Mini-Heap


Here you go: 10 recent items of interest to philosophers (and others interested in philosophy) from the Daily Nous Heap of Links.

(The Heap of Links consists partly of suggestions from readers; if you find something online that you think would be of interest to the philosophical community, please send it in for consideration for the Heap.)

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Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

The piece by Kathleen Stock is outstanding. I came to some similar conclusions — and some different — in an essay I did on the subject not long ago.

https://theelectricagora.com/2018/04/29/thoughts-on-sex-and-gender/Report

Trans Grad Student
Trans Grad Student
3 years ago

The piece by Kathleen Stock — particularly point #3 and the many subpoints of point #4 — is overtly transmisogynistic (not in virtue of the main thesis she advances in the essay, but in virtue of how she attempts to support it), and also poorly argued in various respects. In point #4, especially, Stock purports to be presenting “empirical realities” and “facts” about trans women, but proceeds to repeat a standard list of transmisogynistic allegations about trans women with inadequate, sometimes misleading support and scant argumentation; she does not engage at all with the rebuttals that have been offered again and again by trans people and allies to these oft-repeated smears (indeed, she explicitly excuses herself from engaging with us by saying that she wants to “focus on sources which represent the material interests of” cis women).

As both a philosophy grad student and a man with a transgender background, I’m disappointed that Daily Nous held this piece forward as an example of “philosophical thinking about trans women”. Our lives are not a fun thought experiment for philosophers to play with in whatever way they deem interesting.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Trans Grad Student
3 years ago

Daily Nous did not “hold this piece forward as an example of philosophical thinking about trans women.” It linked to an essay by a philosopher from the University of Sussex that is being discussed in the philosophy blogosphere. Is it your view that one should only link to articles you agree with or think are well-argued?

Kathleen Stock is an outstanding philosopher who has done great work across a number of subject areas and whom I know personally going back years to my regular attendance at British Society of Aesthetics meetings. Certainly arguments on subjects as complex as these are debatable and different people may find different ones more or less persuasive, but your attempt simply to smear her with the usual litany of epithets and suggest that her essay shouldn’t even have been linked to is the sort of tactic that just isn’t working anymore. People have become wise to it. And weary of it. Report

Trans Grad Student
Trans Grad Student
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

I didn’t intend to suggest that the piece shouldn’t have been linked to at all, but context does matter. The “philosophical thinking about trans women” comment is a direct quote from Daily Nous’s Facebook post in which this Heap of Links was shared yesterday.

Additionally, I wasn’t “smearing” Kathleen Stock — neither in general, nor with reference to this specific piece. What I said was that a portion of this piece (consisting of points #3 and especially #4) is transmisogynistic and not well argued, for reasons I went on to explain. If you object to my saying that parts of this piece are transmisogynistic, but not to Stock’s saying in the essay that the reader is “likely to be a misogynist” if they doubt the reality of some of the dangers and problems Stock claims arise in this context, I find that puzzling. But, even if you disregard that part of my comment entirely (mentally deleting the two occurrences of the word “transmisogynistic”), the substantive point I wanted to make about the portion of Stock’s piece remains. Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Trans Grad Student
3 years ago

Your last paragraph made it pretty clear that you wish Justin had not linked to the piece. It also seemed to suggest that these issues surrounding identity, gender, sex, etc. should not be topics of critical, philosophical discussion. You may deny it but it certainly reads that way. Regardless, as I already indicated in my previous comment, it will not have the desired effect.Report

Trans Grad Student
Trans Grad Student
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

I emphatically do not think that these issues are off-limits for critical, philosophical discussion. Indeed, I explicitly stated at the beginning of my comment that the problematic aspect of this piece, in my view, is not its controversial thesis, but rather the manner in which that thesis is argued for in a portion of the essay.

If my last paragraph seemed to suggest something different to you than what it says (that I’m disappointed the piece was shared *in the specific way it was*), that’s unfortunate. Insisting that philosophers are obligated to be especially careful and responsible when they talk about issues that directly affect marginalized groups does not amount to claiming that philosophers shouldn’t write critically about these issues. Report

Jason
Jason
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

I completely disagree, Dan. It does not read as if these topics should not be topics of critical discussion. It reads as if someone believes that the piece that has not engaged adequately with relevant academic work.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Jason
3 years ago

I’m not going to debate the commentator’s motives. Suffice it to say that when a response starts off with Racist! Sexist! Transmisogynist! I’m always quite suspicious when afterwards, its argued that the problem is the lack of engagement with the relevant academic work. And even the latter, in my experience, is now being routinely used to attack/reject things people simply don’t like. After all, *anyone* can say it, and given the wild overproduction of academic philosophy someone can always point to something someone didn’t cite.

So, yeah, when you start off throwing epithets, I’m not inclined to take much of what you say after seriously. At least, not if the conversation is supposed to be serious to begin with.

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Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Jason
3 years ago

Daniel, I do not work in this area of philosophy at all, and my reaction after reading the Stock piece was total surprise — roughly every argument put forward is something that’s already been dissected by academic feminists, and as Trans Grad Student notes, pretty much all thoroughly and (to my mind) intelligently rebutted. I’m not saying these issues aren’t up for further discussion, but I am saying I think its noteworthy that someone with only a passing familiarity with any of the literature here would be aware of that. (As an aside, while you say you’re not interested in debating motives, you began here by debating motives.) Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Jason
3 years ago

@Daniel Kaufman: In the current climate, being suspicious is perfectly understandable. But I think you’ll agree that a willingness to temper suspicion with patience and intellectual humility in service of satisfactory interpretation is an intellectual virtue. Indeed it is a virtue we’d all do well to cultivate, I’d guess.Report

Brian Kemple
Reply to  Jason
3 years ago

I believe when you make the claim that something has not engaged the relevant academic work, you are obliged to identify what said relevant academic work is. There are tons of books and journals and it is impossible to stay on top of it all; if you think something has been refuted, say where, by whom, and maybe even briefly why… it is, after all, quite possible that someone else thinks that those refutations have been refuted, or that they are founded on faulty presuppositions, or something of that kind.

Otherwise, you come off as promoting a dogmatically-authoritative, monological, and yet ineluctable/gnostic gospel.Report

Nick
Nick
Reply to  Jason
3 years ago

I am legitimately interested in becoming more educated on these topics: can either Trans Grad or Kathryn point us to at least one of these clear rebuttals? I understand that you might prefer that I go and look myself, but as the experts here I think you could do all of us a huge service by providing some links or references. I want to stress that this comment is *not* meant as a complaint or as an underhanded criticism.Report

Trans Grad Student
Trans Grad Student
Reply to  Jason
3 years ago

@Brian Kemple: Hi, Brian. Stock herself acknowledges, in so many words, that she’s intentionally setting aside the sorts of sources in which rebuttals are offered, in favor of “focus[ing] on sources that represent the material interests of” cisgender women in her estimation.

It’s inevitable that philosophers will sometimes overlook relevant journal articles, etc., but not that they will purposefully omit consideration of reasons for thinking that their claims are incorrect or misleading just because those reasons have been presented by, or on behalf of, trans people. It doesn’t seem to me that trans philosophers are obligated to take on the burden of correcting that deficiency in the essay ourselves in order to object to it.

(P.S. In response also to , note that the most problematic portion of the essay is a list of 20+ separate claims. Providing references for relevant existing literature addressing these claims and the uses to which they are being put by Stock wouldn’t be a simple matter of sharing one or two articles; it would require a significant amount of time and labor for which, again, it doesn’t seem to me that trans philosophers should be responsible. Of course, if anybody has the time and inclination to do it anyway, they’d be welcome to.) Report

not satire
not satire
Reply to  Jason
3 years ago

@Trans Grad student: Nick only asked for at least one rebuttal, not a rebuttal for every one of Stock’s claims. Surely that doesn’t require much time or many resources. One reference might suffice.

On a related note, I’ve never really understood the argument that those with relevant information (maybe even expertise) about social justice issues ought not share that information with others. From my understanding, arguments of this sort are typically invoked when the person asking for references doesn’t seem genuinely interested in discussion, or when it seems like they might be trolling. But neither situations are at play here, so I’m a bit puzzled by the reluctance. Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Jason
3 years ago

Nick, I am decidedly not an expert! I don’t work in this area at all, so I can’t give anything like authoritative recommendations or even an amateur survey — and some of the claims, I think, are adequately rebutted by your mere average blog post (e.g., the point about the dangers of men posing as transwomen in order to gain access to women only spaces in order to do violence — the cases are few, even by the lights of the evidence Stock links to, what seems to be far more common is that violence is done to transwomen or suspected transwomen when people police women’s facilities (trans women experience higher rates of violence than do women writ large), but in any case, why is that anecdotal evidence something we’re meant to give great weight to? Should we take someone who pointed to instances of violence in a few interracial relationships as having raised a serious challenge to their legalization? That would be absurd. What’s different here? ) but I I would start with Talia Mae Bettcher’s work. Report

Nick
Nick
Reply to  Jason
3 years ago

Obviously it is a good idea for those of us just getting started to look around ourselves, and I am currently asking my trans friends in philosophy what they think given their life experiences and by starting to read some relevant stuff (like the 2009 Hypatia special issue and Talia Mae Bettcher’s piece at https://philpapers.org/archive/BETQWA.pdf).

To me, these discussions seem to be slightly more nuanced than The Gender Critical view because they don’t simply accept the simplistic binary reduction of gender to “sex-based oppression”. If the Gender Critical view focuses entirely on this, it misses so much of what is obviously fluid about gender and gender-terms, linguistic and social phenomena that any linguistic/metaphysical theory ought to capture.

However, it also seems to me that many of these discussions are potentially quite friendly to Stock: when Hale (1993 http://www.calstatela.edu/sites/default/files/dept/phil/pdf/res/Hale,_Are_Lesbians_Women.pdf) discusses gender as a Wittgenstein-style cluster-concept with multiple overlapping parts, this captures the inherent vagueness, contextual sensitivity and complexity of terms like “woman”. However, it seems to me that Stock might accept all of this and simply say that she is concerned with a more narrow cluster-concept that privileges certain sex characteristics because that is the concept that has been used to oppress people with those characteristics in the past. Hale himself actually says this too: in the dominant culture, sex characteristics are “more heavily weighted”, and Stock agrees. The question of what a “Real” woman is doesn’t actually play much of a role in her piece or in her political program, and she explicitly denies having any theory of womanhood which might conflict with Hale’s.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on in the hopes that this helps neophytes, like me, who are just getting started. Report

Nick
Nick
Reply to  Jason
3 years ago

(Kathryn, just saw your Bettcher suggestion after posting my comment, thanks!)Report

Instructor Gadget
Instructor Gadget
Reply to  Trans Grad Student
3 years ago

Dear Trans Grad Student and Kathryn Pogin,

Is one of the refuted claims in Stock’s piece the claim that a live option in the metaphysics of gender entails that at most very few biological males could be women? If so, is there a particularly helpful source for the refutation?

Report

Trans Grad Student
Trans Grad Student
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

(I want to reiterate this point in the strongest possible terms: My criticisms are directed solely at this piece of writing, not at all at Stock personally, nor at any of her other work. It’s difficult and sometimes painful to see one’s colleagues saying things about oneself and one’s community like what Stock says in parts of this essay — especially while explicitly treating it as acceptable to simply ignore everything people like oneself have already said in response — but objections are nevertheless properly directed only at the essay itself, not at the writer of the essay.)Report

Jason
Jason
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

What does Stock’s being an “outstanding philosopher” have to do with this? Is it your view that no outstanding philosopher can on a single occasion do less than excellent work?

Trans Grad Student’s comment is not accurately read as an attempt to smear Stock. With a bit of charity, you can detect that the complaint is about the adequacy of interacting with certain responses to Stock’s points.Report

transguy_academic@outlook.com
3 years ago

There are several issues here. One is the substantive topic of the metaphysics of gender, which is difficult and requires sustained philosophical inquiry. Another is the evaluation of how politically contentious issues are treated in philosophical discourse (online and in print). And I think a third, lurking in the background is a substantive issue related to standpoint epistemology as well as disciplinary norms.

Some people seem to presume that only trans people have the appropriate epistemic position for making claims about the metaphysics of gender. But as Kathleen Stock points out, given that trans people (and in this context we’re talking about trans women in particular) have different views on these topics, even if this were true or what work in standpoint epistemology entails (which it doesn’t), it doesn’t solve the first-order philosophical problems. Further, while I’m here disclosing that I’m trans (in part because I think the profession forgets there are more than a handful of very prominent and vocal trans people) I do not think it should be a prerequisite for participating in the discussion or having a philosophical view that one disclose one’s gender identity, gender history, and so on. Yet on the caricature of standpoint epistemology being assumed by some persons in the discipline, it seems that is the case. I take it that’s a bad consequence.

However, I do think that Trans Grad Student makes an important point in observing that these discussions have important implications for trans people, and this should be kept in mind just as discussion of disability, race, pregnancy, or any other topic where people’s lives are involved. (In contrast, I take questions about formal semantics to be less fraught with danger in this way.) So some sensitivity to the fact that trans people have a stake in the debate is surely important. (Another article asked facetiously “How does this help us understand the real world we are trying to change?” Well, trans people are part of the real world.) To make an analogy with race which I do think is apt here, certainly we don’t want only people of a certain race(s) working on topics related to race, but I think people working on philosophy of race need to keep in mind the impact of their arguments and, indeed, their manner of speaking (that is, being flippant or etc.). Ceteris paribis for disability studies, where the disclosure point is also important.

After all, one needn’t look very far online to see terrible racism and what I would call “transphobia” coming from members of the profession. I won’t link to the forum, but mocking trans people as mentally ill and a prurient preoccupation with genitalia characterizes much of that discussion, which sadly echoes what I have heard in some places in person. Again, on the analogy with race, if working on race in the context of the United States, in which racism against black people and Latinx people is prevalent, some sensitivity to the context of one’s comments is important. People who have experienced racism, mockery of their disabilities, and transphobia may be very sensitive (I say speaking as one) to any hint of agreement with these norms. How to navigate sensitivity with speaking openly and truthfully is a difficult problem, and surely the answer isn’t either to walk on eggshells and qualify every statement beyond reason, but neither is it to speak as if trans people aren’t vulnerable to a lot of real harms (by which I do mean harm in the physical sense, which if you read the news in most countries you will see.)

In conclusion, I don’t know what the answer is, as someone who refuses to publicly disclose private information to the discipline for the privilege (?) of engaging in combative online debate about this topic. I do generally keep quiet about it and refuse to make it an area in which I publish on, even if I wanted to, since the environment is vitriolic, and charges of “thought police” and “transphobia” fly all too quickly on both sides, rather than a patient attempt at inquiry and understanding before responding.

Report

Trans Grad Student
Trans Grad Student
Reply to  [email protected]
3 years ago

I’m really not sure to what degree we should think that considerations from standpoint epistemology, like the ones you mention, are in the background here. Personally, I agree with you that it’s not the case that only trans people should be writing about these issues (as I mentioned, Stock’s thesis isn’t what I take to be the problematic aspect of her article), but I don’t know how prevalent the contrary view is among other philosophers who would likewise object to the piece.

An unfortunate narrative that has become popular in the wake of the Hypatia incident has it that objections to that article — and, by extension, any other piece in which cis philosophers likewise argue for controversial theses about trans people — are driven largely by (i) a belief that some views in the neighborhood should be off-limits for philosophical discussion, and (ii) the sort of interpretation of standpoint epistemology you mention, according to which cis people shouldn’t write such pieces, at least without citing a lot of trans people.

I don’t subscribe to either (i) or (ii), and I also think the narrative itself is incorrect (at least as far as the objections people have actually expressed are concerned). But I don’t have any non-anecdotal data about the percentage of people who have objected to such pieces who do subscribe to one or both of (i) and (ii). Report

jj
jj
3 years ago

I hear a lot about how such discussion have implications for the lives of transgendered people. That’s fair enough. But transgender movement has major implications for the lives of much of the rest of the society – from shifting the focus from the systematic, “traditional” oppression of (biological) women across the globe, which include reproductive rights, rights to adequate healthcare, or even rights to education or freedom of movement and association, and so on, to shifting the the focus of much of liberal and left-wing politics on the rights of a tiny percentage of population (and some say, on the rights of men to be considered women – based on stereotypes of what women should look like – because they feel a psychological need or urge to be so considered) thus alienating vast swaths of society and making it all the easier for the likes of Trump in politics or Jordan Petersen in academy and various other incarnations of white racially charged conservativism to appeal like never before. Maybe such consequences are not “logically implied” by the demands of trans-movement nor really their fault but they are all the more real. Report

Untenured Ethicist
Untenured Ethicist
Reply to  jj
3 years ago

Liberals and left-wingers can pursue more than one goal at the same time. Advocating trans rights in no way excludes advocating rights for (all) women and increased access to education and health care.
Right now, a slim majority of Americans support greater rights for transgender people. That majority is growing. More broadly, drawing attention to “identity” issues is working: American attitudes toward race and gender are shifting leftward.
https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/05/liberals-are-plenty-nice.html
Avoiding “identity politics” for fear of backlash would be a mistake. Talking about racial equality and LGBT equality may provoke some people with right-wing views to express those views more loudly, but it also gets some people with right-wing views to change their minds.
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jj
jj
Reply to  Untenured Ethicist
3 years ago

Actually, I am not sure it does not. Many feminists seem to think otherwise and unless you think the voice of some parts, minor or major, of women who fight for women’s rights are to be ignored, the claim should be more cautious. But the perception among right leaning people and many on the left is that liberal poliics is now about trans issues. The fate of poor people, the decreasing wages, the ba healthcare, corruption, and so on are now talking points of the right and Trump. The left lost, and I am pretty sure that if it keeps doing what it’s doing we will see Trump reelected and things will go only worse…Report

Untenured Ethicist
Untenured Ethicist
Reply to  jj
3 years ago

“The perception among right leaning people and many on the left is that liberal poliics is now about trans issues.”
That perception is obviously delusional. I am not persuaded that it is as widespread as you say it is. There are some outspoken people who think this way, but how representative are they?Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Untenured Ethicist
3 years ago

If you follow Fox and Breitbart, it may not seem so farfetched.Report

jj
jj
Reply to  Untenured Ethicist
3 years ago

Well, the charge of being “obviously delusional” is, I think, extended at trans people who are supposed to be (according to some) delusional about their gender or bodies. I don’t work in academia, not a PhD, but in my circles, at home and at work, the perception is pretty common.Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Kathryn wrote:

roughly every argument put forward is something that’s already been dissected by academic feminists, and as Trans Grad Student notes, pretty much all thoroughly and (to my mind) intelligently rebutted.
= = =
Not to my mind. And not to many others. Like most complex questions, there may be a difference of opinion as to what has been “thoroughly and intelligently rebutted.” And thinking that something hasn’t doesn’t make one a ‘phobe or an ‘ist.

I should say that I am not on board with Stock throwing around epithets herself (i.e. ‘misogynist’). Why don’t we just leave all that sort of thing out and deal with the points and the arguments?Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Your comment here misses Kathryn Pogin’s point, and it is completely compatible with that point. The point was that responses to the arguments put forward in the piece are in the literature, and if the piece doesn’t reflect it, then Trans Grad Student’s complaints are apt. Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Jen
3 years ago

The essay is not an academic paper and was not published in an academic journal. The idea that when engaged in public intellectualism of the sort that one finds in online magazines and blogs like “Medium,” one needs to cite all the relevant sources and consider all the arguments, even the ones you think are no good, is simply mistaken.Report

Trans Grad Student
Trans Grad Student
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

No one is objecting that Stock’s essay fails to meet the standards of an academic journal article. It is possible to acknowledge that less stringent standards generally apply to philosophical essays on Medium while nevertheless arguing that a particular piece of writing (or, in this case, a specific portion of a particular piece of writing) doesn’t meet the standards that do apply. Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

The comment below by Trans Grad Student perfectly expresses my response: no one has claimed that the piece doesn’t meet the standards of an academic journal article; other important standards apply. Well said, Trans Grad Student!Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Jen
3 years ago

I meant ‘above’, not ‘below’.Report

Ariel
Ariel
3 years ago

Stock says multiple times in the article that the privileging of transwomen’s voices over those of ciswomen is due to misogyny. I take it the best reconstruction of that is something like this:

1. Transwomen’s voices are disproportionately amplified relative to ciswomen.
2. Cases where the voices of men are disproportionately amplified relative to women are best explained as cases of misogyny.
3. Transwomen are men.
4. Therefore the disproportionate amplification of transwomen’s voices over the voices of ciswomen is best explained as a case of misogyny.

(Now, I think 1 is false, but it is also clearly an empirical issue and I don’t want to get into it)

If someone can give me a valid reconstruction of what Stock’s argument could be that does not beg the question (by assuming trasnwomen are men, which is precisely the topic on which Stock is supposedly staying neutral) I’d appreciate it. If one is not available, then I think we have to conclude that Stock is arguing in bad faith.

A central claim of the article is that the question of whether transwomen ought to count as women should be open for debate. She specifically takes aim at the practice of calling out the other side for bigotry without first debating the view at hand (which she takes to be whether, and in what situations, transwomen are women). She then proceeds to argue that in debating this view, we need to take into consideration a list of facts. She draws mostly on sources and statistics regarding ciswomen, and justifies it as follows:

“Since it is part of my argument that the current state of the debate is misogynistically skewed towards the interests of transwomen, to the exclusion of voices of women-who-are-not-transwomen, I have tended to mostly focus on sources which represent the material interests of the latter group, primarily, and I make no apology for it. I’m a feminist after all.”

I don’t think you can argue that a debate is ‘mysoginistically skewed’ towards transwomen unless you assume transwomen are men, as per the reconstruction above. This is Stock’s justification for relying primarily on Gender Critical sources, and for mainly using examples regarding cis women – things she does in service of arguing for the legitimacy of the Gender Critical view, even though her justification for using these sources already assumed that transwomen are not women.

This same line of thinking shows up multiple times throughout. For example, the idea that ‘TERF’ is a slur implicitly depends on the idea that the people being accused of being ‘TERF’s are being persecuted for their identity – something that is hard to reconcile with agnosticism about whether transwomen are women. If, on the other hand, you are assuming transwomen are men (as I believe Stock does throughout), then the case of ‘TERF’ is one in which a group of men are targeting women with the word. I take it this is exactly what Stock means in this passage.

I have lots of other complaints here. But on the grounds of this alone, I find it hard to take Stock as a neutral arbiter of the state of this debate. It is hard to read the article as anything but disingenuous, in particular when two huge motivators for her position are the beliefs that the debate is impoverished unless a) we refrain from accusing the opposing side of bigotry, and b) we refrain from assuming the opposing side is wrong before the debate starts. She does both of these things, consistently, throughout the article.Report

not satire
not satire
Reply to  Ariel
3 years ago

Agreed that Stock seems to be acting in bad faith. Maybe one way come to the ‘misogynistic’ conclusion without the assumption that transwomen are men is to claim that (a) women can be misogynist to other women (uncontroversial) and (b) ciswomen have been socialized as women more than transwomen have been socialized as women, and (c) when the voices of those less socialized as women systematically trump the voices of those more socialized as women, this is likely because of misogyny.
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Ariel
Ariel
Reply to  not satire
3 years ago

Hey, thanks for this. I suppose we could try to cash it out this way. But this seems like a bit of a stretch, as well as having consequences that Stock would almost certainly not accept.

First let me just flag that bringing in this idea of ‘levels of socialization’ is sill not neutral on the main question. This seems like a substantive way in which a trans woman would be ‘less’ of a woman than a cis woman.

In addition, you would have to do some juggling to avoid bad conclusions. For example: does this also apply to a woman who grows up in a household/community with little pressure to conform to gender norms? Do we need to prioritize the experiences of women from cultures with harsher gender norms, or else we are being misogynistic? I can’t imagine Stock would endorse that view.
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Jean
Jean
Reply to  Ariel
3 years ago

“If someone can give me a valid reconstruction of what Stock’s argument could be that does not beg the question (by assuming trasnwomen are men, which is precisely the topic on which Stock is supposedly staying neutral) I’d appreciate it. If one is not available, then I think we have to conclude that Stock is arguing in bad faith.”

You can think trans women are women, but see something misogynistic about it if people are only concerned with trans women and not with women as a whole. We see this in a lot of other cases. Someone is concerned about their female relatives only, but not with women as a whole. They are concerned with beautiful female models, but not with women as a whole. If you are concerned just with the small subset of women who are X, but not with all women, it’s at least possible that this is due to misogyny. Since Stock’s claims about misogyny can be read this way, I don’t think it’s fair to say she’s begging any questions about whether transwomen are women.Report

Ariel
Ariel
Reply to  Jean
3 years ago

I’ve been thinking a lot about this reply. I hadn’t considered this particular interpretation originally. I think there are still good reasons for reading Stock the way I originally presented, but I agree that it’s less clear given this option.
First, I just want to push against this interpretation of why it is misogynistic to only care about ‘women who are X.’ I think these kinds of statements are almost always misogynistic. But they aren’t misogynistic because they care about only a subset of women. The reason why this is misogyny is that, almost always, the reasons for caring only about women who are X are either misogynistic or self-interested.

People who only care about women who are their family are essentially saying they only care about women when it benefits them (though, to be honest, I think it is justified to be partial to women in your life and prioritize their experiences. They should not be the only women you care about, but giving them more airtime is perfectly reasonable as they have personal connections to you).

Being concerned only with women who are models is hugely problematic because of the way beauty standards are used to judge women’s value in our society. If a microbiologist cared significantly more about women in microbiology than other women, the same contextual issues wouldn’t apply. It might still be due to misogyny, but it is a much less obvious case. I think the example of models is particularly loaded and contains a lot of other baggage that the standard case of prioritizing the voices of ‘women who are X’ does not contain.

It seems to me that usually, when you charge someone of misogyny because they prioritize ‘women who are X’, it is because prioritizing them in some way supports or reproduces patriarchal norms. It is my impression that Stock thinks prioritizing transwomen is exactly this kind of action. There is a pervasive sense that the reason for this, throughout the piece, is that prioritizing transwomen’s voices is similar to prioritizing the voice of men who want the right to present as women. I find it quite obvious that this is Stock’s intention based on her words, the tone of the piece, the content she has shared on twitter, and the examples she chooses to use. And I don’t think we can appeal to the explanation that any amount of partiality to one group of women is misogyny. At the VERY least, Stock finds it unnecessary to qualify or explain why she believes this is misogynistic, despite using the example repeatedly in a context where it could easily be read in the way I have. Given that she takes herself to be ‘arguing for’ this conclusion, that seems like a problem.Report

Kathleen Stock
Kathleen Stock
3 years ago

Hello all. In case anyone is interested I also just published this; it’s a list of unsolicited anonymised responses from fellow academics to my original two essays. https://medium.com/@kathleenstock/anonymised-responses-from-other-academics-to-my-articles-on-sex-gender-and-philosophy-f1cc0db04554 Thanks and best wishes.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Kathleen Stock
3 years ago

Thank you Kathleen. And I’m sorry that you are being attacked and slandered for simply expressing your honest, thoughtful reflections on this topic. Fortunately, that sort of tactic is working less and less, and so long as those of us who believe in free, open, honest, critical inquiry refuse to be intimidated by accusations of various “isms” and rally to protect people like Rebecca Tuvel, whose professional standing is threatened by those who want to play this sort of dirty pool, I think it will soon be regarded as a sad, but fortunately short episode in the history of our discipline.Report

Trans Grad Student
Trans Grad Student
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

No one should ever be attacked or slandered for expressing a philosophical view. That’s something about which all of us should absolutely, unconditionally agree.

Similarly, no one should have their objections to a piece of philosophical writing inaccurately characterized as a personal attack, slander, or an attempt to prevent open, honest, critical inquiry. Reflexively accusing those who criticize controversial arguments about trans people of these things shuts down conversation and silences one’s colleagues in precisely the way we all agree shouldn’t happen.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Trans Grad Student
3 years ago

The piece by Kathleen Stock — particularly point #3 and the many subpoints of point #4 — is overtly transmisogynistic

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I’m happy to let people decide whether this is an attack on Stock or not. I think it obviously is.

And no one has “silenced” anyone, as your participation in this conversation demonstrates.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

The claim says of the piece that it is transmisogynistic. Unless Kathleen Stock is the piece, it appears that this claim is an attack on the piece–not on Stock.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Jen
3 years ago

Presumably the piece didn’t appear out of the ether. So it’s alleged “transmisogyny” must come from somewhere. And while in a technical sense, it is possible for a statement to be “ist” of some sort, despite the best efforts of the author, typically, people, in ordinary speaking contexts, understand that to attribute an “ist” to a statement is to say something about the attitude of the person making it.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Jen
3 years ago

@Daniel Kaufman: You say, the explanation for why you thought that Trans Grad Student’s claim was an attack on Stock is that people in standard contexts typically make claims like this as a way of attacking others. But Trans Grad Student in one and the same context–indeed, in one and the same sentence–goes on to critique the piece’s support/argumentation. This is what makes it a non-standard context. So, you were mistaken to infer on the basis of context that Trans Grad Student’s claim was an attack on Stock. Report

Trans Grad Student
Trans Grad Student
Reply to  Jen
3 years ago

@Daniel Kaufman: Consider Stock’s repeated use of the terms “misogynist” and “misogynistic” in her essay. You’ve said that you don’t approve of that, either, but you don’t seem outraged by it; I hope that this is because you recognize that your colleagues — like Stock — who use these terms in philosophical settings aren’t usually using them as terms of abuse. Rather, we employ such terms in philosophical contexts sometimes because they mean something and can consequently contribute to making a point or argument. The same goes for “transmisogynist” and “transmisogynistic”.

In this case, I made a qualified statement that this piece of writing is transmisogynistic in a certain respect (to quote the first sentence of my first comment: “not in virtue of the main thesis Stock advances in the essay,” but in virtue of the argument for that thesis, particularly in points #3 and #4). I then went on to further specify why I think that it’s transmisogynistic in that respect.

You seem to be of the opinion that we should give up using both “misogynistic” and “transmisogynistic” altogether, and that’s fair enough. But if you think that the most reasonable, charitable interpretation of what I said is that I was making a vicious personal attack on another philosopher just because I used the word “transmisogynistic”, I find that puzzling. Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Transgradstudent wrote:

“You seem to be of the opinion that we should give up using both “misogynistic” and “transmisogynistic” altogether”

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Not at all. I think we should give up using them when we are trying to have serious arguments with other philosophers about conceptually challenging topics. Especially with other philosophers of the background and credibility of a Kathleen Stock.

Charges of racism, sexism, etc., are not arguments, so they really have no place in a philosophical discussion. They belong to the realm of activist and political speech and should stay there. Starting a philosophical conversation with them, as you have done here, is not an invitation to a discussion, but a challenge to a fight, and that’s not what this should be about.

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Transgradstudent wrote:

“But if you think that the most reasonable, charitable interpretation of what I said is that I was making a vicious personal attack on another philosopher just because I used the word “transmisogynistic”, I find that puzzling.”

= = =

I don’t think you made a “vicious” personal attack. I do think that you led off with an accusation of transmisogyny against a serious, respected, female philosopher who didn’t deserve it, and it had the result of making the whole conversation about the accusation rather than the substance of the relevant cases, and that’s a shame.

Sorry if you find this “puzzling” but there it is.

Report

Trans Grad Student
Trans Grad Student
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

For evidence that describing people, pieces of writing, or ideas as “misogynistic” is something philosophers do in serious philosophical contexts in order to make their arguments — whether or not it’s ideal for them to do so — I refer you again to Stock’s essay, which employs the term multiple times.

For instance, as I’ve mentioned, Stock at one point states that people who doubt the reality of some of the dangers and problems she argues arise in this context are probably misogynists. Perhaps you think it would have been preferable to make her point in a different way, but it wasn’t a “challenge to a fight” or a failure to observe a philosophical norm. Stock was simply employing the concept of misogyny in service of making a philosophical point, as philosophers frequently do. They do the same with the concept of transmisogyny, and — though you clearly think that it would have been preferable for me to make my point without appealing to that concept — it’s not correct that my use of it automatically makes what I said “fighting words” (though I certainly regret that you interpreted it that way).

Moreover, as has already been pointed out multiple times: I have never said that Stock is a transmisogynist; what I have said is that this piece of writing, particularly points #3 and #4, is transmisogynistic in a certain respect. Perhaps you think that implies some sort of judgment about Stock’s character or general philosophical credibility, but that’s not the case. Again, I refer you to Stock’s essay, where she comments at one point that all of us are at least a little misogynistic — likewise, pretty much all of us occasionally say things that are transmisogynistic in one way or another, including trans people ourselves. Claiming that there is an instance of transmisogyny in a piece of writing is entirely consistent with taking the author to be a wonderfully virtuous person and brilliant philosopher.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Trans Grad Student
3 years ago

For evidence that describing people, pieces of writing, or ideas as “misogynistic” is something philosophers do in serious philosophical contexts in order to make their arguments — whether or not it’s ideal for them to do so — I refer you again to Stock’s essay, which employs the term multiple times.
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I already said that I disagree with her using it as well, so I don’t see the point of bringing it up again.Report

Trans Grad Student
Trans Grad Student
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

As I indicated in the subsequent paragraph, I understand that you disagree with her using it. But I hoped we might be able to agree that — even if it wasn’t ideal — she did use the term as a way of making a philosophical point, not (e.g.) as an attempt to stifle further critical discussion or as an attack. It would be uncharitable if either of us were to interpret Stock in the latter way just for using the terms “misogynist” and “misogynistic”, and I hoped we might be able to agree that the same goes for uses of “transmisogynistic”.

(In any case, I quite agree with your remark in your previous comment that we’ve spent too long discussing this point, as opposed to the substantive objections that I and others have attempted to raise above regarding Stock’s essay. I’m going to try to stop replying to comments that attribute to me motives I’ve explicitly disavowed, etc.) Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

“Charges of racism, sexism, etc., are not arguments, so they really have no place in a philosophical discussion. ”

There seems to be quite a bizarre view underlying this claim — that is, things which are not arguments have no place in philosophical discussion. But it’s hard to see how arguments could have any place in philosophical discussion if premises have no place in a philosophical discussion, and yet, as premises are not arguments… Report

Academic Trans Guy
Academic Trans Guy
3 years ago

For those people asking for resources, the APA has a list of syllabi, many of which would be useful starting points for reading. For a one-stop book, it’s a bit old, but it still includes a lot of good material: The Transgender Studies Reader edited by Susan Stryker (Jacob Hale’s piece “Are Lesbians Women?” is quite relevant to the discussion being rehashed here, as is Zachary Nataf’s “Lesbians Talk transgender.”) Finally, the SEP also has a relevant entry, which is where I would suggest people start if they want an overview of the arguments in play.

I might also add that in addition to reading philosophical work, people should read some fiction and autobiographies written by trans (and gender non-conforming as well as intersex) people. For instance, Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues and Jamison Green’s Becoming a Visible Man give insight into the varying experiences of people “born female” (=assigned female at birth). Julia Serrano’s Whipping Girl and Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness are two which give experiences of people “born male.” Each of these books gives only one person’s limit view, from a particular time period (Mock’s book is the most recent) but in the interest of cultivating understanding of the issues from a human standpoint, I really reading personal narratives are important. (As with my comment earlier, this advice, of reading beyond philosophical material, goes for disability studies, race, gender more broadly, and so on–it’s not limited to trans issues.)Report

Academic Trans Guy
Academic Trans Guy
Reply to  Academic Trans Guy
3 years ago

HTML failure in this comment, sorry. Perhaps the moderator should edit it to prevent the SEP link eating up all following comments?Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
3 years ago

Establishing conclusively what a given term in English (say “woman”) refers to would require establishing conclusively what the correct account is of how meanings of words are determined. We have no such agreed upon account. It always suprises me how many philosophers have strong opinions about the meaning of the word “woman”, but have little knowledge of the philosophy of language and the problems it deals with.Report

Kathleen Stock
Kathleen Stock
3 years ago

Hello again. I’ve now written this. It addresses a few points made above, though not all of them by any means. Thanks for reading! https://medium.com/@kathleenstock/arguing-about-feminism-and-transgenderism-an-opinionated-guide-for-the-perplexed-eabd8208469fReport

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Kathleen Stock
3 years ago

Excellent stuff, Kathleen. Thank you for linking.Report