What is gender and what do we want it to be? (MANCEPT Workshops in Political Theory)

September 8, 2020 - September 11, 2020

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Tampere University

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The subject of this workshop is metaphysics of gender. For the three days the participants of the workshop will concentrate on studying together what is gender, what are genders, and closely related phenomena.

Politics invariably involves gender. Even when this is not apparent, just scratch the surface and there it is, hidden, often silenced, in plain sight. But what is gender? This question has been studied in philosophy and feminist theory ever since Simone de Beauvoir asked “what is a woman” in 1949 in her book Second Sex, but as a metaphysical question the nature of gender has not received as much attention as the multidimensionality of the phenomenon of gender would deserve.

Even though the subject in this sense has not been extensively studied, it does not mean many haven’t already offered excellent views about it. Of these Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler are the most famous and best known beyond academy and across disciplinary boundaries, but for example Catharine MacKinnon, Sally Haslanger, Charlotte Witt and Ásta have presented quite diverse views about the sort of questions we should pay attention to when studying metaphysics of gender, and about how genders are constructed or constituted. For example, Haslanger has suggested we should define and constitute the groups ‘men’ and ‘women’ in terms of hierarchical positions of political subjugation. Ásta, on the other hand, has offered a new account of how the gender of a person is conferred upon them in the specific situation.

Currently at least in many Western countries gender is undergoing a revolution. New genders are appearing, new ways of doing gender are getting more accepted, LHBTIQ+ and women rights and politics are being re-negotiated around the world (mostly for the better, although unfortunately not everywhere). It’s a good time to gather together to study themes around these matters. Questions such as the following are suggested for study in this workshop, but also presentations focusing on other topics that suit the theme of the workshop are warmly welcome:

- What are the genders man/woman/nonbinary/etc.?

- Is sex just an aspect of gender, or is it something else?

- What is the relation between e.g.

  • gender and gender identity
  • women and femininity / men and masculinity
  • gender and sexuality

- Personal is political, but is gender personal?

- Do changes in the metaphysical understanding of gender reflect changes in gender, or are we correcting mistaken views?

- Is gender (or sex)

  • a social kind
  • a social class
  • a political category
  • an identity category
  • a biological/reproductional category
  • an institutional category
  • all the above and much more
  • something else, what _____?

- Does metaphysics of gender matter to feminism?

The workshop is a part of MANCEPT Workshops of Political Theory. For more information, see:

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August 1, 2020, 9:00am BST

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