adopted by the group (Jenkins, p. 15). Nor does she find any problems with Haslanger’s specific class-based account. The problem, she argues, is the focal nature. While Haslanger could still allow for the validation of trans women in another sense of ‘woman’ (e.g. gender identity), the problem is that it would be only secondary (Jenkins p. 12).

In the second part, Jenkins defends an account with branching target concepts, gender-as-class and gender-as-identity. She argues that both are equally important in providing a feminist account of oppression. While the former is intended to capture external forms of oppression, the latter is intended to accommodate the possibilities of internalized oppression (and also resistance). She changes Haslanger’s analysis of functioning as a woman in some context to an analysis of being classed as a woman in some context (p. 19) and then she provides an analysis of having a female gender identity (Jenkins, p. 19-25).

Jenkins notes what while Haslanger discusses only a thin notion of gender identity (one that includes internalizations of the harmful norms assigned to women), she adopts a richer account of racial identity as a map formed to guide one through the social and/or material realities that are, in a given context, characteristic for that racial group (Haslanger, p. 228, p. 273-97; Jenkins p. 19-20). Borrowing from this, Jenkins adopts a flexible notion of female gender identity in terms of “an internal ‘map’ formed to guide someone classed as a women through the social and/or material realities that are, in that context characteristic of women as a class” (p. 21). This notion allows one to either accept or resist norms of femininity (Jenkins, p. 21-22): What’s important is that such norms are taken as relevant to oneself. In effect, she sees gender identity “as a response to the social norms that are associated with the social positions that constitute gender as class” (p. 24).

Providing an account of gender identity is a messy business, however. I’m not sure Jenkins needs to do it (at least not to include trans women). Consider that in some ways, many trans women don’t, when they first transition, have much of a map to guide them through the social and material realities of being classed as a woman. Sadly, this can leave some ill-prepared to deal with sexist threats about to befall them. Admittedly, in Jenkins account, one need only take the social and material realities of womanhood as relevant to oneself in some way (p. 23). One might worry, however, that in this account it will turn out that some trans women have gender identities of both men and women. Raised as males, some trans woman may have acquired a decent internalized map of the social and material realities for men taken as a class. Indeed, prior to coming out to themselves, some trans women may have taken norms of masculinity as relevant to themselves. Thus, the question arises how and why we should select the validating part of the gender identity and not the other or, perhaps, how we might get the invalidating part not to count as part of the gender identity in the first place.

The cleanest move may well involve avoiding the issues altogether through an appeal to sincere self-identification. Admittedly, this means trans women who don’t yet self-identify as women aren’t yet women (in this sense). However, there may be good reasons for respecting a trans woman’s self-identification prior to her coming out, even though those who know her well may already suspect she’s a woman. And once she does self-identify as a woman, she may well re-assess her entire life by saying she’s always been a woman (something we should respect, too).

At any rate, Jenkins concludes her article by arguing that in light of the ongoing invalidation and marginalization of trans women, the term ‘woman’ ought to be applied to gender-as-identity concept rather than gender-as-class (Jenkins, p. 29-31). This, she argues, is merely contingent upon the fact that trans identities are currently subject to invalidation (p. 32). While the argument is both subtle and persuasive, however, I do confess that the conclusion leaves me wondering what remains of Haslanger’s account: If we’re going to reserve the term ‘woman’ for gender-as-identity alone, why not eliminate gender-as-class from the ameliorative analysis of woman altogether?

Jenkins certainly highlights the importance of retaining it in her concluding reflections on a Reclaim the Night march (Jenkins, p. 32-33). In addition to wanting to include all self-identified women, the organizers deemed it important to include all those people who had experienced sexual violence on the basis of being classed as women even though they didn’t self-identify as women (e.g. non-binary identified people, trans men). The supposed point of providing an analysis of woman is to clarify a maximally inclusive purview of feminist politics and this disjunction between self-identification and subordination through classification may seem to accomplish just that.

I do worry, however, about arguments that proceed from the sheer demands of a feminist account of oppression more generally and then conclude with the result about the ameliorative inquiry project (deciding upon what concept of woman we should use). In other words, I’m not entirely sure that the sheer importance of gender-as-class to feminist theorizing is itself an argument that it should play a role in the target concept(s). I’m not sure whether this is what Jenkins is suggesting. But I do think that arguments suggested by the Reclaim the Night example are right on target.

I’m also a bit worried about exclusively focusing on gender-as-class as the (only?) external form of oppression. Consider that trans women as ameliorative agents will want more than identity validation, we’ll want an account of identity invalidation itself. And it’s notable that gender-as-class doesn’t seem to do the trick. While it might be tempting to frame invalidation as a misalignment between identity and class, remember that the latter concept builds subordination and privilege on the basis of presumed biological role right into it. While trans women are often viewed as really men on the basis of presumed biological sex, however, we’re often not accorded very many privileges on that basis. This suggests that trans invalidation might have to be explained not by appeal to the ameliorative concept of gender-as-class, rather, a descriptive analysis of how gender concepts are typically deployed in daily interactions. It’s an interesting consequence, since it may mean not all external forms of gender oppression can be explained in terms of gender-as-hierarchy (or even an internalizations thereof). It also means an ameliorative analysis isn’t enough.

A final point: Sometimes trans women viewed as men still find ourselves subject to sexual harassment and violence analogous to that experienced by non-trans women. One is inclined to say we can “function as women” in some contexts whilst still being viewed as men. This suggests other criteria for gender classification besides the reproductive one (e.g. being presumed available for taking “the female role” in sex) or a multiplication of hierarchical classes themselves (non-trans women, trans women), taking us further away from Haslanger’s unitary account than Jenkins might have wanted.

This is all really beside the point, however. For it simply cannot be sufficiently stressed that Jenkin’s beautifully written and powerfully argued article marks an important watershed in analytic feminist philosophy as the first major publication to draw out the highly trans-exclusionary implications of prominent non-trans feminist philosopher’s account of the concept woman. This is a paper that needed to be written. And Jenkins has done an outstanding job.

References

Haslanger, Sally. 2012. Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique. Oxford University Press.

Jenkins, Katharine 2016, “Amelioration and Inclusion: Gender identity and the concept of woman,” Ethics.

30 Responses to Ethics Discussions at PEA Soup: Katharine Jenkins’ “Amelioration and Inclusion: Gender Identity and the Concept of Woman,” with précis by Talia Bettcher

  1. Jules Holroyd says:

    Hello Katharine, Hello Talia, Hello Hille (if I may),
    Thanks to Katharine – I learned a great deal from this article, and am still enjoying thinking though many of the important issues raised in the paper. I have a few questions! Here’s the first few, which follow up on one of the points raised in Talia’s precis:
    The query concerns the remarks in the paper about gender-as-class, and gets there via reflection on some of Talia Bettcher’s comments concerning the relationship between the two concepts we end up with on Katharine’s branching concepts ameliorative analysis: gender identity (Katharine’s new proposal) and gender-as-class (which incorporates Haslanger’s original analysis).
    I found compelling Talia’s argument that Haslanger’s gender-as-class is still unsatisfactory in being unable to capture forms of oppression that some women experience; gender identity invalidation. This, she argues, is primarily because the ameliorative analysis still has biological concepts built into the hierarchical analysis of gender. In light of this, one proposed option is that we might look to a descriptive analysis of gender concepts, rather than the ameliorative one. So, if I understand correctly Talia’s proposal, we would capture the gender invalidation that some women experience as a matter of misalignment between gender identity (Katharine’s proposed extension of the ameliorative analysis) and the analysis of women yielded by a descriptive analysis (rather than the ameliorative analysis of gender as class). Descriptive analyses unpack what we in fact track with the use of a term, rather than what we think we’re tracking (which is revealed by conceptual analysis). So, the concept revealed by a descriptive analysis would delineate the contours of how we in fact use and deploy the concept. Whilst I agree that there are problems with Haslanger’s gender-as-class, I wonder if identity invalidation can in fact be well captured by a ‘misalignment between gender as identity and descriptive analysis’ model. Won’t much hang on how the ‘we’ of ‘what we in fact track with the use of a term’ is cashed out? Since usage includes both usage which is inclusive (as per Katharine’s scenarios 3 and 4) and exclusive of trans women (as per scenarios 1 and 2), surely some delineation will be needed – to be able to say that how *some* people use the term delivers the exclusionary and misaligning descriptive analysis.
    So, in part this is a query for Talia about how that might go…
    But these remarks are also to pursue a line of thought in Katharine’s paper further. Namely, that (especially if there are difficulties in spelling out a model that delivers an adequate account of identity invalidation) another option might be simply to try for a more satisfactory analysis of gender-as-class: one that is not itself trans-exclusionary, and one that can therefore function better in capturing identity invalidation.
    Katharine considers this option (at p 404-405). The idea is that there might be some way of giving an account of functioning as a woman that does not make reference to disadvantage grounded in real or imagined bodily features taken to evidence of female’s biological role. The option considered is that ‘S is observed or imagined to have a female gender identity’ (404). This is rejected because it does not capture women who do not publicly present as women and are perceived as men by those around her (from Katharine’s scenario 1, 399). I agree that this modification is not suitable. But might there not be other possible ways of spelling out the gender-as-class conditions? This part of the paper goes by quite quickly, so it seems worth considering what else might be said. I admit, I’m not sure what would be better. But how about something like (drawing on the presentation of Haslanger’s condition, in Jenkins at 397, Haslanger 235):
    ‘S is observed or imagined to have, or presents or conceives herself as having, a female gender identity’
    That would also change how the rest of the analysis goes (roughly):
    That S has this gender identity, or presents or conceives herself as such, marks S within the background ideology of C as someone who ought to occupy certain kinds of social position that are in fact subordinate.
    …These facts play a role in S’s systematic subordination in C along some dimension…
    …Where one of those dimensions could be that of not having one’s presentation or conceived gender identity respected by others.
    This surely isn’t quite right, and no doubt there are problems with this (I can already see some, I think)… but are there ways in which this could fruitfully go so as to get a focal analysis, with one target concept, that is not trans women exclusionary?
    Whether this is an option might depend on whether the concern is primarily with building presumed biological sex into the analysis of gender-as-class, or with having a hierarchical analysis (which would be left intact by something along the lines of my proposed revision above). Should we think that hierarchical analyses are irremediably problematic and unable to be adequately inclusive?
    Another consequence of taking this revision of gender-as-class route, along lines such as the above: this doesn’t enable us to clearly separate out gender identity from the gender as class, but gets something about gender identity into the conditions for gender as a class… This raised for me another query: is it right to think of the two concepts as involved respectively in internal and external oppression (as Talia mentions, above)?

  2. Katha says:

    I’d like to thank the organizers of the PEA Soup blog for planning and hosting this discussion; it’s an honour to have my work discussed here. I’d also like to thank Talia Bettcher very much for agreeing to write the precis, and for her kind words and her interesting and insightful comments.
    Let me begin by just saying something briefly about the genesis of the paper. It very much came from a place of admiration for Haslanger’s work, coupled with a growing awareness of issues concerning the oppression of trans people. I found Haslanger’s account of ‘woman’ very appealing; it took up ideas that I had picked up on in the work of philosophers such as Catharine MacKinnon and found exciting, and worked them through in a detailed way that I found much more philosophically compelling. In fact, as a masters student trying to work out how to go about being a feminist philosopher and an analytic philosopher at the same time, I had seldom come across anything more stimulating. At the same time, Halsanger’s proposal for how to use the term ‘woman’ conflicted with the commitment I had developed through reading the work of trans philosophers and other trans writers – most importantly Talia Bettcher, but also Julia Serano, Lisa Millbank (of radtransfem.wordpress.com) and others – to the view that using the term ‘woman’ in a way that did not include trans women was misguided and had the potential to be deeply harmful, and I wasn’t willing to revise that commitment. The paper was an attempt to work out, first and foremost for myself, how to reconcile this conflict; I am very glad and honoured that it is being taken up for further discussion.
    Bettcher raises the worry that, on my account, a trans woman might count as having both a female gender identity and a male gender identity – the latter due to having been treated as if she were a man by those around her for many years and therefore having learned how to navigate social realities as someone positioned as a man. I see the force of this worry. One option would be to develop the idea of ‘taking a norm to be relevant to oneself’ more, so as to identify a specific way in which the trans woman in this situation takes norms of femininity to be relevant to her that is different to the way she takes norms of masculinity to be relevant, allowing for the claim that the first is the way that matters for gender identity. I am not sure whether this would work, but it might be worth exploring.
    Bettcher’s own suggestion is to ‘appeal to sincere self-identification’. I take it that the suggestion here is that to have a female gender identity just is a matter of sincerely describing oneself as a woman. Whilst I of course think that sincerely describing oneself as a woman is sufficient to create an obligation for others to respond to one as a woman, I have reservations about saying that this is all that gender identity amounts to. I don’t mean this in a sceptical way; I’m genuinely trying to puzzle out what it means to have a gender identity, working on the assumption that (at least most) cis people do have a gender identity. What am I capturing about myself when I describe myself as a woman (with identity, rather than class, in mind)? It seems like there ought to be something to be said about this. For example, suppose that I read lots of gender theory and decide that I think that the organization of society into genders at all is a bad thing, so on principle I begin to describe myself as a non-binary person; I ask people to stop describing me as a woman and to use ‘they/them’ as my pronouns. I am sincere: there is nothing mischievous about this description, and indeed I thought about it very hard. But nothing about my experience in the world has really changed, and on a day-to-day level I’d feel fine about being described as a woman and having people use ‘she/her’ pronouns for me – I’d just have decided, intellectually, that I ought not to do that. Now, I feel like if this happened there would still be a major difference between me and a non-binary trans person. Surely that difference would lie in the fact that I do not actually have a non-binary gender identity? But if gender identity just is sincere self-description, we couldn’t say that. Maybe the point is that there is no one thing that is captured by sincere self-descriptions, so the description is all we have that is unifying; but that still seems to leave room for some kind of disjunctive account of gender identity that gets beyond description. So while I share Bettcher’s worry that my account of gender identity does not quite get everything right, I do think that we need some account that goes beyond sincere self-identification, and I hope that what I’ve offered in the paper is at least a step in that direction.
    Bettcher also suggests that by the time I have said that we should use the term ‘woman’ for gender as identity rather than gender as class, it’s not clear why gender as class still remains part of the ameliorative enquiry. Answering this question in the detail it deserves would require an account of the relationship between a concept and a term – and I don’t have such an account at the present time (suggestions for pursuing this are welcome!). Broadly speaking, though, I think that the importance of the class sense of gender to feminist investigations makes it desirable to acknowledge that the gender as class definition is one legitimate and useful way of spelling out the concept of ‘woman’ under certain circumstances. In a world that was not systematically hostile, and brutally so, to trans people (and especially to trans women) I think we would have just as much reason to use the term ‘woman’ for what I’ve called ‘gender as class’ (Haslanger’s target concept) as for gender as identity. This is because the two phenomena are both equally important and equally deserving of feminist attention. For example, I think that quite often, when ordinary language users use the term ‘woman’, the objective type in the world that best explains their utterance is the category of those classed as women (i.e. this is often the operative concept, in Haslanger’s terms). This is not to say that feminists must also use the term ‘woman’ this way, but we certainly shouldn’t ignore the fact that many people do. I also wish to retain a continuity with the kind of feminist work on gender as class that prefigured Haslanger’s account, and current feminist work; acknowledging a concept of ‘woman’ that fits with that work allows me to do so. I also, as I say in the paper, believe that in this world which is so hostile to trans people, it is never safe to use the word ‘woman’ for gender as class (and I’d add that even if it may occasionally seem to be safe, we can never be sufficiently confident that it really is safe to make it a good idea). This position – of acknowledging two equally important concepts but recommending an asymmetric allocation of the term ‘woman’ – is certainly a compromise, and as such may seem unsatisfying, but it’s a compromise I’m quite keen on maintaining.

  3. Hi Jules!
    Thanks so much for these interesting comments. I have some thoughts in response to your suggestion that we might be able to re-work gender-as-class so that it does not exclude trans women. I definitely do move very fast over this point in the paper, so it’s great to revisit it. I know you’re not presenting the suggestion you make here as a perfect solution, but maybe if I say something about why I don’t think that proposal works, it will be illuminating on the more general question of whether a move of this sort could work (I think not).
    So the suggestion is: ‘S is observed or imagined to have, or presents or conceives herself as having, a female gender identity’
    One problem with this from my point of view is that my definition of gender-as-identity makes reference to gender-as-class – it’s about one’s sense of one’s own location within a gender class system. So if we move to a definition of gender-as-class that refers to gender identity, I worry that what is a relationship of dependence in the account as I present it in the paper would turn into a problematic circularity.
    Another problem is that the phrasing you suggest, as I read it, would mean that some trans men and non-binary trans people would count as women as well as counting as men or as non-binary (because the wrong gender identity is attributed to them, and that counts as well as their own identification). I think wrongful inclusion is similarly problematic to wrongful exclusion (this was pointed out to me by Talia in some earlier comments she kindly gave me before the paper was published). If we modify the phrasing somehow to give self-conception priority over perception by others, then I would begin to wonder whether this is still a definition of gender as a coercively imposed social system at all (which is what I have in mind by gender-as-class).
    I want to keep both hierarchy, and the attribution of gender based on presumed sex, in the account of gender-as-class. This is because I think this most accurately describes the logic of the system that is currently in place in most social locations, and especially I think this is the system that is most heavily backed by various forms of power. But I could be wrong about this, and perhaps others who occupy different social locations are better placed than me to notice that.

  4. Elizabeth Barnes says:

    Hi Katharine,
    Thanks so much for your wonderful paper. I loved every bit of it.
    This question might be so broad as to be unhelpful, but I was wondering if you have views about the the relationship between social identities and social kinds more generally. You take it as a starting point of your analysis that gender identity should be respected, and that part of achieving justice for trans people is validating their gender identities (and so, any successful ameliorative account of gender needs to vindicate such identities). Just to be clear, I agree with you on this. But I’m wondering *why* you think respecting identity is a key part of gender justice, and whether you think this is something unique to gender, or whether it might extend to other social categories.
    So, for example, we have complicated cases of racial identity, where someone identifies as a race that we don’t typically associate with their ancestry. Respecting identity – at least in all cases – isn’t obviously the way to go here, since there might be important things we want to say about, e.g., the harms of cultural appropriation that would be harder to say if racial identity was always vindicated. That’s not to say racial identity doesn’t matter, of course. It just isn’t obvious that it matters *in the same way* that gender identity does.
    Then there is the incredibly complex case of people who identify as transabled (and who are frequently diagnosed as having ‘bodily identity integrity disorder’). Such people often identify strongly as disabled, even though they do not have bodies we would typically think of as disabled. More specifically, they typically identify as having a particular type of disability, even though their bodies don’t appear to have that disability, and they often seek interventions to change their bodies so that their bodies correspond to their self-identification as disabled.
    I have no idea what to say about the extent to which racial identity should be respected, and my inclination is to say that transabled people want to become disabled, but are not disabled pre-transition. That is, I don’t think disability can be a matter of self-identification or that disability identity should always be vindicated. (‘Respecting’ disability identity might mean something other than saying it is correct – it might mean, for example, allowing access to the means of becoming disabled. I don’t know. These issues are hard.)
    So what I’m wondering is whether you have a view about what might be unique or special about the role or gender identity in gender categorization. That is, I’m wondering whether you have a view about why that gender identity might matter *more* to gender categorization or the construction of our gender concepts than self-identify often matters to social category membership. Or, alternatively, I’m wondering whether you think the story we give about gender identity and its relationship to gender membership should generalize more broadly to other social categories. This is a pretty open ended question, like I said, and personally I find it really confusing. I would love to hear your thoughts.

  5. Jules Holroyd says:

    Hi Katharine,
    Thanks for this. I had been thinking that if you could get a suitably inclusionary focal analysis, we might not need the two branching concepts – would that then avoid the circularity?
    But in any case, I hadn’t noticed that this generates a problem of wrongful inclusion also (I was so focused on avoiding wrongful exclusion in the specification)… this certainly motivates me to think more about further revisions.
    I found Talia’s suggestion that it might be both the biological elements of gender-as-class, and the hierarchical picture of gender that might be causing problems and generating exclusionary conclusions very thought provoking – and am interested to hear discussion about this too.

  6. Jules Holroyd says:

    (I should say, I found very compelling the branching concepts analysis, so thinking about revisions to gender-as-class is partly to because I’m interested in whether there are more possibilities there; but also in relation to Talia’s worry about whether identity invalidation can be adequately captured.)

  7. Elizabeth Barnes says:

    Er, sorry, that last paragraph should read ‘the role *of* gender identity in gender categorization. . .’ and ‘than self-*identity*’ often matters. . .’ Typing too fast.

  8. Hi Elizabeth,
    Thanks for your question – this is something I have also wondered about a lot. I do have a view, but I’m still working on it so what follows is my current best suggestion.
    Here’s my hypothesis: one reason that it is really, really important to vindicate trans gender identities (i.e. one reason why *respect* in the case of gender identity requires *agreeing that a person is the gender they say they are*) is that the invalidation of trans gender identities is a systemic and widespread form of oppression. This is to say that I think that trans people are oppressed *as* people whose gender identity does not correspond to the gender identity it is thought that they ‘ought’ to have, according to the cissexist (and patriarchal) gender order (i.e. their identity is as at odds with their gender-as-class). I won’t say more about this here – hopefully this is not too controversial.
    It seems to me that people whose racial identity does not match their ‘assigned’ race, if you will, do not suffer the same degree of oppression *in virtue of this fact*. I could be wrong, of course, but it strikes me that the way that society is organized according to gender places a constant pressure on trans people to be correctly gendered, lest they face very unpleasant and even dangerous consequences, whereas the same is not true for race. Also, the level of hostility and derision that is systematically directed at trans people is much more extreme and prevalent than the equivalent attitudes in terms of race (yes, there was Rachel Dolezal, but that was just one case). I think I want to say that the case of disability is more similar to race than to gender in both these regards, but that might be wrong – I’d need to think more.
    Anyway, the thought is this. Everyone’s identity deserves respect, but in the case of gender, respect requires that the expressed identity be vindicated, i.e. it requires committing to speaking in terms of identity rather than in terms of class. This is because any other stance or response feeds into a systematic form of oppression. Whereas in the cases of race and (maybe?) disability, respect does not require vindication because speaking according to race-as-class or disability-as-class does not contribute to a systemic form of oppression. This is still pretty open-ended and I’m sure there are plenty of problems with it, but this is my current thinking.

  9. Hi Jules,
    I think whether the circularity is a problem depends on whether it turns out to be possible to give a satisfactory account of what it is to have a gender identity that doesn’t depend on the existence of a gender-as-class system in the way mine does. For example, the view Talia suggests earlier would do the job. For what it’s worth, I personally don’t think this is going to be possible (I say something about my reservations about Talia’s suggestion in my first comment).
    About identity invalidation, I don’t think that a definition of gender-as-class, even a hierarchical one, needs to capture all forms of gender-related hierarchy and oppression. My account as given in the paper certainly isn’t intended to do this; an account of the trans-cis binary would need to be added, and one of the main jobs of such an account would be to explain identity invalidation and other forms of transphobia including transphobic violence. Picking up on Talia’s arguments in her ‘Evil Deceivers and Make-Believers’ (Hypation 2007) I had been thinking that the trans-cis binary could be spelled out with reference to a non-alignment between gender identity and gender-as-class, and that it would be hierarchical. However, I do not have a developed view to offer on this right now. But (and this is in response to the question Talia poses towards the end of her precis) I do favour some multiplication of hierarchical classes (at least man/woman and cis/trans; perhaps others – I don’t think the multiplication would be endless, though).

  10. ‘Hypatia’, not ‘Hypation’, of course!

  11. Let me start by saying how much I enjoy Katharine’s paper. I fully agree with Talia that this is a paper that needed to be written, and I’m very glad that Katharine has.
    And while I don’t have many screaming objections to Katharine’s view (yet?), I do think she could have gone further to talk about how much of the oppression trans women face is truly qua woman. This is important since many feminists—particularly trans-exclusionary radical feminists—still flatly deny this. At most, they argue, trans women are being oppressed qua femininity, but as feminine men (since such people often deny that trans women are women, full stop). Moreover, they argue that trans women forever retain male privilege. The argument is unclear, since it often includes some reference to “male energy” that never dissipates (this sounds like a strange metaphysical commitment on their part).
    But trans women are oppressed qua women, for a number of reasons. First, as Julia Serano convincingly argues in Whipping Girl, transphobia and anti-trans antagonism (which is what many of us are shifting to call some behaviors) are routed in misogyny. Trans women are deviant, especially, insofar as they adopt feminine features and stray from the masculine. Second, just talk to trans women about their experiences. Trans women are particularly well-poisitioned, epistemically speaking, to notice the loss of “male privilege” (insofar as they ever had it: let’s not forget that some trans girls transition at young children, well before ‘male privilege’ is often thought to seriously kick in). Certainly these have been my experiences (and I discuss some of this in two papers: “Trans*formative experiences” and “Stereotype threat and attributional ambiguity for trans women”), and the experiences of many trans women I know and have read. Particularly for those of us who are consistently read as cis women, the oppression we face is as women. And even for those of us who are out, many people who “know” often forget and still enact misogyny towards us, and thus oppression qua women.
    This raises an important metaphilosophical point not brought up in Jenkins’s paper. This cuts more to Sally Haslanger’s view, I admit. But the point is this: much of the (cis) feminist scholarship on the nature of women and women’s oppression, even when it happens to include trans women’s perspectives, is done from an epistemically impoverished position. Often, those that even consider some trans perspectives, do so from a narrow selection of trans experiences (it’s often predictable which few books/papers they’re drawing from), and do so in such a way that loses on the nuance and wide breadth of different experiences trans women have and face. For example, to someone who has to navigate the world every day as a trans woman, Haslanger’s view is obviously exclusionary. Jenkins raises the easy objection: some trans women are read as cis by some people, and not by others. Most obviously, some of our health care practitioners know full well that we’re trans, and so won’t read us as having any connection to the biological role that women play in reproduction, which is central to Haslanger’s definition.
    My point is that this point is obvious—blatantly obvious—to those who live these identities. So part of the metaphilosophical point is that when people without a given identity are working on matters deeply related to that identity, they need to do a lot better at informing themselves about the nuances. This, of course, applies to those who already have the relevant identity. I just think, for reasons of standpoint epistemology, that they have an easier time satisfying this requirement. Now, one way to do this better is to work with a wider range of people. In this case, co-publishing with trans women would probably have circumvented some spilled ink.
    I have another point on language. Specifically, I’m increasingly concerned with, and interested in moving away from, the language of ‘respecting gender identity’ and ‘identifies as’. It’s not a matter of respecting someone’s sincere self-identification—insofar as this connotes that we’re doing this person a favor, or that it’s a righteous act on our part. Rather, I’m increasingly preferring that we talk about what gender the person is: that is, it’s not about respecting their self-identification, but about getting it right when we attribute a gender to someone. So when we misgender a trans woman (and call her a man, for example), the issue isn’t one of respect/disrespect (although it’s certainly disrespectful!): it’s that we’re getting something wrong about who she is. So not only do I “identify as a woman,” I am a woman, dammit. When someone says otherwise, they’re not simply disrespecting my “self-identification,” but they’re getting something wrong about who I am. That is, they’re getting the truth wrong: they say something false, not just disrespectful. So, for example, trans women are not those who “identify as women” but were assigned a male gender at birth; rather, they’re women who were assigned a male gender at birth. (There are many caveats worth discussing on this point, but this is a blog comment, so I’ll leave it at that.)

  12. Sally Haslanger says:

    Hi all! I wrote this yesterday before Jules weighed in, so sorry for not connecting directly to her comments…I’m going to be at a conference for the next 3 days so won’t be able to post regularly, but wanted to offer some thoughts….(though my footnotes didn’t come through…oh well!)
    It is a great honor to have one’s work be taken up for serious and critical discussion, and I’m delighted that my paper “Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them to Be?” (2000) has been a subject of Katharine Jenkins’ and Talia Bettcher’s recent conversation. At this stage, I would like to add two points to the discussion.
    1. Critical Theory
    My paper explores, among other things, the possibility of a critical theory. In his book, The Idea of a Critical Theory (1981), Raymond Geuss suggests that, traditionally, what distinguishes a critical theory from an ordinary scientific theory is that a critical theory is “emancipatory.” Geuss’s book raises questions about whether we can make sense of this condition on a critical theory. In a discussion of critical theory, Nancy Fraser suggests that “no one has yet improved on Marx’s 1843 definition of critical theory as “the self-clarification of the struggles and wishes of the age” (Fraser 1989, 113). Combining these two thoughts, one way of understanding critical theory is that it aims to speak within a particular historical/political moment and to illuminate or unmask injustice in such a way that it re-situates the reader in relation to the subject matter in a way that shifts the possibilities for self-understanding and for action. As MacKinnon emphasizes, consciousness raising is not just (or even?) a matter of gaining knowledge. It is more like a shift of paradigm. (MacKinnon 1989, Ch. 5)
    It might be helpful, therefore, to consider my paper as an effort at critical theory. What was the historical/political moment? I wrote the paper in 1995-96. As is often the case, there was considerable delay between when it was written and when it appeared in 2000. From the late 1970’s and into the 1990’s there was an ongoing debate between “equality feminists” and “cultural feminists” (the terms are controversial and there are many different strands of the debate I won’t do justice to: think of sameness/difference, humanism/gynocentrism, etc). Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice (1982) had spawned many efforts to explore and document women’s differences from men, e.g., Women’s Ways of Knowing (1986). There were also important intersectional critiques of efforts to find a unified social or psychological basis for gender, e.g., Lugones and Spelman, “Have We Got A Theory for You! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism, and the Demand for ‘The Woman’s Voice’” (1983). In 1988, Denise Riley published Am I That Name? And in 1990, Judith Butler published Gender Trouble. The last two challenged the theoretical and political usefulness of the gender category of woman at all.
    At the moment I was writing, the options seemed (to me!) to be: (a) define women in terms of an intrinsic trait (usually a psychological trait, though arising out of social relations rather than biology) (b) deny any meaningful difference between women and men, (c) reject gender categories altogether. I didn’t find any of these adequate. But another tradition coming out of Marxist feminism took women to be a social class and gender to be defined in terms of social relations. This approach could be found in Frye and MacKinnon, but had not had the attention it deserved, or so I thought. So I undertook to work it out.
    In my paper, I aimed to do two things. First, to call attention to a social class who were entitled to be the proper object of feminist concern, without relying on a (supposed) intrinsic feature of female psychology or anatomy. Second, to do so as part of a critical theory, i.e., in a way that would shift, for at least some readers, a dominant paradigm for understanding what it is to be a woman or a man. The first aim was, in a sense, a response to the gender eliminativists: There is a relatively unified group that feminists, as feminists, have reason to attend to. That point could have usefully been made (at the time) without using the term ‘woman,’ and would plausibly have been uncontroversial. But the appropriation of the term ‘woman’ was how I wanted to get critical leverage. The critical aim was, in a sense, a response to cultural feminists. If to be a woman is to be subordinated, and to be a man is to be privileged, then we should hesitate before we embrace gender norms, gender identification, etc., because gender is not only social, but constitutes an unjust structure. The critical goal was to have people reflect on their identification with one or the other gender and to see how that identification could be implicated in systems of oppression.
    Of course, the most common objection to the theory was that I “built in” oppression, to both the definition of gender and of race. But I predicted that objection, and in fact almost welcomed it, for it meant that my readers were attempting to try on the idea that gender is oppressive/privileging, not mainly psychologically, but socially. Note, however, that at various points in the paper I suggest that the appropriation of language is a complex matter, and may be apt in some contexts and not others. It depends, as in any critical theory, on the task at hand. And meaning is not in the hands of one person. So at best my paper could be an invitation to think differently, critically, structurally, using the term ‘woman.’
    Twenty years down the road, I look back and recognize that the political context of my proposal was more complex than I had known (see Bettcher 2014). I intentionally did not require any particular body parts, or psychology, or acceptance of norms, etc. to be gendered man or woman, but even so, the analysis does not capture the right extension, i.e., the group that would have been then and is now the apt object of feminist efforts. My view now is that the group I identify in the paper remains an important group for feminist activism, but it is not the only group. And, importantly, the group I identified is not, from the feminist point of view, the “core” phenomenon to be addressed. Or at least although there may be historical/political junctures where there is important critical work to be done in employing the terminology ‘woman’ for gender as class, at the historical/political moment it was and is misguided; it not only fails to have the critical edge intended, but cuts against the politics I favor.
    I am a pragmatist about most things. I do not believe in language police and want our language to evolve in ways that are emancipatory. The language is ours, and I hope we can together find ways to use it that does justice to all that’s at stake (Bigelow and Schroeter, 2009; Haslanger 2010). But I don’t think we can settle on one meaning, or one group, or one identity, once and for all and crown it the real one. Our gender terms are polysemous. And which analysis matters, or functions as the “core,” will depend on our purposes and the task at hand. (I also have a very different understanding of concepts and meaning than I did in 2000, which complicates matters.) A serious mistake I made (and regret) in my 2000 paper was to suggest that the analysis I offered was central for feminist purposes. There are many feminist purposes and many feminist projects, and I didn’t do enough to acknowledge and support them.
    My own pragmatism fits well, I think, with Bettcher’s multiple meaning approach. I agree with Bettcher’s arguments in “Trans Women and the Meaning of ‘Woman’” (2012) that neither family resemblance models nor contextualist models are adequate because they attempt to offer a single definition. As I read Jenkins, at points she too is suggesting that there are multiple senses of ‘woman.’ We should seek ways to identify the group or kind that is most significant (allowing different dimensions and kinds of significance) for the purposes at hand. And there are moments when Jenkins seems to embrace a kind of pragmatism as well. However, she ends her paper with the suggestion that we should use the term ‘woman’ to mean having a woman’s gender identity in her sense. So although there are two groups that we might have feminist reasons to attend to – gender as class, and gender as identity – the term ‘woman’ should be reserved for those who identify as women. This, it seems to me, steps back from polysemy or semantic pragmatism, in a way that gives me pause.
    2. Identity
    Jenkins concludes her essay:
    “…I have identified two senses of gender, gender as class and gender as identity, that give rise to twin target concepts. These twin concepts are the concept of being classed as a woman, which is defined as ‘being targeted for subordination on the basis of actual or imagined bodily features presumed to be evidence of a female’s role in biological reproduction’, and the concept of having a female gender identity, which is defined as ‘having an inner map that is formed to guide someone classed as a woman through the social and material realities of someone who is so classed’. For pragmatic reasons, I advocate using the term ‘woman’ to express the concept of having a female gender identity and not using it to express the concept of being classed as a woman.”(421)
    If I understand this proposal, the idea is that there are two groups that are relevant for thinking about gender, gender oppression, and gender justice. They are gender as class and gender as identity. But we should use the term ‘woman’ for those who identify as women, in her sense (and mutatis mutandis for ‘men’). Bettcher objects that some trans women, when they first transition, are not guided in the relevant sense by feminine gender norms, so even this amelioration would miss some trans women. I find this argument compelling. In the spirit of Jenkins’ account, Bettcher goes on to suggest that an alternative would be to use sincere self-identification as a woman to serve as the meaning of ‘woman.’ (see Bettcher 2009 on first-person avowals.)
    Although I allow that there is a sense of woman according to which sincere self-identification is both necessary and sufficient to be a woman, and would be happy to grant it a meaning of ‘woman,’ I don’t think Jenkins should accept that this is what ‘woman’ means, tout court. (I am not suggesting that Bettcher herself would endorse this; rather, as I read her, she is offering it to Jenkins as a repair to her account.) First, if sincere self-identification is necessary, then what do we make of infants, the severely disabled, or others who don’t have a language? Infants are viewed and treated with gendered expectations and coerced to behave as gendered beings, and pre- and non-linguistic females are sexually abused, raped, and killed, all driven by sexist ideology. I would want to include them in the group we are attempting to analyze for certain purposes, even if they cannot and maybe will never sincerely self-identify as a woman. This would seem to apply both to the analysis in terms of sincere self-identification and to Jenkins’ norm responsiveness account.
    Perhaps, however, I’m missing what self-identification involves. Is it an act? A state of mind? A set of dispositions? (See Bettcher 2009.) Consider a female who doesn’t identify as a woman because the issue never arose for her. This, I’ve argued, happens sometimes in the case of dominant groups, e.g., whites. The default case is unmarked. Could there be scenarios in which woman is unmarked? Consider a female who grows up in a community of all females and who don’t even know there are men, but men have, in fact, trapped them there and deprived them of certain resources based on their sexist beliefs. On my view the individuals in this community would be women, even though the members don’t identify as such. Although this example is, obviously, far-fetched, the idea is that there are some individuals who don’t identify as women, but are the targets of sexism, and I’m not sure why it is appropriate to leave them out. Or perhaps better, there may be communities in which men simply consider themselves as human, and women/females are the sub-human. In such cases the men don’t identify as men, but wouldn’t we have reason to count them as such, and even call them ‘men’?
    I’m very grateful for having been given the opportunity to think more deeply about these issues and look forward ongoing conversation.
    Belenky, M.F., B.M. Clinchy, N.R. Goldberger and J.M. Tarule. 1986. Women’s Ways of Knowing. NY: Basic Books.
    Bettcher, Talia. 2009. “Trans Identities and First Person Authority.” In You’ve Changed: Sex Reassignment and Personal Identity, ed., Laurie Shrage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 98-120.
    ______. 2012. “Trans Women and the Meaning of ‘Woman’.” In The Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings, sixth edition. Ed. Nicholas Power, Raja Halwani, and Alan Soble. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 233-250.
    ______. 2014. “Feminist Perspectives on Trans Issues”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = < .”>http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/feminism-trans/>.
    Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble. NY: Routledge.
    Fraser, N. 1989. What is Critical about Critical Theory: Habermas and Gender. In Unruly Practices: Power Discourse and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 113-43.
    Geuss, Raymond. 1981. The Idea of a Critical Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a Different Voice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    Haslanger, Sally. 2010. “Language, Politics and “The Folk”,” The Monist 93(2): 169-187.
    Lugones and Spelman, “Have We Got A Theory for You! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism, and the Demand for ‘The Woman’s Voice’” (1983).
    MacKinnon, Catharine. 1989. Towards a Feminist Theory of the State. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    Riley, Denise. 1988. Am I That Name? Feminis and the Category of ‘Women’ in History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
    Schroeter, Laura and John Bigelow. 2009. Jackson’s classical model of meaning. In Minds, Ethics and Conditionals: Themes From the Philosophy of Frank Jackson. Ed. Ian Ravenscroft. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  13. Hi Sally,
    Thanks so much for this comment. It’s really interesting to hear more about the moment in which the paper was written.
    I have two quick thoughts in response to yours. The first is that you take my wish to reserve the word ‘woman’ just for gender-as-identity to be a step back from semantic pragmatism, but I don’t intend it to be such. As I put it in an earlier comment, I believe that in this world which is so hostile to trans people, it is never safe to use the word ‘woman’ for gender as class, and even if it may occasionally seem to be safe, we can never be sufficiently confident that it really is safe to make it a good idea. I don’t see this as an abandonment of pragmatism, but as a pragmatic judgement that happens to apply to all situations we are going to encounter at the moment.
    The other thought, which is also in response to Talia, is that the more I think about it, the more I think there may well be other senses of gender that are relevant enough to feminist purposes that they, too, should be included in the ameliorative inquiry (i.e. maybe there will be more than two branches when all is said and done).

  14. Elizabeth Barnes says:

    Hi again Katharine,
    I want to press you a little on the point Sally raises above regarding reserving use of ‘woman’ solely for those with a specific gender identity. You say:
    “I believe that in this world which is so hostile to trans people, it is never safe to use the word ‘woman’ for gender as class, and even if it may occasionally seem to be safe, we can never be sufficiently confident that it really is safe to make it a good idea. I don’t see this as an abandonment of pragmatism, but as a pragmatic judgement that happens to apply to all situations we are going to encounter at the moment.”
    I don’t see why we should think this is true, for exactly the reasons that Sally raises. Consider, for example, the controversy surrounding the ‘Ashley Treatment’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashley_Treatment) I think we should be able to say that Ashley X was treated badly not only as a cognitively disabled person, but also as a woman (indeed, it seems that our stigmatization of women’s bodies played a large part in the justification for the original treatment.) But I do not know whether Ashley X self-identifies as a woman, or indeed whether she has any sense of gender identity at all. My inability to know the facts about Ashley X’s gender identity doesn’t seem to me, however, to be any barrier to saying that she was treated badly qua woman and faced gendered oppression. But your account suggests I should refrain from making claims like this, because I don’t know whether Ashley X identifies as a woman. And, more strongly, your account suggests that I should count these claims as false if I have good reason to think she doesn’t possess such self-identification.
    So what I’m not seeing is why I should think this (that is, why I should think we can only use ‘woman’ to refer to people with a given gender identity). Even granting the very real oppression that trans people face, it seems to me that part of acknowledging the variety of oppressions that women can encounter and the many different ways there are to be a woman requires more flexibility in who we can count as women.

  15. Hi Elizabeth,
    That is an interesting case, and not one I was previously familiar with. I think on my view, Ashley is clearly a person classed as a woman, and some of the bad treatment she has been subject to is due to her being classed as a woman. I don’t see why this would be less satisfactory than saying that she has been ‘treated badly as a woman’ – perhaps if you think it would be, you could say why?
    As a side point, I haven’t considered the application of my account of gender identity to people who do not have a gendered self-conception, and I see now that this is a limitation of my account and an oversight on my part. I’d like to describe Ashley as a person classed as a woman, and to say that we don’t know whether she is a woman or not as we don’t know how she would wish to identify herself. But it might be that there are problems with this or a better way to go – I’d have to think more, and I’m sure read more about cognitive disability, too.
    On your question of why I think it’s unsafe for trans women if we use the word ‘woman’ in ways that exclude trans women, I think this is mainly based on two things. First, my understanding of what Talia Bettcher calls the ‘Basic Denial of Authenticity’, a kind of social schema that sets trans people up as inauthentically gendered, by equating gender with genitals, and perhaps with ‘moral genitals’, or the genitals people are thought to be entitled to (this comes up in several of her papers, including the one I mentioned in a previous comment). If I recall rightly, Bettcher argues that the BDA is very wide-reaching and plays a pivotal role in the oppression of trans people, including feeding in to all sorts of forms of transphobic violence. For example, she discerns the BDA at work in forms of sexual assault in which trans people are subject to forced genital exposure. The second thing is the belief that contexts are ‘leaky’ (to borrow a phrase from Rae Langton), that words used on one occasion can be cited or spill over into other occasions and arenas with unpredictable results. Since I think that any way of talking about gender that entails that some trans women are not women has the potential to reinforce the BDA, and since I think that the BDA is very, very harmful, and since I am pessimistic about our ability to contain words in particular contexts, I think that the risks of using the term ‘woman’ for gender as class always outweigh the benefits, as matters currently stand. (It’s also relevant that I don’t think we lose much by talking about ‘people classed as women’ rather than ‘women’ in contexts where this is the group we want to refer to.)

  16. Ashley X, I should have said.

  17. Stephanie Kapusta says:

    Hi Talia, Katherine, Jules, Elizabeth, and Sally.
    Sorry I’m late – Wednesday is kind of a crazy day for me.
    I echo previous sentiments to the effect that your article, Katherine, is very thought-provoking, in-depth, clear and concise, and one that – as Talia said – needed to be written. Thank-you for writing it 🙂
    I have two points.
    1) Talia points out that some trans women may negotiate two maps – the male and female maps – and so have some sort of mixed gender identity. But I wonder why one should rest with trans women. Let’s look at Katherine’s example of shaving your legs (pp.411-412). Katherine states:
    “Consider a woman who feels that having visible body hair on her legs is unattractive, embarrassing, and unacceptable. In a visceral way, having hairy legs feels wrong to her. This feeling – this instinctive sense of how her body ‘ought to be’ – is part of her gender identity. It is in line with a dominant norm of feminine appearance and will therefore enable her to navigate the social and material reality of someone classed as a woman in a way that avoids receiving social censure for violating that norm.”
    Now, within a strictly binary sex/gender system, I think it is plausible to assume that a strong feeling of ‘how your body ought to be’ is intertwined very often with a strong feeling of ‘how your body ought not to be’, namely, too ‘masculine.’ In other words negotiating feminine appearance norms relevant to one’s material and social interactions implicates masculine appearance norms. So I don’t see how in many situations – again, within a strictly binary system – one can have a female ‘map’ without having the male one, at least to some extent. If I am ‘woman’, I am ‘not-man’, and vice versa. Internalizing and adopting (or resisting, for that matter) social norms for people classed as women, often (though – I am willing to concede – perhaps not always) involves somehow or to some extent negotiating social norms for people classed as men. If this is true, we all ‘have’ both maps and employ them in social and material negotiation.
    2. If this is the case, and we are not critiquing the sex/gender binary, claiming that we are all have the (to varying degrees) both female and male identity, then we need an extra ‘factor x’ that picks out, so-to-speak, the salient map, establishing it as the prominent or primary one. The best candidate I can think of for this is a psychological sense of one’s own gender, which is distinct from the map, a point I think Katherine underlines in footnote 39, in which she distinguishes between “having a female gender identity” from “identifying as a woman”. But, then, it is psychological self-identification that is playing the main role here (Admittedly, I am simplifying the notion of what ‘self-identification’ as a particular gender might mean. When I say ‘psychological’, I don’t mean necessarily ‘consciously of actively affirming’ as in footnote 39, but I would imagine there would have to be some form of awareness)
    That’s all for now. I have more thoughts on ameliorative projects but, for now, I am off to teach …

  18. Stephanie Kapusta says:

    Katharine, I promise never to misspell your name ever again. Sorry.

  19. Sally Haslanger says:

    I agree with Stephanie that in the binary system one is dodging between the female map and male map constantly. I recall when I first read Wittig’s claim (roughly, I don’t have the book in front of me) “to refuse to be a woman does not mean one has to become a man.” This totally rocked my world.

  20. Talia Bettcher says:

    Hi, everyone!
    Jules, I think you’re right that not all uses of ‘woman’ are trans invalidating. I take it that an account of identity invalidation will take that into account and focus on those cases in which the term is deployed in invalidating ways. It’s notable, for example, that invalidating uses often occur in phrases like “really a man, pretending to be a woman.” Often such phrases are alluding to a perceived misalignment between gender presentation and imagined genital status. So I think that understanding trans-invalidating uses of ‘woman’ will involve getting to understand what this may imply about extra-linguistic social practices and arrangements such as the relationship between gender presentation and presumed genital status.
    Katharine, I should clarify that I am not proposing gender self-identification as an analysis of gender identity. I think part of my own confusion concerns what needs to be built into an ameliorative analysis of woman. I think that one of the points of the analysis is to provide a maximally inclusive account of woman as the purview of feminist inquiry and intervention. While it may well turn out that getting to understand gender identity is an important avenue for feminist theoretical investigation, it may not be necessary to get to the bottom of it in order to secure the inclusion of trans women within a target concept of woman.
    I also want to clarify my concern that gender-as-identity and gender-as-class may not be able to capture the phenomenon of trans identity invalidation. We need to capture some misalignment between how the trans person sees themselves and how they are categorized by others. So, a trans woman sees herself as a woman (gender-as-identity), but she is viewed by others as a man. She will only count as a man according to the gender-as-class concepts, however, on the condition that she is privileged on the basis of presumed biological sex. But trans women are often not granted any such privileges when they are viewed as “really men.” So it may be that, according to the gender-as-class concept, she is neither classed as a woman (subordinated on the basis of presumed biological sex) nor classed as a man (privileged on the basis of presumed biological sex). If so, we will need something else to capture the way in which she is socially categorized as a man.

  21. Hi everyone!
    Stephanie, thank-you for your kind words – and thanks for taking time to comment in what sounds like a busy day! (Also no worries at all about my name – I’m always surprised it doesn’t happen more often  ) The points you raise are very interesting and I hadn’t considered them before. I think you’re right that there is a sense in which we all (or most of us) have both maps, but I wonder whether there is a way of differentiating between the stances someone might have towards each one. So, it feels like when I bring to mind norms of femininity, I experience them as it were in a direct way, and when I bring to mind norms of masculinity, I experience them in a negated way. To take the body hair case, the norm ‘don’t be hairy’ seems directly relevant to me in that it’s what I’m supposed to do, and the norm ‘be hairy’ seems relevant to me insofar as ‘be hairy’ is what I’m *not* supposed to do. Another way to put it would be that (I now see that) I take both norms to be relevant, but they have what we might call a different valence – adhering to one set feels non-transgressive and adhering to another set feels transgressive. One other option would be to distinguish them in terms of salience – when I don’t shave my body hair, I’m much more conscious of violating feminine norms than of complying with masculine norms, and indeed I would never spontaneously think to describe what I’m doing in the latter way. I’m not sure either of these possibilities will amount to something specific enough to fix the problem you identify with my account, but it’s where I’m inclined to start and I’d be interested to know what you and others think.
    Talia, thank-you for clarifying those points and apologies for not picking up on that accurately before. In response to your first point, I’m not sure what to say about taking self-identification (as distinct from gender identity) to provide a target concept of woman. I’m inclined to think that a concept that had more content, rather than just getting us the right extension, would be more useful; as you say, accurate inclusion is one thing we should seek from a target concept, but I wonder if some of the other things we should seek are not as well-served by a concept of gender self-identification as they would be by a concept of gender identity (for example, we also want the target concept to be illuminating when we look at oppression, to provide a focus for organizational efforts, and so on). My hunch is that a concept of gender identity would do many of these better than a concept of gender self-identification. However, this relies on there *being* a workable account of gender identity available, and as is becoming clear, my own suggestion has problems that I do not yet know how to fix!
    On your second point, I absolutely see the force of the worry. Clearly my initial suggestion is wide of the mark and a lot more work needs to be done on spelling out this oppression. I remain hopeful that this go alongside the account of gender I present in the paper rather than necessitating a major overhaul of it, but this remains to be seen.

  22. Jules Holroyd says:

    Hi all, hi Talia, nice to electronically meet you, and thanks for that. Ok, I can see now that once we take into account extra-linguistic practices too, that would have massive implications for the descriptive analysis; especially since those structures and arrangements are ones that even those of us who aim for inclusive *utterances* of ‘women’ are nonetheless implicated in.
    To join up a bit of thinking I hadn’t yet done: I take it Katharine’s proposal about reserving ‘woman’ for gender identity (rather than gender as class) is not just about linguistic uses then but these arrangements too. (Is that right, Katharine?)

  23. Hi Jules,
    In reserving ‘woman’ for gender identity I certainly intended to make it harder for people to engage in non-linguistic trans-exclusive practices. I guess, though, that my proposal as it’s set out in the paper doesn’t explicitly apply to these practices, although it’s a natural extension and one I would endorse. I mean, I can totally imagine people switching to using ‘woman’ to refer to people with female gender identities, whilst engaging in practices that exclude trans women, such as making all their events only open to ‘those classed as women’, or ‘those assigned a female gender at birth’. The problem here is in the practices, not the phrases used as such; getting people to use terms the way I suggest would not, by itself, prevent the practices. But I do think it would help to make it more obvious where they were happening, and perhaps make to easier to demonstrate that they are unjustified (‘Your event is supposed to celebrate women musicians; so why isn’t it open to all women?’)

  24. Stephanie Kapusta says:

    Morning all!
    I want to pick up on some of the points in Jules’s and Katharine’s discussion. In her article, Katharine suggested that one way to avoid trans exclusion in Sally’s account would be modification of that account (p.404). Her first proposal is “S functions as a woman in C iff S is observed or imagined to have a female gender identity.”
    Katharine discarded this possibility because the trans woman in her scenario 1 (pp.399-400) – who does not publicly present as a woman – is not included in the definition. If we put this into the definition of gender as class on p.408, we get:
    “S is classed as a woman within a context C iff S is marked in C as a target for subordination on the basis of observed or imagined female gender identity.”
    Now, I agree that the trans woman who doesn’t present publicly as a woman is not classed as a woman in context C according to this definition. My point is that the trans woman of scenario 1 may not want to be classed as a woman in context C. She may be living ‘stealth’: it may be too difficult emotionally for her or her family to be classed as a woman in context C; she may even be in physical danger if she is classed as a woman in context C.
    I would like to distinguish two levels of concept deployment:
    a) The theoretical level. Here, we might want to include the trans woman from scenario 1 in our analytical tools for completeness. In this case, whether someone wishes to be classed as a woman or not is irrelevant. We want to include all trans women in our analysis;
    b) The level that begins to apply concepts to activism and policy. In this second case, one can imagine that it may sometimes be detrimental (and even dangerous) to the trans woman to be publicly classed as a woman. In this case, her exclusion from the definition doesn’t seem to be a deficiency at all. Indeed, it doesn’t even seem to be ‘exclusionary’ – not only in the conceptual sense – but also in a political sens – again, at least in some contexts.
    Anyway, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

  25. Jules Holroyd says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    I don’t want to speak for others here – but my sense, especially in light of Rachel MacKinnon’s comment above about the infelicity of the phrasing ‘respecting gender identity’, would be that the thing to say in the scenario you describe above is that we want an analysis whereby she simply *is* a woman, even if she does not want that to be known or to present herself as she is, for reasons of safety.
    I suppose the difficulty is that the ameliorative analysis envisaged by Sally is supposed to be an analysis that serves specifically political, activist purposes. But even then, surely we can say that we want an analysis that gets the right answers, even if there are features of the context that make it safer to mask what the truth of the matter is.
    I’d be interested to hear what others think on that.
    I also wanted to pick up some thoughts above, to check where we might end up with them. Katharine mentioned (at the end of her 11.42 post) that with Talia she was starting to wonder about the need for more concepts in the ameliorative analysis, rather than just the two branches we get.
    As things stand in Katharine’s paper, there are two concepts, with equal weight – one which is trans exclusionary, the other of which is inclusionary – the idea is that together each captures the group we want to capture with the analysis.
    Of course, if we need more concepts built into the ameliorative analysis for the account to be suitably inclusive – all for it. But would it be a problem if (as a somewhat artificial e.g.) we ended up with a pluralistic ameliorative analysis, that had, say 5 concepts at work to capture all the people we wanted to capture as the focus of feminist efforts. Two of them inclusive, but the other 3 are trans exclusionary. Still the analysis overall captures everyone we want it to capture.
    It seems to be that would be pretty dissatisfactory, though – would it? Like ‘look at all these ways of capturing the target group of feminism; but only two of them can actually include within their remit trans women’. Or perhaps, if various women (not limited to trans women) are excluded from various of the five concepts – which is why it turns out we need so many to capture everyone – it matters less if some women are excluded from some of them. That flies in the face of the emphatic rejection of exclusionary analyses (important for the reasons discussed above)…
    Perhaps none of this can be decided in the absence of the substance of any particular account that is offered up – but it is a cautionary thought I wanted to raise about the ‘let’s build in more concepts’ direction that seemed to be appealing above, and perhaps a reason to just work harder on getting a good, inclusive rendering of the concept in the first place! (I’m sorry if I’m coming across as a conceptual monist – I’m really not against pluralism in general! Far from it!).
    The last thing to add: if Rachel is still checking in, I’m very interested in the caveats to the remarks she made about getting it right, rather than ‘respecting identification’ – so if there are references to where I should go & read for the caveats, I’d be grateful!

  26. Stephanie Kapusta says:

    Thanks, Jules. I agree that multiplying concepts may not be the right way to go. But I believe there is another reason for avoiding this approach. I think we could end up with a situation in which some women satisfy all of the concepts, while others do not. We would end up, that is, with a situation similar to the one that I believe we get with family-resemblance approaches: there are women who are somehow ‘paradigmatic’ women (in the approach we are considering, those that satisfy a large number of concepts of woman) and women who are at the margins (who satisfy fewer of our concepts). This state of affairs wouldn’t of course necessarily lead to hierarachical and marginalizing thinking or activism, but it might have this effect, and I find it unpalatable.

  27. Hi again everyone!
    Apologies for my absence during today, I’ve had to be away from my computer.
    I’d like to thank Rachel for her comment, and apologise for not responding to it sooner. Rachel, I think all the points you raise are very important and I agree with all of them. On the first point, I did intend the account to make it clear that trans women are oppressed as women, but I see that I did not do enough to bring that point across in the paper, especially given that, as you say, it is something that has often been denied. So let me say now that the need to uphold this point as in my mind as I was writing the paper, and I’m grateful to you for bringing it out in this discussion. On your metaphilosophical point, again, I agree. Co-authoring is one good suggestion, and I think there are other things we can also do; for example, I would not have taken this paper forward as a project, nor submitted it for publication, if I had not received positive feedback on it from a trans woman philosopher first. On your third point, about language, I agree about the importance of using the language ‘are women’ or ‘is a woman’ rather than ‘identify as women’ or ‘identifies as a woman’. I had not thought about how ‘respecting gender identity’ also fed into this (I have been using this phrase to mean ‘not misgendering someone’) but I see how that works now you have pointed out, so thank-you for that and I’ll choose different words in future.
    Stephanie, I think the case you raise about someone who does not want to be classed as a woman is very interesting. I think that I’m happy with how my own view deals with this case: such a person is not someone who is classed as a woman, but, as Jules says, she *is* a woman in virtue of her identity. Now, I do think that our practices and activism should be centred around women, rather than around people-classed-as-women (though the latter concept will need to be brought in sometimes, as I illustrate in the Reclaim the Night example), but this does not justify practices that would publicly position this trans woman as a woman against her wish; it just means that, for example, all woman-centred activist spaces are defined in ways that mean that they are open to her should she wish to identify herself publicly as a woman.
    On the issue of multiplication, responding to Jules and to Stephanie, I share Stephanie’s worry about the perils of creating ‘central’ and ‘marginal’ women if we go down that route. I do have some worries about whether my own view does enough to avoid this; I hope it does, but I am very open to the thought that it might not.

  28. Stephanie Kapusta says:

    Hello, everyone. Thanks for your response Katharine.
    I think I am going to have to log off now, as I am teaching this afternoon and then have a dept. colloquium to go to, and am also conscious about time differences across the Atlantic.
    I am really grateful for having had the opportunity to interact with all of you – thanks to Hille for facilitating that. And thanks again to Katharine for this great article, to Talia for a fine precis, and to Elizabeth, Jules, Rachel, and Sally for stimulating input. I have been given much food for thought! Hope to see you some time “on the circuit”!

  29. Hille Paakkunainen says:

    Thanks so much, everyone, for a terrific discussion! I’ll leave the comments thread open for a couple of more days, in case anyone wants to chime in some more.

  30. Thanks Stephanie! And many, many thanks to everyone who has been commenting, especially to Talia for her precis and to Hille for organizing this. It’s been so fantastic to get this kind of critical feedback and I certainly have lots to think about! All the best to each of you, Katharine