Amelioration and Inclusion: Gender Identity and the Concept of Woman

Ethics 2016

Feminist analyses of gender concepts must avoid the inclusion problem, the fault of marginalizing or excluding some prima facie women. Sally Haslanger’s ‘ameliorative’ analysis of gender concepts seeks to do so by defining woman by reference to subordination. I argue that Haslanger’s analysis problematically marginalizes trans women, thereby failing to avoid the inclusion problem. I propose an improved ameliorative analysis that ensures the inclusion of trans women. This analysis yields ‘twin’ target concepts of woman, one concerning gender as class and the other concerning gender as identity, both of which I hold to be equally necessary for feminist aims.

That’s Not Philosophy: Feminism, Academia, and the Double Bind

Journal of Gender Studies 2014

In this paper I explore the situation of feminist academics, positing a tension between the demands of feminist research and the norms of academia. Feminist research, I suggest, may be subject to de-legitimization on the grounds of supposed lack of objectivity; to marginalization from the main body of a discipline; and to conceptual hostility when operating within the main body of a discipline. I then show that the situation of feminist academics can be conceptualised as a double bind: a set of circumstances in which an agent is given a set of competing demands, with no possibility of receiving clarification as to which demands to pursue. I argue that this interpretation of the situation of feminist academics is helpful because it prompts constructive ways of thinking and facilitates solidarity.

Rape Myths and Domestic Abuse Myths as Hermeneutical Injustices

Journal of Applied Philosophy (Forthcoming, special issue: Applied Epistemology)

This paper argues that rape myths and domestic abuse myths constitute hermeneutical injustices. The prevalence of these myths makes victims of rape and of domestic abuse less likely to apply those terms to their experiences. I argue that victims in this situation lack the conceptual resources needed to render their experience sufficiently intelligible, meaning that they are suffering a form of hermeneutical injustice. Attending to this distinctive case sheds new light not only on the functioning of social myths of this kind but on the nature of hermeneutical injustice itself, since the case of the victim who accepts myths is importantly different from other cases of hermeneutical injustice discussed in the literature to date.

Pornography and Social Ontology

Beyond Speech (Forthcoming ed. Mari Mikkola, OUP)

This paper uses social ontology, specifically John Searle’s account of institutional reality, to advance a feminist analysis of the harms of certain types of pornography. I take as my starting point two claims made by Catharine MacKinnon: (1) that pornography subordinates women (the subordination claim), and (2) that pornography constructs women’s natures in a way that is somehow defective (the constructionist claim). I offer an argument for the two claims that draws on Searle’s account of how institutional entities are constructed through the collective intentional imposition of status functions. I then argue that there is good reason to think that the two claims apply to other forms of representation besides pornography, and that broader versions of the claims are more plausible than the original, narrower ones.