Philosophy of Gender


What is gender? What does it mean for some people to be women, others to be men, and others still (like me) to be nonbinary? Why does it matter, and how does it relate to the feminist goal of fighting gender inequality? These questions are something that I've been personally and theoretically interested in for a long time, and have recently been bringing more into my academic research.

I have two papers about gender forthcoming in edited collections, about the links between gender and imagination:

  • “Imagination, Creativity, and Gender” (in progress, for the Oxford Handbook of Imagination and Creativity, eds. A. Kind and J. Langkau)

A paper looking both at how the psychological category of 'imagination' can illuminate the range of relationships individuals can take to the social norms associated with their gender identity, and also how their navigation of these norms can be an exercise of creativity and exploration. (This links up with my work on philosophy of imagination)

  • “Extended Simulation and Gender-Subjectivity.” (in progress, for Interpersonal Understanding: Transcending Boundaries?, a special issue of Philosophical Explorations, eds. K. Sodoma, E. Ventham, and C. Werner)

A paper analysing the different sorts of obstacles to accurately empathising with people of different gender identities, and some of the tools and techniques that can help us overcome those obstacles. (This links up with my work on empathy)

I have other work still in progress, about the semantics, metaphysics, and content of gender categories:

  • “Gendering Before Gender” (in progress; ideas presented in a 2021 online talk to Minorities and Philosophy: slides here)

A paper defending a 'gendering-first' view: the idea that the primary phenomenon to analyse is the social act of gendering, and the ways of seeing others that this expresses, rather than the property of belonging to a certain gender. On this view, statements like 'X is a woman' have only trivial truth-conditions (they are true is X is a woman): their function is not to assert an independent fact but to participate in the social practice of gendering.

  • “Gendering Violence and Consent” (in progress; ideas presented in a 2021 talk at Royal Holloway University: slides available by request)

A paper on the ways that people's intuitive judgements of what feels violent and what can be consented to are heavily influenced by the perceived gender of the people involved; I apply Bettcher's analysis of gender as 'moral sex' and Butler's analysis of materialisation to analyse the implicit ideology of anti-trans activism.

  • "Social Construction as Social Agency" (in progress)

A paper asking, essentially, who it is that does the 'constructing' when something is socially constructed - in particular, who is responsible for constructing oppressive categories and systems? I argue that it's misleading both to attribute agency too narrowly, to one specific identifiable demographic or institution, and to attribute it too widely, to an undifferentiated 'us'. Rather, a cluster of overlapping collective agents exert different degrees of agency and bear different degrees of responsibility. (This links up with my work on collective agency)

In addition to this academic work, I have written a more popular/personal series of pieces defending and exploring a trans-inclusive feminist view of gender: