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Who can justly demand recognition as a woman? as disabled? as black? All sides often assume that answers to these and similar questions will turn on who in fact has membership in the relevant category. As a result, attempts to answer these questions quickly become debates over metaphysical questions such as What makes someone a woman? or Is obesity really a disability? In this paper, I argue that such debates are orthogonal to the question of who can justly demand recognition in a socially significant category, such as woman or disabled. These categories can be unjust with respect to the grounds for category membership. Call these 'oppressive categories'. Oppressive categories show that what features ought to determine category membership can come apart from the features that do determine membership. After developing a framework for understanding oppressive categories, I argue from this framework to the possibility that persons who do not belong to a socially significant category can nevertheless justly demand recognition as category members.
Real Talk on the Metaphysics of Gender
The only uncontroversial thing about discourse surrounding gender ascriptions is that it is extremely controversial. These controversies, both in everyday and academic contexts, appear to center on metaphysical questions of what makes someone a man or a woman. In this paper, I argue that we should not look to metaphysical theories of gender to settle questions about who should be ascribed manhood or womanhood. What matters for determining politically just gender ascriptions are normative questions about how we ought to perceive and treat others, and not facts about who is a man or a woman. This claim has an important implication: It may be unjust to make true gender ascriptions, and ethical to make false ascriptions.
Content Focused Epistemic Injustice [co-author Dennis Whitcomb (Western Washington University)]
In the 1980's, members of Reagan's administration repeatedly rejected expert testimony that AIDS posed a significant and urgent threat to public health. They did so out of anti-gay prejudice, but this prejudice did not target the speakers' identities. Rather, it targeted the content of their testimony. The former phenomenon has been widely discussed under the label "epistemic injustice", but the latter has not. We believe that it ought to be, and we begin that project here by developing a notion of "content focused epistemic injustice": a unique form of epistemic injustice that manifests when a hearer rejects or preempts an assertion because of prejudice involving its content. After delineating several species of this phenomenon, we argue (via its connections to oppression and knowledge) that it is indeed a kind of epistemic injustice. In closing, we explore connections between it and other varieties of epistemic injustice, such as testimonial and hermeneutical injustice.
He/She/They/Ze [with Daniel Wodak] Ergo 5 (14) (2018)
In this paper, we first defend two main claims. The first is a moderate claim: we have a negative duty to not use binary gender-specific pronouns he or she to refer to genderqueer individuals. We defend this with an argument by analogy. It was gravely wrong for Mark Latham to refer to Catherine McGregor, a transgender woman, using the pronoun he; we argue that such cases of misgendering are morally analogous to referring to Angel Haze, who identifies as genderqueer, as he or she. The second is a radical claim: we have a negative duty to not use any gender-specific pronouns to refer to anyone, regardless of their gender identity. We offer three arguments in favor of this claim (which appeal to concerns about inegalitarianism and risk, invasions of privacy, and reinforcing essentialist ideologies). We also show why the radical claim is compatible with the moderate claim. Before concluding, we examine common concerns about incorporating either they or a neologism such as ze as a third-person singular gender-neutral pronoun. These concerns, we argue, do not provide sufficient reason to reject either the moderate or radical claim.
Ordinary discourse is filled with discussions about ‘sexual orientation’. This discourse might suggest a common understanding of what sexual orientation is. But even a cursory search turns up vastly differing, conflicting, and sometimes ethically troubling characterizations of sexual orientation. The conceptual jumble surrounding sexual orientation suggests that the topic is overripe for philosophical exploration. This paper lays the groundwork for such an exploration. In it, I offer an account of sexual orientation – called ‘Bidimensional Dispositionalism’ – according to which sexual orientation concerns what sex[es] and gender[s] of persons one is disposed to sexually engage, and makes no reference to one’s own sex and gender.