Trans Women and Philosophy: Learning from Recent Events


“I am a trans woman and a philosophy grad student, and I have decided to leave the discipline and seek a non-academic job because of transphobia in the academy.”

So begins an open letter titled, “I am leaving academic philosophy because of its transphobia problem“, published last week at Medium and authored under the pseudonym “t philosopher”. (I don’t know who “t philosopher” is, but I know people who do.)

She continues:

I have been a participant in academic philosophy for many years. I have presented at conferences. I have published research in philosophy journals. I have refereed journal articles. I have taught many undergraduate classes. I am a member of your professional community. I am your colleague. I have not chosen to quit philosophy because I have fallen out of love with the work, or I want something else to do with my life. I am leaving academia ONLY because of TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) — so called “gender critical feminists” —and those who amplify their voices. I am writing this letter because I want people to know that there are real, concrete, macro-level consequences to allowing hate speech to proliferate in philosophy under the guise of academic discussion. In sharing my pain and anger at being forced out of a career that I once loved, I hope to stir some of you to greater action.

The letter has been widely circulated and discussed on social media, with the people sharing it divided between those who are doing so because they endorse t philosopher’s description of and recommendations for academic philosophy, and those doing so to criticize or mock what she says.

Its publication is one of a series of recent events involving academic philosophy, trans women philosophers, and the discussion of transgender issues that has been causing a significant amount of controversy, particularly online. These include a statement by Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) in response to a talk by philosopher Kathleen Stock (Sussex) at a meeting of the Aristotelian Society, a well-known philosophy-blogger’s obsession with belittling graduate students who use Twitter to discuss trans issues, and more generally the disturbingly unprofessional discourse on this subject online, which makes matters worse for all involved and hinders philosophical discussion of the subjects offline, too.

I’ll get to some of those other matters later in this very long post, but I start with t philosopher, because, regardless of where you end up in the various disputes regarding these contentious issues, it is important to remember that philosophers are people, too. In disagreement, philosophers are susceptible to seeing each other as mere stand-ins for the views we defend (and sometimes the presumed implications of those views). But we are persons—and whatever you think our humanity implies about how people should treat each other, think of each other, care for each other, and so on, it implies that for us, too.

What follows is an attempt to figure out what to think of these recent events and some of the underlying issues, and more specifically what can be done to make things better. I don’t find this task easy. Readers (especially journalists and non-philosophers who are peeking in on the philosophy world right now) should be aware that I don’t claim to be speaking for any other philosophers. If history is any guide—and recent history has parties on “both sides” (ugh for the oversimplification that implies) of this dispute each thinking I’m working for the opposition—plenty of philosophers will disagree with me.

Here goes.

* * * * * * *

Tuesday Smillie, “Together”

I. Understanding t philosopher

Reader, what do you do when you are confronted with the anguish of another person? I hope it is at least this: you try to understand. Sometimes it may be easy to understand, but sometimes, owing to qualities of the person suffering, or the kind of person you are and experiences you’ve had, or the circumstances you’re in, it may not be easy. You may not identify with their suffering, you may be puzzled by its depth, you may be put out by its expression, you may think it involves mistakes—but before responding in ways that don’t take someone’s suffering as seriously as the person undergoing it, you should try to understand it.

I think that’s where we should start.

Do you love philosophy? Do you feel at home in this work? Do you think you wouldn’t be as fulfilled if you had a different kind of career? Many readers of Daily Nous will answer “yes” to these questions. This means that many readers will know where t philosopher is starting from.

Now imagine that when you take part in activities other professional philosophers do, unlike most of those other professional philosophers, you are made to feel quite bad. Yes, some philosophers may feel bad because they don’t think their work meets their own standards, or because of criticism by others, or because of stress to get work done, but this is different. It’s not about your work; rather, you are being made to feel bad—really bad—because of a characteristic of yours such as your race, or gender, or sexuality, or ethnicity, etc. In fact, it is so horrible that it is interfering with your mental and emotional well-being. Further, it is so unlike what most of your colleagues experience that most of them don’t understand it, and so fail to take it seriously, or think less of you for complaining about it, which of course makes it even worse. And now, unlike most other philosophers, you have to choose between doing what you love and preserving a minimally decent level of mental and emotional health.

Don’t yet jump to questions about what to do about this situation. Don’t yet jump to questions about causes. As philosophers we are sometimes distracted by the ease with which we propagate questions. Instead, just sit with this anguish for a moment.

Why? Because despite our inflated self-image, philosophers, the starting points in our inquiry matter for how it proceeds, framing subsequent moves and affecting the weight we give various considerations. Even if you ultimately end up disagreeing with t philosopher’s recommendations, how you end up doing so may be helpfully informed by an appreciation of where she is coming from.

Consider, as well, that t philosopher is not alone; several of those sharing her letter online suggested they felt very similar.

One response I’ve seen to t philosopher’s letter is to say that she is overreacting, or that she is not tough enough for philosophy. But most of us are fortunate enough never to have had our toughness tested in this way.* For most of us, our well-being is almost never jeopardized by our work environments. Most of us have not experienced what t philosopher has experienced. This should make us wary of the ease with which some dismiss her suffering. T philosopher is a fellow human being, a colleague, and it would be good of us to understand her, and get inside her perspective, and take her suffering seriously.

So now let’s look at what t philosopher says about the source of her suffering:

The past two years have taken a toll on my mental health because of the amount of hateful discourse regarding gender identity and “biological sex”, starting with the Hypatia/Tuvel affair, and most recently concerning the actions of Kathleen Stock and her co-conspirators, Brian Leiter, and to a lesser degree, Justin Weinberg…

[Yes, that’s my name up there. No, I’m not going to defend myself in this post. That’s not the point of this.]

Not only do I have to sit with the knowledge that people who are supposed to be my colleagues actively deny my gender identity, I might even encounter these people in a public space. I can easily imagine running into Kathleen Stock or some other transphobic philosopher at the APA or an invited talk. It is reasonable to consider the possibility of there being a transphobic talk at the APA or another professional event, in light of Stock’s recent invitation to the Aristotelian Society. How can I be expected to attend professional events where people deny and question such an integral part of my identity and act like that is tolerable or normal?…

I am expected to tolerate constant public discourse about the nature of my gender identity, whether I “count” as a woman, and what rights I am due in virtue of my gender. I am expected to tolerate public discourse regarding the things that demonstrate other people’s respect for me as a human being. I am expected to tolerate questions about fundamental aspects of my being, questions about my legitimacy as a person…

Stock replies here.

Here, t philosopher is reiterating what trans philosophers have told us before. Recall the post by Talia Mae Bettcher (CSU Los Angeles) in which she says:

I’m afraid there’s a tendency among some philosophers to suppose that philosophical investigations into race, gender, disability, trans issues, and so forth are no different methodologically from investigations into the question whether tables really exist. One difference, however, is that while tables aren’t part of the philosophical conversation, trans people, disabled people, people of color, are part of the conversation. Or at least, we think we are. We’re here. In the room. And we’ve suffered from life-long abuse… So please understand that this is a little bit personal.

Some discussions among philosophers about trans issues can reasonably be thought by trans persons to be upsetting, or contributing to a broader culture that has been threatening to trans persons. That’s so even when the discourse avoids the chronic obnoxiousness of online exchanges, in which some of the most visible philosophers challenging the self-understanding and liberties of trans persons have engaged in behavior that can most charitably be described as juvenile (though that is an insult to the kids I know)—including name-calling, referring to trans women as “he”, and mocking colleagues’ looks. And when these persons are invited to give talks or to publish their works—just imagine how it must feel to have your tormentors, suddenly on their best behavior, welcomed by the very professional institutions you are supposed to navigate.

(This is not to say that it has only been gender critical philosophers who’ve behaved badly online. Some of them, too, have been subject to hostile rhetoric from their opponents, which I find objectionable, not to mention counterproductive. Yes, I know some readers disagree with me on this. I understand complaints about tone-policing, but I am not convinced by them in this context.)

Again, the foregoing is put forward for the sake of better understanding where t philosopher is coming from. It’s not itself a prescription for action. But it might inform how we proceed.

II. Some initial responses to t philosopher

One possible response to t philosopher’s suffering is just to tell her: “deal with it.”

But here’s the thing: we’re the it.

Our practices and speech aren’t beyond our control. They’re up to us. Telling t philosopher to just “deal with it” is like being told, “What you’re doing is harming me” and us saying, “That’s just how I am.”
“But you could change what you’re doing.”
“Not gonna do that.”

That doesn’t seem like the best response. It could be the best response. After all, sometimes an action or practice that involves harming people is the best option, because the alternatives are worse. But it’s probably not. We should be suspicious of it on grounds of status quo bias and self-serving bias. And we haven’t even considered the alternatives.

Another response to t philosopher’s suffering is her own recommendations. Let’s look at them.

  1. If you are a journal editor or a referee, do not publish or recommend for publication transphobic articles. Do not entertain submissions that question the legitimacy of trans people. Do not entertain submissions that question what rights trans people are due. Do not entertain submissions about trans people that do not take great care to amplify trans voices and understand the trans experience.
  2. Do not invite conference speakers who are transphobic. Do not accept conference submissions that question the legitimacy of trans people. Make it clear that these are not welcome at your conference in your call for papers.
  3. Do not provide a platform for transphobes in philosophy. Do not give them an opportunity to publicly express their bigotry. I’m thinking in particular of the Daily Nous and other prominent professional blogs. Do not share their work on social media.
  4. Finally, if you do see transphobia in philosophy, speak out. Do not remain silent.

One problem with this set of recommendations is that they each use some variant of the word “transphobia,” and there is currently too much confusion and disagreement among those to whom these recommendations are addressed over what is or isn’t transphobic for the term to be useful in policy.

Despite this, at least two parts of this set seem useful. One is the suggestion in 1 that philosophical publications about trans people should, generally, pay attention to and make use of works by trans philosophers and demonstrate an understanding of the trans experience, to the extent relevant. The other is 4, for even if there is currently disagreement over what is or is not transphobic, identifying and explaining possible instances of transphobia can help generate discussion that could lead to more of a consensus on the concept, making it more useful, and it could lead to less transphobia.

III. A note about terminology

These observations so far leave untouched the crux of the controversy. For t philosopher believes that the gender critical position is transphobic, and when she calls for journals and conference organizers and bloggers to reject transphobic work she means work advocating for the gender critical position.

“Gender critical” is the name a set of thinkers gave to themselves, as a substitute for what others called them: “TERFs”, an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminists. These thinkers complained that TERF had become a term of abuse, and indeed some people used it that way, as the word has a punchy, vulgar feel to it.

The thing is, nearly all feminists, including those who defend trans-friendly views, are critical of some aspect of gender norms, and so the term “gender critical” for particular views about trans women functions more as camouflage than clarification.** “Trans-exclusionary” is a more accurate term for the set of views under contention here. After all, it is not writings about gender norms in general that’s at issue. What t philosopher and similarly-minded people are focusing on is work that, for example, seeks to either exclude the kind “trans women” from the kind “women,” or exclude trans women from spaces typically reserved for women. It is all about excluding trans women. The term is also more compatible with the alliance between gender critical thinkers and others (e.g., traditional conservatives) who are not critical of gender norms or who would not normally be called feminists.

So, because it more accurately represents the views and makes clear the reason some people oppose them, I’ll be using “trans-exclusionary” rather than “gender critical” from now on. (Please note that this is not an endorsement of the use of the term “TERF”.) I’ll use “trans-inclusive” to refer to those who reject trans-exclusionary views.

IV. We have to talk about trans-exclusionary views

Terminological change can be elucidating but it doesn’t settle matters.

Trans-inclusive philosophers such as t philosopher think that trans-exclusionary views are transphobic and that the institutions of academic philosophy ought not entertain them. Is she right?

To help make progress on this question, I am going to leave “transphobic” out of it (see part II of this post). We can simply ask: ought the institutions of philosophy prohibit the defense of trans-exclusionary views?

My answer to this question is No. Or perhaps more accurately, “No, but…”

Since trans-exclusionary philosophers will agree with this answer, let me first try to explain to trans-inclusive thinkers why they should, too. I will then offer a more general reason for my answer.

IV-a:

The more I have learned about the philosophical and policy arguments regarding transgender issues, and in particular trans women, the closer I have come to a fairly strong trans-inclusive view. Like most philosophers, I’m not the kind of person who, on controversial matters, just takes others’ words for it. I want to hold the view of the matter that I believe is most justified, and to do that I need to understand the issues and to be moved by reasons and arguments, and to do that well, I need to make sure I’m getting a good accounting of the relevant considerations and opposing arguments. How can I do that? By engaging with the best work those with competing views have to offer.

If the institutions of philosophy prohibit the defense of trans-exclusionary views, what then? Do the views disappear? No. Rather, their best defenses go elsewhere, to less reliable, less seriously-vetted venues (think, for example, of Quillette, or blogs), where argumentative errors, rhetorical nudges, strategic omissions, and polemical sleights-of-hand are more likely.

Furthermore, the absence of trans-exclusionary views from academic venues under such conditions does not thereby signal their weakness to philosophers who’ve yet to form considered opinions on the matter. It signals instead a kind of dogmatism that threatens to alienate allies. The very love of philosophy that is central to t philosopher’s identity, and which contributes to the awfulness of what has happened to her, is also what makes so many in our community uneasy with prohibiting the expression of views on matters they think involve a lot of interesting and unresolved philosophical questions.

In short, if your interest is in more philosophers coming to reject trans-exclusionary views, then we have to talk about trans-exclusionary views, and to do that well, we have to let those with trans-exclusionary views talk to us through the institutions we’ve found valuable for pursuing the truth. This argument doesn’t depend on prioritizing philosophical questioning above all else, or on the idea that as philosophers we question everything. It is based on a confidence in the justifiability of a more trans-inclusive view, and a belief that Millian considerations regarding the expression of ideas are not unrealistic for the philosophical community.

Additionally, to say that we have to let those with trans-exclusionary views talk to us is not to say that everything goes. I began these reflections by asking us all to take seriously the harms suffered by t philosopher and those like her, and in section V I will ask how we can proceed in a way that does that.

IV-b:

One of the many things I learned from Derek Parfit is that we can learn about today by thinking about the distant future. This is relevant in two ways to philosophical disputes over transgender issues.

(i) Towards the end of Reasons and Persons, Parfit notes that the study of ethics in a way relatively unhindered from constraints such as religion is a relatively young enterprise; it’s at “a very early stage.” According to Bettcher, there has been around fifty years of discussions regarding trans issues, and there are some discussions of sex and gender in philosophy earlier than that, of course, but, like non-religious ethics, the philosophy of sex and gender is also at a very early stage. We don’t know what views might emerge, and what we might learn from their development not just about sex and gender but about broader questions in philosophy. (For a taste of how philosophically rich and interesting this area is already, check out “Real Talk on the Metaphysics of Gender” by Robin Dembroff (Yale)).

(ii) When I think about humans in the distant future, say, 1000 years from now, I don’t know what we will be like—presuming we’re still around. Though I can’t predict the specifics, I think we have good reason to believe that by then, given shifts in social attitudes and developments in technology, gender and sex, the various considerations people think relevant to their identity, and human relationships and interactions, will be very different from how they are today.

The relative youthfulness of philosophy about sex and gender and radical uncertainties about the future of sex and gender I believe speak in favor of openness of discussion of these issues in academic philosophy’s institutions. The former suggests that we haven’t been thinking about these matters long enough for anything like a consensus to emerge. The latter is a reminder that reality can surprise us, and that it is a mistake to think that we truly understand human sexuality and society and the norms for it. Intellectual humility is the order of the day.

One might object: “don’t these considerations apply to, say, race? So should philosophy’s institutions be hosting talks and publishing papers defending racism?” No. But philosophy’s institutions should be hosting talks and publishing papers (as they do) on questions such as “what is race?” or “is race real?” or “is racial profiling justified?” or “should we have race-based affirmative action?” etc. That these questions are countenanced in philosophy today doesn’t mean that any answer to them is acceptable; the answers have to be adequately defended. And since explicitly racist views are, to my knowledge, not adequately defensible, we rightly rarely see in contemporary academic philosophy the defense of explicitly racist views. (By the way, later this week or next there will be a post about the current state of philosophy of race.)

Likewise, philosophy’s institutions should be hosting talks and publishing papers on questions such as “what is gender?”, “what is sex,” “what rights are associated with gender membership?” and so on, as it does. Since there is less familiarity with transgender issues among the general philosophical population the talks and publications may not be as well-vetted, and so works which some experts view as transphobic may appear. But the solution to this is to have more philosophers more familiar with, and working on, these issues. It’s no guarantee that trans-exclusionary views will disappear, but it is a more promising route than declaring them verboten in advance. Plus, some of the better, interesting and more fruitful defenses of trans-inclusive views may be prompted by having to confront the opposition.

V. Proceeding with caution

I’ve urged that we take seriously just how difficult existing discourse about transgender issues can be for our trans colleagues (and students, I should add). This involves not just attending to what happens in academia, but also appreciating the broader discriminatory culture they inhabit and the role that abuse-friendly forms of social media play in our professional lives, as t philosopher notes.

I’ve suggested that the institutions of philosophy—journals, conferences, etc.—not ban trans-exclusionary works simply because they are trans-exclusionary. There are plenty of possible grounds for the rejection of some such works, but the kind of automatic blanket rejection t philosopher calls for is, I’ve argued, not a good idea.

How do we combine these ideas? How can we take seriously the humanity and vulnerability of our trans colleagues and students while at the same time allowing for the kind of discourse that harms them?

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Provide explicit statements of support for trans persons in venues in which trans-exclusionary work appears. This matches up with a request made by the Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) UK and International groups in response to Kathleen Stock’s recent talk at a meeting of the Aristotelian Society. Professor Stock is known for advocating trans-exclusionary views. Since she has been subject to some vicious rhetoric online because of this (not by academic philosophers, as far as I know), the Society posted a note in support of her right to speak. MAP requested that the Society also “issue a statement in support of trans students and staff within philosophy, and commit to creating a more welcoming and affirming professional environment for trans people.” Such a statement in the program, prior to the talk, would have been good. The general idea here is that our institutions should make clear their commitment to the value of all in the community in which they operate, and sometimes in order to do that, explicit statements by officials or institutions are required. (For a model of this, see Corey Brettschneider’s “When the State Speaks, What Should It Say?“)
  2. If you are providing an academic platform for trans-exclusionary works, also provide one for trans philosophers or trans-inclusive philosophers. For example, if a conference is hosting a talk defending a trans-exclusionary view, it would be a good idea to also include a talk by someone criticizing that view, or defending a trans-inclusive view. Likewise for the scheduling of publications.
  3. Take steps to ensure that, when possible, works you write, host, or publish that argue for a trans-exclusionary view engage or otherwise demonstrate familiarity with the relevant scholarly work by trans or trans-inclusive scholars. This is just basic research ethics: know about what you are writing about. One would hope that in peer-reviewed contexts this wouldn’t need saying, but, given the relatively small number of experts on these subjects, I would not be surprised if the demand for referees exceeds their availability. Experts in a subfield can easily spot relevant omissions; non-experts, unfamiliar with the literature, not so much, so, owing to the numbers, I suspect extra vigilance by editors and conference organizers is required here.
  4. Be specific, allow for complexity, and avoid talk of “sides.” There are a number of interesting philosophical questions that arise in discussions of transgender issues, and so there’s the possibility of a variety of positions defined by different answers to different questions. Yet, perhaps owing to the intense political rhetoric on the subject, this possible complexity is often flattened into a declarations of allegiance to one or another side. While that can be helpful in some contexts (I helped myself to it in this post), I would hope that people’s considered opinions and scholarly work on the matter allows for this complexity.
  5. Be attentive to hostile rhetoric in work you are considering hosting or publishing. The issues being discussed are sufficiently fraught without the added hostility of derogatory terms, dog whistles, and the like. Some of these are rather “inside baseball” and may not be recognizable as affronts to those not deeply enmeshed in the issues, so consulting with trans philosophers or others in the know when uncertain about such terms could help. (It would be useful if there was an updated list of terms and explanations for non-experts to refer to. If there is one, let me know please.)
  6. Note the venues. Much of the trans-exclusionary writing by philosophers that has fueled recent controversies has been self-published (e.g., at Medium) by philosopher-activists. Normally, philosophers are quite skeptical of both self-published philosophical work and politically motivated work, but I don’t recall any of those who typically complain about these things complaining about, or even noting, their combination in this work. In any event, while more visible than peer-reviewed academic publications, these works should generally not be taken as representative of scholarly work on trans issues in philosophy. For that you’ll need to turn to philosophy’s scholarly journals.
  7. Avoid using clearly transphobic speech or engaging in clearly transphobic behavior in person and online. I noted in Section II that disagreement over what counts as “transphobic” makes the term less helpful, but there appears to be some consensus about certain things being transphobic, such as referring to trans women as “he” (or using coded language to do this) and mocking the appearance of trans persons. You might think this goes without saying, but, unfortunately, as I noted earlier, members of the philosophical community who defend trans-exclusionary views have done this in online forums. It does not contribute to a context conducive to reasoned discussion of the issues.
  8. When you see something, say something. If someone in the profession is engaging in what you take to be transphobic speech or behavior, and you’re in a position to do so, consider saying something. I’m more a fan of initially trying private correspondence here than immediately leaping to calling out someone publicly: I suspect it’s more conducive to a productive discussion, mutual understanding, and progress, but of course circumstances vary.
  9. When you see someone saying something, say something. We should applaud those who stand up for the more vulnerable members of our profession, especially when they themselves are vulnerable.
  10. Remember that you’re engaging with your colleagues. The kind of advice I give here and here works pretty well for conversations with other members of the profession on Twitter and Facebook. In general, my view is that civility is underrated, and that even when others are uncivil to you, little is to be gained and a fair amount lost by being a cretin back. This doesn’t rule out criticism or humor, but it does mean having some self control, and sometimes just letting things go.
  11. Learn. There are a number of readings suggested in this post and this Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry is a good place to start.

I’m sure there are other good ideas out there. Please share them.

VI. Some final notes

Let me add two more items to this lengthy post.

First, let me be the first (of what I take will be many) to declare that I have fallen short on several of the above suggestions. I admit that there are ways I can be better to transgender persons in the philosophy community. I have tried, with this post, to do so in a way that is consistent with my views about how philosophy as a profession best works. I am sure many transgender and trans-inclusive philosophers disagree with things I’ve said here. I am sure that many trans-exclusionary philosophers also disagree with things I’ve said here. And I figure that many philosophers with no settled view of these issues disagree with what I’ve said here, too. I am okay with that. Disagree with me. It’s how we learn. Or surprise me and agree!

But…

Second, comments on this post will be tightly moderated. Please avoid first-order discussion of trans-inclusive and trans-exclusionary arguments or arguments about bathroom or prison policies and the like; I’m not interested in hosting those disputes in the comments on this post. Also, please avoid calling out particular bad actors. Even if your complaint is justified, voicing it in the comments here will ruin the prospects for a decent discussion. Most comments will take a while to appear, and if I am overwhelmed—it can be a very time-consuming and distracting process to moderate comments here—I may close comments temporarily or permanently. I urge you to read the comments policy and this post and this one.
* (note added on 6/7/19): I thought it was alright to use the phrase “most of us” here because DN’s audience is largely academic philosophers, and academic philosophy is, alas, rather demographically imbalanced: over 70% male and over 85% white.

** It was pointed out to me that Christa Peterson (USC) described the name “gender critical” as a kind of camouflage in a post last year.

(UPDATE: Comments are now closed.)

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David Owen
David Owen
2 years ago

I have always liked this remark by Foucault in this type of context:

“In the serious play of questions and answers, in the work of reciprocal elucidation, the rights of each person are in some sense immanent in the discussion. They depend only on the dialogue situation. The person asking the questions is merely exercising the right that has been given to him: to remain unconvinced, to perceive a contradiction, to require more information, to emphasize different postulates, to point out faulty reasoning, etc. As for the person answering the questions, he too exercises a right that does not go beyond the discussion itself; by the logic of his own discourse he is tied to what he has said earlier, and b y the acceptance of the dialogue he is tied to the questioning of the other. Questions and answers depend on a game – a game that is at once pleasant and difficult – in which each of the two partners takes pains to use only the rights given him by the other and by the accepted form of the dialogue.

The polemicist … proceeds encased in privileges that he possesses in advance and will never agree to question. On principle, he possesses rights authorising him to wage war and making that struggle a just undertaking; the person he confronts is not a partner in the search for truth, but an adversary, an enemy who is wrong, who is harmful and whose very existence constitutes a threat. For him, then, the game does not consist of recognising this person as a subject having the right to speak, but of abolishing him as an interlocutor, from any possible dialogue; and his final objective will be, not to come as close as possible to a difficult truth, but to bring about the triumph of the just cause he has been manifestly upholding from the beginning. The polemicist relies on a legitimacy that his adversary is by definition denied.”

This debate has seen too much in the way of people being polemicists – on both sides – and not enough on respecting the ideal of reflective dialogue at the heart of philosophy.Report

Mary
Mary
Reply to  David Owen
2 years ago

Can somebody define transgenderism please?Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  Mary
2 years ago

Given the difficulties philosophers have had in defining literally any term of interest, why think this is possible?Report

A Trans Grad Student Who Still Believes In Rationality
A Trans Grad Student Who Still Believes In Rationality
Reply to  Mary
2 years ago

When someone has a gender identity different from the one associated with their sex, e.g. person with a male body and female gender identity (i.e. trans woman).

Gender identity is preference for a certain kind of sexed embodiment and social role, one’s present experience of sexed embodiment and social role, and a tendency to spontaneously self-categorize into one or the other of the two sex kinds, or something in between/outside of them.Report

Nicole
Nicole

The word preference implies choice. But my understanding is that many transgenders claim it’s deeper and more essential to their identity than a preference. And what do transgenders trace their preference back to? What is the source? Is it a biological thing? In which case, where and how does it work? Is it just a social construction? In which case, why this is insistence that they “really” are the gender and/or sex they perform?
What is the meaningful difference between a preference for a sexed embodiment and social role and for a aged or raced or specied one?
If this is about gender identity, why are you talking about self-categorizing into a sex?

I have more questions, but I’m curious to see if these will even be answered and what you have to say.Report

Ken
Ken
Reply to  Nicole
2 years ago

Please don’t say things like “many transgenders” (as you shouldn’t say e.g. “many blacks”). “Transgender people” is a much better term.Report

Nicole
Nicole
Reply to  Ken
2 years ago

As much as I am happy to oblige PC terminology, I really think we need to answer the metaphysical and epistemological questions regarding transgenderism before debating polite/correct terms can be sensible.Report

Roman Altshuler
Roman Altshuler
Reply to  Nicole
2 years ago

That seems neither here nor there. Reducing language intended not to unnecessarily offend people to “PC terminology” is unnecessary: clearly the “PC police”, or whatever, did not invent the idea that unnecessary rudeness toward groups of people is best avoided.

And it’s really unclear why we need to answer the metaphysical questions *before* we debate polite terminology, since those are unconnected issues. Clearly transgender people do exist, however the metaphysics of gender might play out. What sense is there to the suggestion that it’s perfectly acceptable to be rude to them in the meantime?Report

Post-Grad Student

Yeah, I don’t think everybody thinks this way. As a feminist, I just don’t get the phrase “female gender identity.” I’m happy to use male/female for sex and man/woman for gender. Accordingly we can use “intersex” and “gender queer” in association with these pairs. There is a post below about a worry that people who question the PC narrative about this topic in good faith are afraid to speak out. This is a HUGE understatement. I speak with many people who, like myself, are committed to treating all human beings with dignity and respect but don’t like being told how to think, or what questions we are allowed to ask, or articulating reasons why we think some categories matter and others don’t. Yet all these conversations I’ve had are one-to-one under the assumption confidentiality (i.e. everyone is afraid to be judged, or worse, lose their jobs). Sad that philosophers should have to be afraid to ask questions and challenge some view.Report

EM
EM

This definition also assumes that so-called ‘cis’ women prefer to play the role assigned to them – submissive, pretty, sexual objects for male gratification, etc.Report

John Schwenkler
2 years ago

I am glad to hear your stance against no-platforming but overall this is quite disappointing, Justin.

1. Your characterization of the GC position — that it “is all about excluding trans women”, and therefore is fairly described just as “trans-exclusive” rather than in the GC fems’ preferred terms — obscures the fact that it is *males*, really, whom they are “all about” excluding from female spaces and (for some of them) the class identified with the term “woman”, and also that the grounds they give for this position have to do with the need to defend femaleness as a socially important and legally protected category.

2. Your characterization of the trans-exclusivity of philosophy obscures the fact that a huge number of your colleagues who disagree in good faith with (let’s accept your terminology here) the gender-inclusive position feel totally unable to express this disagreement in public for fear of blowback from gatekeepers in the profession. The impression that you don’t care about this is then reinforced by your recommendation #8, which looks on its face like a call to have dissenting philosophers reported to their department chairs or HR reps, at least if they won’t give in to private pressure.

3. A few weeks (or more?) ago, after you exercised editorial discretion in declining to link a piece by Kathleen Stock on your blog, you posted a lengthy response to her which was quickly shown to have contained a number of factual errors about the nature of her advocacy. You said you were going to address these objections (yes, here it is: https://twitter.com/DailyNousEditor/status/1120824288347611143), yet as far as I know have said nothing on that front, and here you are with thousands of words to say about this other matter. You can correct me here, if indeed you straightened that other thing out. But as it is, your commitment to fairness and productive discussion appears to have some notable limits.

4. Finally, a more substantive point. It seems to me that your post, like most of the anti-GC philosophical discourse I have read lately, gives no consideration at all to the fact that this debate over trans rights is also a debate over the rights of *girls* and *women* (that is, human females, “cis” gender if you must but I thought we were going to let people speak for themselves about what they are). Among the rights at stake are those to male-free public spaces, athletic competitions, and so on, but more fundamentally the rights of girls and women to identify themselves, according to the words in our language that are most commonly used to do this, and thereby distinguish themselves from those they are not, and to have the status of this class (that is, the class of females) recognized as socially important and granted the legal protections it deserves. There is room for reasonable people to disagree about which legal protections these are, and also about whether having transgirls and transwomen appropriate the labels “girl” and “woman”, and even some or all of the legal status that comes with falling under those names, is justified for whatever reason. But it is stunning to find you and others carrying on this debate as if the rights and interests of transpeople were the only thing at issue here, with women having to suck it up about their interests and identity or immediately get called “exclusive” and “phobic”.

I could go on, but won’t, at least not right now.Report

John Schwenkler
Reply to  John Schwenkler
2 years ago

I want to add in connection with my point (2) that this is of course a problem requiring collective action, and so any philosophers who might consider putting their names to a statement that takes a strong stand against no-platforming and acknowledges the reality of non-bigoted or -transphobic philosophical disagreement with arguments for certain transgender rights might consider emailing me [jlschwenkler gmail etc] to discuss this. I will keep everything in total confidence until the wording of such a statement is settled on, and the would-be signees agree to identify themselves to one another and assess whether they are comfortable in going forward as a collective.Report

powerless grad student
powerless grad student
Reply to  John Schwenkler
2 years ago

If there are gatekeepers trying to suppress gender critical philosophy they are doing a crap job, seeing as how Justin published their anti-Rachel McKinnon letter, The Aristotelian Society invited Stock to give a talk on a topic on which she has no training or academic expertise, Brian Leiter devoted a dozen blog posts to supporting Stock and vilifying the grad students who speak out against her, and the chair of MIT’s department has penned a few op-eds in support of them himself. Mean tweets from grad students aren’t suppressing them, and with a few exceptions (McKinnon, Ichikawa, and Kukla, also on twitter and not from a position of much power) the only thing I’ve heard from senior faculty is support for their right to speak. But we’re supposed to believe that they somehow are saying what everyone secretly thinks, but everyone is afraid to say it, except the ones who are saying it and facing no material consequences and being invited to give prestigious lectures?Report

powerless grad student
powerless grad student
Reply to  John Schwenkler
2 years ago

>”this debate over trans rights is also a debate over the rights of *girls* and *women*”

This is indeed how the GC side likes to portray the stakes of the debate. As do The Heritage Foundation, Tucker Carlson, The Federalist, and the author of a Stock-endorsed Medium piece alleging that the trans rights movement is secretly funded by George Soros. Trans-inclusive feminists, however, many of them cis women, reject that framing of the debate. I suppose one could think that Catherine McKinnon and Andrea Dworkin are paradigmatic examples of feminists who are insufficiently attentive to the rights of women and girls, but the alternative interpretation is that the question of whose rights are at issue is itself contested.Report

John Schwenkler
Reply to  powerless grad student
2 years ago

I did not say the fear of gatekeepers was justified (I think it is not, at least in my case), but that it is real and pervasive, which really it is.

As for your second point, it is classic guilt by association, and comic given that surely the *reason* why those others are portraying the debate in that way is that they are repeating the arguments made by GC feminists. Whether or not those others (or me!) are in good faith in arguing as they do, is also neither here nor there, since there is no reason to think that Kathleen Stock and others do not mean exactly what they say.Report

powerless grad student
powerless grad student
Reply to  John Schwenkler
2 years ago

>”I did not say the fear of gatekeepers was justified (I think it is not, at least in my case), but that it is real and pervasive, which really it is”

Ok but if it isn’t justified then why should we treat it as reason-giving? Fearmongering is quite effective, and a sense of being under threat is powerful. But if it is mistaken, and especially if it is generated by a baseless campaign of grievance on social media, I don’t see why anyone else should care.

As to guilt by association, whatever its status in the seminar room I think it is an important tool of assessment in politics. Especially given the importance to the GC crowd of their self-ascribed feminist motivation, I think it is instructive to consider who their ideological allies are.Report

Paul
Paul
Reply to  powerless grad student
2 years ago

“If there are gatekeepers trying to suppress gender critical philosophy they are doing a crap job”

Why the conditional? I’m not sure how to characterise the position outlined in T Philosopher’s essay other than as an attempt to suppress gender-critical philosophy. The whole point of the essay was that Kathleen and others like her should be prevented from publishing gender-critical works, they should be excluded from conferences, etc. I suspect that the successes of that gatekeeping are largely hidden i.e. people who are inclined to agree with Stock keep it to themselves for fear of being harassed. Still, the fact the gatekeeping has had only partial success is hardly a reason for the rest of us to be unconcerned it.Report

powerless grad student
powerless grad student
Reply to  Paul
2 years ago

Are we counting the anonymous grad student leaving academia as a gatekeeper now?Report

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
Reply to  powerless grad student
2 years ago

As if the blog was not widely shared. As if we were not all here discussing a proposal that we be barred from speaking in our profession for having the wrong thoughts. Those of us who do speak face continual campaigns against us, the constant vilification of Kathleen is evidence enough of that. The fact that we have the courage of our convictions and do our utmost to withstand the pressure being brought to bear on us to make us shut up is not evidence that the pressure does not exist, it is evidence, only, of our resistance.Report

powerless grad student
powerless grad student
Reply to  powerless grad student
2 years ago

Re: Jane Jones (there’s no reply button, presumably because the platform has a threading limit)

I would like the goalposts to remain firmly in place. I have not denied that lots of grad students are mean to Stock on twitter, nor have I denied that “T Philosopher”s essay was well-received. I have denied that there is evidence of *actual gatekeepers* doing any *actual gatekeeping* vis-a-vis GC philosophers, and so far no one has said anything to indicate otherwise.Report

John Schwenkler
Reply to  powerless grad student
2 years ago

PS. Regarding the efficacy of those gatekeepers, though, and the justification that many do have for being afraid, I thought I would share this from a woman, no longer in philosophy, who posted it on my Facebook page:

“I am no longer an academic, and I wouldn’t be dishonest enough to claim that’s due to the hostility I faced while talking and writing about this issue. The fact I wanted a permanent job close to where I wanted to live and a better work-life balance were far bigger factors. However, towards the end of my time as an academic I was getting anonymous emails warning me of plans to come to my office to harass me, and being told by my office mate that there were signs some people had visited the office to do so. This was while I was pregnant. Then when I was on maternity leave an event was held called something like “TERFs off campus” or “no TERFs on our turf” or similar, where I was explicitly named as an academic whose views meant I was not welcome on campus. I had students in my own department insult me and lie about me on social media. I had precisely no support whatsoever from my department – nobody ever spoke to me about any of this. And this was three years ago. Things have got much, much worse for gender critical academics since. So again, is this not a hostile environment likely to drive away female academics?”

To anyone inclined to take seriously the anonymous post below about “TERF”s “whining” about abuse when really it’s just a matter of agitating for justice in the way feminists always have, *this* is what you are allowing to happen. Similarly for anyone who nodded along to “t philosopher”s call for excluding dissenting voices from conferences, journals, and so on.Report

Helen
Helen
Reply to  John Schwenkler
2 years ago

As always in discussions like this, I see a lot of men defending the ‘gender critical’ position and claiming that trans exclusionary academics are being harassed. Perhaps it’s true. But as a cis woman, I find it extremely irritating to see so called ‘gender critical’ philosophers conflate disagreement with their beliefs with disagreement with *women as a whole*. This person was not being harassed because she is a woman. She was experiencing criticism (and possibly harassment) because she advocates a series of beliefs that have involved removing human rights from trans people (Hungerford and Raymond), advocating for ‘conversion therapy’ (Raymond and Jeffreys) and collaboration with far right Christian groups who wish to remove the right to abortion and LGBT validity (MInshull, Brennan etc).

And as a feminist and woman, I strongly object to the trans exclusionary position being framed as ‘agitating for justice’. Despite the author’s position, being ‘trans exclusionary’ it is no different from homophobia. 60 years ago lesbians were excluded, bullied and and vilified as ‘dangerous to women’; now it’s trans people.Report

Ninna
Ninna
Reply to  John Schwenkler
2 years ago

It is also possible that both Gender Critical and Trans Inclusive feminists face harassment from the other side. Your confidant’s experience can be true, and so can Professor Alison Phipps’ assertion that the harassment she is experiencing “is indistinguishable from what I’ve experienced at the hands of the ‘alt’ right”. Trans people and trans allies almost certainly get the worst of it, since they experience harassment from both gender critical types and reactionary conservatives.

Furthermore a dominant strain of trans commentary and activism sets itself in opposition to right wing transphobia (Natalie Wynn’s video essays serve as a good example), and frequently treats with Gender Critical feminism in much the same way, much to the chagrin of many Gender Critical feminists (for an extreme example, take Emily Gorcenski’s twitter threat – so far unrealised – to deploy the same doxing tactics she used to expose the attendees of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville against GC feminists in the UK). However, for all that they complain about the unfairness of the comparison, Gender Critical feminists do little to set themselves apart and engage with right wing backlash to trans existence, and the ways it is intimately tied in with the larger backlashes against feminism, against queer people, against ethnic minorities, ect.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  Ninna
2 years ago

‘It is also possible that both Gender Critical and Trans Inclusive feminists face harassment from the other side.’

Not just possible, but very very likely. On the one hand, people on both sides have posted long, detailed stories about being harassed, in some of these cases the behavior described clearly does constitute harassment rather than just angry disagreement, and it’s very unlikely that more than a very small minority of these people are lying. On the other, you only have to go on any twitter thread on this topic of decent length to see people* on both sides speaking to the other side with a venom and lack of charity or rationality that makes it fairly plausible that some of the participants might have joined in harassment campaigns.

Even if you think one side is obviously in the right (I am more sympathetic to the trans rights side of this than gender critical one , though I also recognize this isn’t a topic on which I have any serious expertise) this should be fairly unsurprising. People pursue moral causes through immoral means all the time.

Note that I’m not claiming here that the *amount* of harassment each side receives on average equal. I have no idea whether that’s true or false. But I think it’s important not to let who is harassed more become a proxy for who is correct about the issue(s). Or even which ‘side’ is made up of better people overall.

*Some people. I’m absolutely not saying that bad actors in this sense are in the majority of on either side.Report

Lydia M
Lydia M
Reply to  John Schwenkler
2 years ago

John,
Your attempt to police the category of womanhood to ensure that it remains what you (as a conservative cishet male materially unaffected by the matter) believe it should be, under the guise of caring deeply about linguistic categories, shares amusing parallels with your earlier apprehension to calling same-sex marriage, marriage. (I am referring to a passage of yours in which you said: ‘Hence my friend and I agree, I think, that the ideal response to homosexuality would be one that could find a way to acknowledge the very real goods of committed homosexual relationships without failing to distinguish them from the corresponding heterosexual ones.’ – https://www.theamericanconservative.com/schwenkler/reflections-on-same-sex-marriage/). In both cases, practice has moved quicker than linguistic prescription, and has led reactionaries to attempt to couch their substantive views in some newfound passion for linguistic disambiguation. There is for most practical intents and purposes no valuable information at the level of public policy to be transmitted by distinguishing committed homosexual relationships from committed heterosexual relationships unless you are attempting to veil a desire to discriminate, just as for most intents and purposes there is no valuable information at the level of public policy to be transmitted by distinguishing cis women from trans women, (who you refer to with ‘transwomen’, and attempt to distinguish from ‘*women*’). In any case, this is beside the point, because what you are truly interested in is not linguistic disambiguation so much as a cleverly-disguised form of “separate-but-equal” discrimination.

This go-around you are attempting to reframe your conservative stance as a result of caring deeply about the rights of women, which assuredly did not seem to be at the forefront of your concern in your previous advocacy for restrictions on abortion (presumably women had to ‘suck it up’ then). As it were, the rights of women to call themselves women are not meaningfully infringed by agreeing that women you would’ve recognised as women were you not endowed with karyoptye-identifying X-ray vision may be called women even should you somehow learn of their karyotypic maleness. Ensuring that public spaces are ‘male-free’ should you be possessed of the view that maleness/femaleness is fixed and a product of, for instance, genetic distinction (ignoring that the sex binary is altogether more complicated than that) is wholly impracticable. Any attempt to manufacture a debate as to whether trans women are women ignores that many trans women are recognised by all those who know them as women and may be distinguished from cis women only on the basis of invasive testing.Report

Leslie Glazer
Leslie Glazer
Reply to  Lydia M
2 years ago

the issues of same sex marriage and of the trans-gender identity seem on the face of it quite different to me, even though I think the comparison may be tempting because many of us have been evolving our thoughts on these mater. But there seems to be a fundamental difference. Marriage is inherently a social concept. Once one challenges social roles and rejects any natural law or religious theory of how we were “meant to be” the restrictions of marriage become unsupportable. The only grounds left are pragmatic social ones. The issue of who is a man or woman relates on the face of it to another sort of concept. While there are clearly social and psychological roles and dimensions to this— and this is both where the challenge to gender roles and opportunities have been as well as the social-psychological play making possible trans- and non binary persons— the concept inherently refers back to a biological concept, i.e. of being a biological male or female. And, while there are ambiguous cases biologically due to genetic or developmental mishaps, this is the exception and not the rule and doesn’t in itself make the biological concept meaningless. So, while yes, as with marriage, we can extend the concept psychologically and socially, the biological sense of make and female remain for the time being [technology may in the future change what we are as human with merges with AI and other enhancements or genetic manipulation, nevermind surgury]. But, that is not today.Report

Lydia M
Lydia M
Reply to  Leslie Glazer
2 years ago

Your rejoinder misses a crucial point in my response–namely, that the chromosomal sex (along with most other measures of sex) are in practice not readily knowable in everyday interaction. It is largely secondary sex characteristics which inform whether we read a person as a man or a woman, and many trans women have secondary sex characteristics ensuring that they are consistently read as women and enjoy the social existence of women, regardless of whatever sex markers you consider biologically meaningful.Report

John Schwenkler
Reply to  Lydia M
2 years ago

(Cut-and-pasting with light modification from something I posted to Facebook; apologies for those who have been through it already.)

Oh, look! An anonymous person on the Internet has discovered that more than ten years ago I wrote something about the debate over same-sex marriage! and they have discovered, further, that in that essay, which in the end came out *against* the anti-SSM measure in question, I treated this debate as difficult to resolve in a wholly satisfactory way and even expressed some misgivings which parallel in some ways the questions I have asked lately about how to understand the meaning words like “man” and “woman”. This person, whom I will not engage further unless s/he emerges from behind the pseudonym, implies that this decade-old essay renders me hypocritical or otherwise unworthy to speak about matters like the ones I’ve been discussing here in the past week.

Having read through the essay once I don’t disavow (much of) the substance of that essay; in any case I don’t care to go through it line by line in order to say what I would redact. I *do* think it is clearly the work of someone who is thinking through things not according to first principles but in relation to the testimony of those he encounters, together with a (yes, conservative’s) sense of the risks that come from massive social and cultural change.

So, now, I also want to say this other thing.

Until fairly recently my view of the debate over “man” and “woman” would have come down in about the same place as my view of “marriage” does in that essay: I would have said, sure, these things are fraught, but let’s stop fighting over words and just let people describe themselves in the way they would prefer us to. And I’d have come down in a similar place concerning the recognition of transgender status and bathroom bills and so on: come on, this is a mess, so let’s keep the state out of this, and just let people get on with their lives.

Those are not the places I am coming down now, obviously. And my present self thinks that my past self would have come down in those places partly *because* he was being a jerk libertarian guy who hadn’t experienced the vulnerability that many women feel in the presence of men, or recognized the importance of letting women define themselves and describe their experience in the way that comes most naturally to them. That I tend to be conservative on social issues and am a member of a church that just released a statement opposing “transgender ideology” (gag me please) is no doubt part of the story here too! But, unless memory deceives me it *really is* the case that I got radicalized on these things primarily due to reading women like Kathleen Stock and Holly Lawford-Smith articulating the things that women have at stake in these discussions, and also listening to my wife talk about her own experience of femaleness as she got radicalized in her own way.

One more thing about this hypocrisy business. Those who’ve known me for a while will remember that there have been *numerous* times when I’ve risen to the defense of colleagues, women and men, whom I thought were being badly treated for their philosophical work or public speech. In some of these cases I did this despite finding the work, or the speech, misguided or unprofessional, and in some of *those* cases I then got flack from colleagues who were wondering why I was sticking my neck out for so-and-so given what s/he did. And my answer was: because s/he is a colleague! And we stick up for colleagues in the face of bad treatment.

The (A?) dominant culture in academic philosophy seems to me completely messed up in one of the very places where philosophy should be most useful, namely where philosophical analysis intersects with real-world moral and political issues. It is *so* hard to speak honestly about these issues without fear of being ridiculed for one reason or another. It’s a fear I still have, even as I write this. I don’t expect it ever to go away. I don’t want pity, though, but only a commitment to improving this situation.

(As I said above this is the end of this conversation for me unless people want to attach their names and discuss the matters in good faith rather than in an attempt to shame me.)Report

Lydia M
Lydia M
Reply to  John Schwenkler
2 years ago

The substance underlying the point I am making here isn’t just so much hypocrisy in the presentation of your argument. It’s that you, and other philosophers examining the topic, are making a claim to pertinent expert knowledge–that this is an area ‘where philosophy should be most useful’.

If this is in fact an area where philosophers truly have something proprietarily useful to tell the agora, it would follow that philosophical analysis–hopefully with clearly stated premisses and logic–is responsible for generating your conclusions, and those of Profs. Stock and Lawford-Smith. As it were, your advocacy for stances on social issues with which most other philosophers would disagree does not so much expose you as hypocritical as it does demonstrate a past case where a conclusion was reached outside philosophical reasoning (charitably, through anecdotal evidence/’testimony’ filtered through conservative first principles), which may later be gussied up in the language of analytic philosophy (J. Moufawad-Paul makes a broadly compatible point in a post linked recently in the DN blogroll).

Your ‘radicalisation’ by reading the self-published works of philosophers working miles outside their discipline and quite willfully dismissing the extant literature is an ideological conversion, not a philosophical awakening. The profound volume of frequently-retracted reductionist Medium articles as compared to the near-total paucity of academic research, to say nothing of peer-reviewed academic research, among the ‘gender-critical’ philosophers in fact clearly indicates Stock and Lawford-Smith et al. themselves arrived at their particular conclusions on trans people and public policy long before they began examining these issues in earnest from the standpoint of academic philosophy. The issue is not that you hold these conservative social views; it is that you wish to advocate for them while simultaneously making a claim to expert knowledge on the topic, whereas it is fairly clear that your views on the topic do not derive from your expert knowledge.Report

John Schwenkler
Reply to  Lydia M
2 years ago

I have not claimed any expertise for myself here, nor did I say that it is qua experts in anything that philosophers have a valuable contribution to make in this conversation. Also — the attempt at gatekeeping in this comment, and the implied division between “philosophical analysis” or “the standpoint of academic philosophy” and … whatever else a philosopher does when she thinks hard about complicated things and writes down what she thinks for others to read and discuss it, would be hilarious if they weren’t also so typical and sometimes effective.Report

Lydia M
Lydia M
Reply to  John Schwenkler
2 years ago

In this case, the expertise you are claiming for philosophers is not expertise on the particular substance of trans issues, but expertise in a particular body of theory and method of analysis, which you claim may be applicable towards this topic (as evinced by your saying that this topic is ‘one of the very places where philosophy should be most useful, namely where philosophical analysis intersects with real-world moral and political issues’). It is true that you are rightly not claiming for Profs. Stock and Lawford-Smith expertise in, say, biology, statistics, gender theory, developmental psychology or criminology, but the reason why we are discussing their work on a philosophy blog and inviting them to fora to discuss trans issues is, as it were, their expertise in philosophy. You cannot simultaneously claim that philosophy is ‘useful’ on this topic, on account of the power of ‘philosophical analysis’, and that it is ‘gatekeeping’ to attempt to hold the bar of the writings of philosophers to the bar to which we hold other philosophical analysis insofar as it is the power of philosophical analysis which is purported to give them something ‘useful’ to say.Report

John Schwenkler
Reply to  Lydia M
2 years ago

[Last thing I will say here; you may have the last word.] “Expert” was your word, not mine. I think philosophers are good at thinking about difficult things, and for this reason it is important for them (us) to be part of the conversation when difficult real-world issues are at stake. I do, of course, think that Kathleen and Holly and others are good at doing what philosophers do, and that their contributions to these debates have shown this in spades. But the “bar” that you speak of is not a part to which *I* hold analysis before I count it as philosophy, or as having distinctively philosophical utility — e.g. I think Justin’s original post here is philosophy, and so is much of the discussion of it in the comments, and I find ludicrous the idea that we should have carried this out in the pages of peer-reviewed journals in order to be confident in its usefulness. (What was Socrates doing?) I do know that the radfems are working on things that meet your bar (Kathleen’s talk on sexual orientation, which the present iteration of this discussion began by considering an attempt to have shut down, was itself an instance of this), and I’m quite confident that these will be a valuable contribution to “the literature”, but *that* is not the only or the primary place where I think philosophy ought to happen, nor am I especially confident that the way “the literature” on these things shakes out is going to track the truth.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Lydia M
2 years ago

Lydia M writes:
“[Y]our advocacy for stances on social issues with which most other philosophers would disagree does not so much expose you as hypocritical as it does demonstrate a past case where a conclusion was reached outside philosophical reasoning (charitably, through anecdotal evidence/’testimony’ filtered through conservative first principles), which may later be gussied up in the language of analytic philosophy”

The implied inference here is: “You think X, most philosophers disagree with X, so you didn’t come to think X through philosophical reasoning”. That’s indefensible. Most philosophers disagree with David Lewis that possible worlds are concrete and that actuality is indexical; does that mean that Lewis reached his conclusions outside philosophical reasoning? The fact that a view in philosophy is only espoused by a minority of people isn’t even reliably grounds to conclude that the view is *wrong*, let alone that it wasn’t reached through philosophical reasoning.Report

Shelley Tremain
Shelley Tremain
2 years ago

“When you see someone saying something, say something. We should applaud those who stand up for the more vulnerable members of our profession, especially when they themselves are vulnerable.”

OK, thanks. The term ‘cretin’ used above is ableist, as are the use of the term ‘moron’ in the article linked below and the “joke” in which the term is embedded.:
https://www.newstatesman.com/2019/06/when-someone-just-jokingReport

Bart
Bart
Reply to  Shelley Tremain
2 years ago

The use of ‘cretin’ to refer to an individual with a disability due to a thyroid deficiency is an obsolete usage. I would hope that the discussion here, which is at least in part about the use of ‘woman’ and ‘man,’ would proceed with the understanding that words come to be used in quite novel ways. ‘Woman’ itself etymologically involves the concept of being a wife. I doubt you think that any use of ‘woman’ to refer to an individual asserts anything about marriage.Report

Paul
Paul
2 years ago

Thanks Justin.

A point on your list of suggestions. Point 4 encourages us to avoid talk of sides. Anyone following points 1, 2 or 3 would be required to identify whether a given position falls on the trans-exclusionary side, and (if so) find a work/thinker from the trans-inclusive side for balance. Wouldn’t providing explicit statements of support for trans persons whenever a venue provides a platform for views deemed “trans-exclusionary” just encourage more “flattening of possible complexity”?Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
2 years ago

Justin, I know that you want to avoid talk of sides, which in general I think is a good idea. I agree with Paul, however, that your proposals seem to make that suggestion really hard to avoid. My own question about your thoughtful essay was whether your recommendations are conditional or biconditional. In your essay you seem to suggest that journals, conference organizers, and so on, have a duty like the following:

If a paper passes through traditional peer review and it is ‘trans-exclusionary’ then a journal has a pro-tanto duty to publish, in the issue (or at the conference, etc) in which that paper appears, a ‘trans-inclusive’ article that has also passed through traditional peer review.

I wonder if you think that they also have the following duty:

If a paper passes through traditional peer review and it is ‘trans-inclusive’ then a journal has a pro-tanto duty to publish, in the issue (or at the conference, etc) in which that paper appears, a ‘trans-exclusive’ article that has also passed through traditional peer review.

If you were arguing for a symmetrical duty like this then I think I’m 70% on board with the recommendation. If you’re arguing for an asymmetric duty, one that only comes into being when a venue has chosen a trans-exclusive article to publish, then I’m not in agreement. Or, at least, I’d need to hear more from you about why you think such an asymmetric duty exists without requiring clear ‘side-taking’ on the part of journal editors and conference organizers.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  Caligula's Goat
2 years ago

Whilst this certainly doesn’t refute the point about differential fear, I think it’s worth mentioning that government stats in the UK actually suggest men are more likely to be victims of violence than are women : https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/thenatureofviolentcrimeinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2017#which-groups-of-people-are-most-likely-to-be-victims-of-violent-crime

‘Men were more likely to be victims of CSEW violent crime than women (2.1% of males compared with 1.3% of females1, Figure 9). This was true for all types of violence, with the exception of acquaintance violence which showed no significant difference and domestic violence which showed the reverse trend (0.4% of females were victims compared to 0.2% of males). The year ending March 2017 CSEW showed that:

stranger violence showed the largest difference in victimisation between men and women (1.3% compared with 0.4%)
around twice as many men (1.2%) as women (0.6%) experienced violence without injury’

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean (assuming for the sake of the argument the stats are correct and using a sensible definition of ‘violence’) that women should be less scared than men rather than more*. If violence against women is more serious (as suggested by the fact that men experience a greater proportion of violence without injury, even once you account for them experiencing more violence generally) or more likely to occur in very intimate relationships (as suggested by the domestic violence stat) and this is more emotionally damaging. But I do think a focus on group-level injustice sometimes leads people to wrongly imply that male violence is overwhelmingly experienced by women to the exclusion of other men. And that’s not true. (Though perhaps the right answer to this is, men should become as pro-active as feminists in complaining about male violence.)

*Insofar as we can even make sense of the ‘correct’ level of fear.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  David Mathers
2 years ago

Oops, that was meant to be a reply to Michael Morris immediately below, not Caligula’s Goat.Report

Michael Morris
Michael Morris
Reply to  David Mathers
2 years ago

I should say, as I said in effect in response to another comment below, that my point was not about differential fear, but about a fear that those born and brought up female have which those who are born and brought up male mostly have only a theoretical awareness of: that is, those of us who are born and brought up male mostly have only a theoretical awareness of the fear that those who are born and brought up female have.

There is, of course, much more to be said about all this. One thing that’s important, I think, is that the fear of male violence which those who are born and brought up female have exists in the context of a large asymmetry of power between men and women – and indeed is a significant means by which that asymmetry is maintained.Report

Michael Morris
Michael Morris
2 years ago

I think it’s important to have in one’s mind two things which aren’t always noticed.

1. Very many of those born and brought up female – perhaps all – have an extremely pervasive, if not constant, at-least-subliminal consciousness of the possibility of male violence against them – at least at the edge of peripheral vision, as it were. (Decisions about where to walk or run, for example, and when, are always being made.) Those of us who were born and brought up male are aware of this in a kind of theoretical way, but mostly not as a thing lived.

2. Those women who describe themselves as ‘gender critical’ have frequently been subject to attacks by some of those on the ‘trans-inclusive’ side which are obviously and grotesquely misogynist. The pattern and character of some of these attacks is unmistakable.

(In a grim combination of both points, a British woman prominent on the ‘gender critical’ side, Julie Bindel, has just been the victim of a physical attack after speaking at an event about sex-based rights.)

Neither of these points justifies any particular position or any particular action; and taking note of them certainly does not require one to take sides. But I think they do show that more than one party is at risk of harm, and perhaps they provide a context which makes some things intelligible.Report

Trans grad student
Trans grad student
Reply to  Michael Morris
2 years ago

Bringing this up is a transphobic dogwhistle. Trans women are women and are subject to the risk of male violence too. Trans women are subject to misogynistic and trans misogynistic attacks. What is your point here?Report

Michael Morris
Michael Morris
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

My point is just what I said it was: that more than one party is at risk of harm, and that 1 and 2 perhaps provide a context which makes some things intelligible.

The first part of that is also implied by your ‘too’.

On the second part: I think it must be possible to ask why someone speaks and acts as they do without being supposed to be attacking someone else entirely.

That’s all I meant. I will now stop.Report

Ted
Ted
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

I think his point is fairly clear. There are what you might term a bundle of experiences that constitute “female-ness” which people born and raised male are epistemologically distant from. We might know X exists, but have not experienced X. Further, this lack of direct contact implies a certain humility: I know the limits of what I know, but I cannot know the limits of what I don’t know. The experience of being a woman is inherently non-accessible for someone who is born male. I take your point that trans woman are women, and as such have access to this bundle of experiences. But I can only accept that statement as valid if I first accept that trans women are women – if I hold that they are not, then by extension, I hold that the bundle of experiences to which they have access are similarly different.

In other words, if we assert that trans women undergo the same experiences as women, and therefore should be categorised as women, we are hinging our logic on the postulate trans women are women. This must be true, because otherwise we can’t claim (with any sense of rigour) that there is parity between the two groups’ experiences (that they are, in fact, the same experience). So the logic is circular.

Not saying I necessarily agree with this – just offering the requested clarity over (what I take to be) his first point, and replying to your response.Report

xyz grad student
xyz grad student
Reply to  Ted
2 years ago

I don’t see how we need to “[hinge] our logic on the postulate trans women are women” in order to admit that trans women have access to many of the experiences in the bundle usually identified with the female experience. The latter is an empirical point, and one which seems obviously true to me.

That’s not to say it’s wrong of Michael to point out that defenders of the gender-critical view suffer misogynistic abuse, since they of course do, and such abuse should be roundly condemned. But I think Trans grad student’s point is that it comes across as denying that trans women also experience misogynistic abuse (or at least enough kinds of misogynistic abuse to count), which again, seems really clearly empirically false.Report

Michael Morris
Michael Morris
Reply to  xyz grad student
2 years ago

I should just say that it really wasn’t meant to come across like that. I wasn’t making that contrast – or indeed any contrast – at all. But of course I’m sorry that it has come across like that.Report

ted
ted
Reply to  xyz grad student
2 years ago

I think there are a few points here where we disagree.
You correctly identify “trans women have access to many of the experiences in the bundle usually identified with the female experience.” as a truism – but sharing similar experiences is not something that was ever in question. Of course, we all share numerous experiences.
And certainly some of those experiences are likely very similar: when a cis-woman and a trans-woman experience misogyny, is it the same? This is not an empirical question because it includes the internal experience of a “self” to which misogyny is directed. Despite this, I think many of us would be happy to play an odds game and say that these experiences were probably similar enough to constitute a shared experience.
Things get muddier (for me, at least) when we start thinking about experiences that are not reproduced (or reproduced rarely enough that they constitute statistical zero) across the cis-trans divide.
For example: how does the experience of being raised and socialised from childhood play into the adult experience of womanhood? To what extent does the subjective experience of possessing a biologically female body in childhood constitute a fundamental part of womanhood? There is obviously a range of questions we could postulate across similar lines.
Bundling all of these experiences together (along with the non-cis-exclusive ones, such as the experience of misogyny) might result in something like the exclusively female experience (there is, obviously, a lot of experience which is not exclusive along gender lines).
To what extent is there an internal gender identity? If there isn’t one, then I’m not sure what Trans means in regards to one’s identity. And if there is one, how can we ever demarcate the boundaries that must be crossed between “man” and “woman” if what lies either side of them is in principle unknowable? There is problem of irreducibility here that may not be in principle unsolvable, but, I think, deserves mention.
To be clear – this is not my position, and I don’t think it’s Michael’s position either. I misread him as making a comment on identity experience (in which the experience of the threat of male violence was just an example) but that, in hindsight, is clearly my fault for trying to do three things at once.
I see, though, from your other comments, that your concerns are largely social and political, rather than metaphysical or identarian.
I agree with you that these more practical concerns are important – but I don’t think that other areas of inquiry into trans-person-hood are settled, obvious, or should be dis-allowed (I realise this is not necessarily your position Grad Student).Report

Madame XY
Madame XY
Reply to  Michael Morris
2 years ago

Michael, on your point #2 in your original comment. The attacks on people advocating trans-exclusive viewpoints appear “obviously and grotesquely misogynist” often only because the words of trans people are reported out of context and in bad faith. I know one of the people who is the source of one of these supposed instances of misogyny, and this person’s speech was grossly distorted. Most trans people (myself included) have come to the conclusion that whatever we say will be taken in bad faith by trans-antagonistic people, so many of us don’t speak on social media with cis people in mind anymore. Much of the speech paraded as threatening or violent is recognizable to me as satirical and pitched in-group to a trans audience. (Not to say that a lot of it isn’t immature, but what on Twitter these days is?)Report

Michael Morris
Michael Morris
Reply to  Madame XY
2 years ago

I might easily be missing matters of tone – I entirely accept that. But the people whose attacks I thought were grotesquely misogynist were generally not trans people: they were generally males who identify as men.

You’re right about Twitter!Report

Trans grad student
Trans grad student
Reply to  Madame XY
2 years ago

Also, trans-exclusive feminists complaining about violent messages and images clearly are not experts in the history of feminism or are willfully ignorant of the use of violent images in the history of women’s liberation. Trans women using violent imagery to promote their own liberation is only within the same historical millieu of all their feminist foremothers. Whining about “abuse” etc is just obfuscatory bad faith sophistry on the part of the trans-exclusive and used to engender sympathy from a public that is less plugged in to the discourse.Report

Mollymawk
Mollymawk
Reply to  Madame XY
2 years ago

Trans Grad Student I’d guarantee you that many of the feminists you refer to are not only well versed in the history of feminism, but are also no strangers to threats of violence, having been subject to them from one source or another over the course of their careers. The fact that these threats are passed off as jokes, or made only amongst friends, does not detract from the real (and often intended) effect they have on women, which is to induce fear, to make it harder for them to meet, harder for them to discuss their ideas, and harder for them to do their jobs. These threats of violence against women would not be written off as “satirical in-jokes” were they coming from reactionary conservatives or men’s rights activists, and neither should they coming from anybody else.

In general, I’m really struggling to see how we are supposed to believe on the one hand that referring to someone by an incorrrect pronoun constitutes violence, but on the other hand that making a statement that threatens actual harm to another person is acceptable discourse.Report

Helen
Helen
Reply to  Mollymawk
2 years ago

‘Incorrect pronouns being violence’ is an idea I see most often coming from trans exclusionary feminists who want to mock trans people. And given that I have seen trans exclusionary feminists suggest that trans people should be forcibly castrated and sterilised (Jeffreys) and on one occasion, that they should have to wear ‘purple triangles’, I find the argument that the threats of violence are one sided to be rather fallacious.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Helen
2 years ago

Helen, did you not see the Hypatia debacle? There, a number of trans-allies or transpersons themselves quite clearly equated misgendering with serious harm, if not violence (I can’t remember quite correctly now)Report

Madame XY
Madame XY
Reply to  krell_154
2 years ago

Krell and Helen, while it is true that “misgendering is violence” is a phrase that is said by some trans people, I find it helpful to pull part several different senses in which it is used. It’s not my favourite turn of expression, because I feel it elides some important specificity.

It is often portrayed in hostile media as being roughly equivalent to “misgendering (intentional or not) is equivalent to physical violence.” There are people who will use it this way, which can be annoying because its goal is to shut down communication. Being trans yourself won’t protect you from this tactic.

But the phrase is usually meant more meaningfully, for which we should understand violence to mean inflicting intentional harm on someone. Intentional misgendering very often is ancillary to inflicting intentional harm, even beyond the sense that most trans people have a history of being bullied for their gender expression and have developed sensitivity from a lifetime of trauma accompanied by misgendering. Very often, however, people who misgender intentionally do so within a program of constructing bureaucratic chasms between narrowly defined genders/sexes to deprive trans people of basic rights. I and several of my friends have found ourselves in these sort of situations, say, when police refuse to pursue diligently or at all an investigation into a hate crime against a trans person.Report

Madame XY
Madame XY
Reply to  Mollymawk
2 years ago

Mollymawk, I think you’re misunderstanding my point about in-group talk being used in bad faith as threats of violence. That sort of talk is quite common among all minority groups that suffer oppression, and for those groups as well it is used to demonize them when it is brought into the public transcript. I can’t speak for every alleged case of things that are portrayed as threats, but the few cases where I’ve had friends or acquaintances involved or eyewitnesses, what actually happened has been grossly distorted, and in other cases it’s seemed apparent to me that the person “threatened” is trying to create drama (many trans people in my experience do that too, however).

Cis people who are bystanders should be aware that trans people are often given the most hostile reading (not only these sort of debates, but pretty much every facet of life), and cis people should also examine in themselves how anti-trans bias informs many of their presumptions. The whole debate on trans children, for example, often fails to address the assumption that the puberty induced by ones gonads is superior to a medically induced/regulated puberty, and that the suffering of the vanishingly small number of the small number of children who medically transition wrongly far outweighs the suffering of the majority of trans children who are still unable to transition before the wrong puberty.Report

Nicole
Nicole
2 years ago

I think you’re trying very hard here to appease both sides, but it’s just not worth it, Justin. I’m afraid my experience with the “trans-inclusionary” movement has simply been that they wish to avoid and silence any serious and good faith inquiry. We’re allowed to question what it means to be human, what race is, what sexuality is, and even probe deeply into the most intimate aspects of the lives of biological women, but people like t philosopher are unable and unwilling to entertain many questions about what it means to be trans–many of which are fundamental and important to establish before the conversation can be the least bit fruitful.

For instance, (quoted from Kathleen Stock’s recent article on Medium) :”What, metaphysically speaking, is gender identity? What ensures that when Person 1 identifies as X and Person 2 identifies as X they are identifying as the same thing?”

This is a question that has, to my knowledge, never been satisfactorily, or comprehensively addressed by the trans-inclusionary crowd. There are vague assertions of how people feel, and social constructivism, but the recent trend is just to dismiss the very question as transphobic.

It very simply does not seem possible to me for any serious philosopher to pen a paper assuming the legitimacy of transgenderism/sexuality until that has been answered fully.Report

ajkreider
ajkreider
Reply to  Nicole
2 years ago

Many TI-ers appear to take the view that the discussions are not in good faith, because they think that things like IV above (talking about TE views) are not compatible with fully treating trans folks as persons (something JW starts out recommending). If they are right about this, then it’s not unreasonable to view a community’s (philosophy’s) willingness to entertain TE views as beyond the pale.

Maybe TI-ers have arguments for why holding or expressing TE beliefs on trans issues counts as not treating trans folks fully as persons, but I don’t know what they are. Such arguments would likely have to extend beyond claims of harm. (Perhaps TE positions entail denying trans’ folks autonomy in some sense?) I assume the TE-ers believe that defense of their views still treats everyone as a person.

In any event, whether that gap is bridgeable seems to be the crucial issue.Report

Interlocutor
Interlocutor
Reply to  Nicole
2 years ago

It’s been answered a number of times and is not necessary to reach the trans-inclusive position.Report

Nicole K. Braden-Johnson
Nicole K. Braden-Johnson
Reply to  Interlocutor
2 years ago

Sources, please?

And, in fact, in order to make any logical sense, we must have some sort of legitimate, reasonable, working theory of what transgenderism even is before we can talk about what it means to be inclusive thereof.Report

Helen
Helen
Reply to  Nicole K. Braden-Johnson
2 years ago

There are plenty of working theories; the fact is that trans exclusionary people want a working theory that allows them to exclude trans people.Report

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
Reply to  Helen
2 years ago

No, we want, in some situations, to be able to exclude *male* people, we have no intention of excluding female people who are trans identified, although many of them would not want to be included necessarily. This is not an issue about *trans* people, it is an issue about the preservation of the class of female people in a society in which female people are structurally oppressed by male people. Which is staggering simple point to grasp if you were listening to us in good faith. And at present, we have no working theory that convinces us that male people are female regardless of how they identify, although many of us accept that they are transwomen, and hence not straightforwardly men.Report

faustusnotes
Reply to  Jane Jones
2 years ago

You also have no working theory of how you are going to exclude so-called *male* people in practice without checking genitals. If you aren’t planning on doing genital inspections then your entire exclusionary process boils down to judging whether women present in a feminine enough way to qualify as women, and so in practice the only way you can act on your exclusionary theory is to start judging whether women are womanly enough to fit in. This is so laughably contradictory and against every single feminist principle of the last 100 years, but your trans exclusionary ideas require it. And given that trans people are very rare but women who look like men are very common, the practical consequence of enforcing your exclusionary principle is going to be lots of confrontations between women, challenging each other over whether they’re presenting as feminine enough to get into your spaces. Is that what your feminist principles boil down to? Genital checks and femininity challenges?

And imagine if this is applied rigorously the other way, in male bathrooms: gangs of macho boys seeing an effeminate-looking dude in the toilet and pushing him out because he doesn’t look like a man, and demanding he go into the women’s toilet. Is this the world you want to build for yourselves?Report

Nicole
Nicole
Reply to  faustusnotes
2 years ago

This is not at all my position, nor the position of any gender critical feminists I am aware of. Please stop straw personing. It doesn’t further your own argument, and it only wastes everyone’s time.Report

faustusnotes
Reply to  faustusnotes
2 years ago

That’s funny Nicole because just down below we have one of your gender “critical” colleagues saying that this is exactly the position of gender “critical” feminists. Which is it to be?Report

Nicole
Nicole
Reply to  Helen
2 years ago

I would really like to see the sources for any papers giving a comprehensive answer to Stock’s question I quoted above. I’m afraid basically saying “yuh-huh” doesn’t convince me, and I suspect won’t convince anyone else either.Report

Suzy Killmister
Suzy Killmister
Reply to  Nicole
2 years ago

This is, quite simply, false. There are ongoing, productive debates in the philosophical literature about the metaphysics of gender, the meaning and import of gender identity,etc. If the gender critical folks think the entire literature is misguided, the onus is on them to actually engage and critically respond to it, showing why. None of the ‘publications’ by these authors demonstrates even passing familiarity with the relevant literature – that’s unacceptable in any area of philosophy, and goes some way to explaining the frustration a lot of us feel about the way the GC folks are trying to frame criticism of them as censorship.Report

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
Reply to  Suzy Killmister
2 years ago

We we involved in a symposium in Manchester last month at which Mary Leng gave the latest version of her paper on Jenkin’s work on gender identity. We invited a number of trans philosophers to attend. Only Sophie Grace came, and she did not engage with the substance of Mary’s work. I don’t think the problem here is that we are not trying in good faith to engage with the best articulations we can find of our opponents position. I think the problem is that we are interrogating it rather than accepting it as an article of faith.Report

Trans grad student
Trans grad student
Reply to  Jane Jones
2 years ago

No matter how many times people insist that trans exclusionary feminists are respectful and arguing in good faith, that doesn’t make it so. TERFs are engaged in a political project to push trans people out of public spaces, not a philosophical project. No professional or intellectual norm demands we engage with you because you are not doing philosophy. And on top of that, people have already refuted terf views in print thirty years ago, as we have been saying over and over again. Do the reading.

Engaging you only amplifies your political speech which is why people are recommending no platformingReport

Nicole
Nicole
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

1. Your mischaracterization of the gender critical stance is unproductive at best.

2. I’d really, really, really like to see the sources of the trans-inclusive philosophers who’ve “refuted” gender critical positions so thoroughly. Please include one who has answered the most fundamental question of all: what are the foundations of transgender metaphysics?Report

Trans grad student
Trans grad student
Reply to  Nicole
2 years ago

There’s actually a whole literature about this that TERFs refuse to engage with! Here is a wonderful list of resources. I’m not going to argue the first-order metaphysics with you in the comments here because you are unfamiliar with a vast and relevant literature.

https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/talking-about-talking/#comment-163853Report

Nicole K. Braden-Johnson
Nicole K. Braden-Johnson
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

That’s not a list. It’s another blog post of another TI philosopher complaining about GC philosophers and Daily Nous without addressing any of the fundamental issues.

It’s obvious to me that you’re dodging the question and that you don’t actually have access to any relevant papers mapping out transgender metaphysics comprehensively.

I guess I’m not sure how you think it helps your case to dismiss me on grounds of what you perceive to be ignorance. However, I do remain open to a discussion, because I personally think open and honest dialogue is the only way forward.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

I used to have, and observe, several conversations with creationists. Through watching biologists and geologists in their interactions with them, I learned a few of the relevant facts that refuted their faulty claims and arguments. The scientists who knew those facts were always keen to present them and explain them.

Never in my life have I seen a scientist who was aware of clear evidence and arguments that refute the claims of some creationist or other pseudoscientist but who, instead of simply presenting those facts to the pseudoscientist and easily refuting the claim, chose instead to sit on them and arrogantly instruct the pseudoscientist to ‘read the vast and relevant literature’. Quite the contrary.

I have, on the other hand, seen many people do this when they didn’t seem to have any reply to give but wanted to back out of an exchange while still illegitimately keeping the appearance of the upper hand.

I have little doubt that there is a ‘vast and relevant literature’ favoring any number of positions in any number of fields. But some ranges of literature manage to avoid dealing with important objections, and others fail to provide arguments for a central claim, and even a range of perfectly legitimate philosophical literature might include no good case for a certain contention.

If there’s a body of literature that contains a refutation for one of your interlocutor’s claims, then the way to move the argument forward and establish your point is to draw on your understanding of the literature and make that point plainly.

If you think that there’s probably a response somewhere out there in the literature but don’t know what it is , or if you’ve come away from the literature with a strong sense that P is true but you can’t for the life of you remember having seen any clear arguments for P, then that’s a good sign that you should go back to the literature and see whether you can find the response or the argument. But if you can’t find it, or if you just don’t feel like doing so, then it’s mere sophistry to try to impress people by gesturing toward ‘the literature’ and acting as though you’ve made a point you just haven’t made. In such cases, the principles of fair dispute require that one put up or shut up.Report

Trans grad student
Trans grad student
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

There is a bibliography very plainly attached to that post and the sep article linked there. I refuse to repeat a history of scholarship in a blog comment because cis people demand it to be satisfiedReport

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

There’s no need to “repeat a history of scholarship”, Trans grad student. It would be useful if you could provide, in a few short sentences if that’s all you feel like giving, the plausible metaphysics of gender that you claim is ignored by all GC philosophers and that shows them to be in error. Just indicate what it is that you’re saying they’ve overlooked.

If you choose not to provide such a simple summary of a metaphysical position you imply you’re quite familiar with, that’s your perfect right, of course. But then there should be no grounds for complaint when nobody believes that there really is such a metaphysical position.Report

Nicole
Nicole
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

Transgradstudent, I for the life of me cannot see a bibliography on the website you linked. I see a blog post and a list of comments. Are you sure this is the link you meant to post?

Also, you’re free to refuse to engage in fruitful dialogue, but then you can’t complain when us lesser mortals fail to be enlightened.
So far the conversation has been:
Me: I don’t fully understand your position.
You: Well, if you don’t know, then I’m not telling you!Report

Skef
Skef
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

Presumably the (informal) bibliography is “such as found in the Transgender Studies Readers 1 and 2 from 2006 and 2013, the journal Transgender Studies Quarterly, and Trap Door from late 2017, for example”Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

Thanks, Skef. Just to be clear to all: I’m not currently taking a position on the metaphysical question at stake here, just trying to draw attention to what seems to me to be a pretty awful argumentative move that’s been made here and elsewhere.

Transgender Studies Readers 1 and 2 are 758 pages and 704 pages long, respectively. Trap Door (December 2017) is 448 pages long. That’s 1,910 pages right there. Then there’s an entire journal, Transgender Studies Quarterly. From what I can tell from home, there have been something like a dozen editions of that journal, and I found a comment that the first edition had about a dozen articles in it. So we could be talking about at least a hundred articles there. That might well be even more pages than the nearly two thousand pages in the other sources given.

I haven’t seen any of the contents of those books or journals, and maybe they’re filled with clear, tightly-reasoned, concise, argumentative prose. On the other hand, some or all of them could be filled with the well-nigh-incomprehensible blathering and name-dropping one sees in lamentably many interdisciplinary journals. Even in the best case, though, spending a few weeks or months wading aimlessly through a few thousand pages in search of an argument or position one’s interlocutor can’t be bothered to tell you is a pretty tall order.

I have to wonder, Trans grad student, whether you would accept this sort of conduct from your own interlocutors on this or other issues. If I took you to task for claiming that the Earth is round and then, when pressed for evidence that it isn’t, gestured to several thousands of pages of flat Earth ‘literature’ that you had to wade through before you were ready to have a conversation on the subject, all the while indicating that I know a decisive argument that I just don’t feel like telling you because you absolutely must to read every single one of those pages, would you be impressed? Would you stop saying that the Earth is round?

Do you think geologists and astrophysicists who hold, on the basis of study, that the Earth is round are ignoramuses if they haven’t read all that flat Earth literature and immersed themselves in flat-Earther ways of thinking? Wouldn’t they already be fulfilling their epistemic duty if they were to sincerely listen to a brief summary of the evidence to see whether there’s anything promising there?

Also, Trans grad student, suppose one of your interlocutors spends the summer reading and mastering all that literature and still believes at the end of it that there’s nothing relevant and plausible in it. What then? Wouldn’t you still have the right to say, “Oh, well, you must not have understood the literature properly if you didn’t see the amazing argument. You’ll have to read it all again, and maybe this time throw on another few thousand clarifying pages”? Would you employ some new form of sophistry and just announce that the interlocutor must be an idiot for not understanding what he or she read, and is thus not worth talking to? Or would you, at that point, finally relent and tell us all what the wonderful argument is that you insist exists but aren’t willing to tell us now? How will we know in advance whether we will ever find out what this argument is supposed to be, after we’ve slogged through whatever’s waiting for us in those books and journals?

If you really think this mode of arguing is legitimate, then your interlocutors should be able to make the same move against you. They could simply point to a few thousand pages of text of their choosing and insist that a clear refutation of the argument made in the readings you have gestured to exists in the readings they’re gesturing to.

And there, of course, would be an end to the interactive reasoning that constitutes philosophy.Report

Madame XY
Madame XY
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

Justin, you are pulling the stereotypical move of demanding that a minority perform the uncompensated labour of educating you. Trans grad student is not your instructor and under no obligation to respond to bullying to address your own ignorance of the issues. The original topic of this subthread was that trans-antagonistic scholars refuse to engage with a large literature responding to their claims. The issue is not whether trans people should care about a bunch of ignorant people on the internet too lazy to educate themselves, but with people who purport to be serious scholars not abiding by the conventions of scholarship. It is quite simply scholarly malpractice to ignore a body of literature that has its own journal and is relatively accessible to anyone with internet access, let alone the resources of an academic library.

If you want to read something short and punchy, read Sandy Stone’s “The Empire Strikes Back: a Posttransexual Manifesto.” It’s from 1987, and a clear example of how affirmative scholarship on trans identity has progressed while exlusionary scholarship has not.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

Hi, Madame XY. First off, I must say that you engage in a great deal of question-begging here. Asking someone to produce an argument is only requesting ‘education’, and those who are not yet persuaded of a set of doctrines are only ‘ignorant’, if those who hold the doctrines and refuse to argue for what they insist is true are correct; but their being correct is the very thing that’s in question. And so on.

More substantively:

1) Yes, of course, people who insist that they are correct on some controversial point are under no obligation to provide support for those points. But if they choose not to provide that support, then they thereby lose the opportunity to show that their views are correct, coherent, or worth taking seriously. What they cannot reasonably do is refuse to provide clear support or respond to objections _and_ insist that others accept that their beliefs are true. I don’t see how that can be controversial.

2) Thank you for articulating the principle you’re relying on: “It is quite simply scholarly malpractice to ignore a body of literature that has its own journal and is relatively accessible to anyone with internet access, let alone the resources of an academic library.” I can see how that principle might seem initially plausible, and I think it’s correct in part, but it seems to have some important limitations here:

a) First, the principle as stated only seems to apply to those who claim to be scholars in the field in question. For instance, I assume that neither of us have engaged with the body of scholarly literature concerned with the history of disposable drinking cups, but that isn’t sufficient for scholarly malpractice. Moreover, there are many bodies of literature that are much more closely contiguous to what we work on that we still seem entitled to ignore. Our time is limited, after all. Also, while you seem to dismiss all of us who don’t work on trans issues as “a bunch of ignorant people on the internet too lazy to educate themselves”, there seems to be no good basis for excluding us from discussions like these ones (they are not even conversations within the discipline in question, for one thing), but it hardly seems fair to call us ‘ignorant’ and ‘lazy’. for engaging prior to engaging in a serious course of study.

I can see why your criticism (with the limitation dealt with below) might apply to someone like Stock, since her professional work involves trans-related issues. But even there, I’m not sure. Does Stock imply that she’s an expert on trans scholarship? If she represents herself as knowing all about that scholarship, or if she makes all sorts of claims that are clearly refuted by powerful evidence or arguments that appear prominently in the trans literature, then it would be right to criticize her for those lapses, but _only_ if one at the same time justifies the criticism by pointing to that evidence and those arguments and then gives Stock a chance to reply to them. Merely saying “Hey, you didn’t engage with our literature very much, and I refuse to tell you what exactly you missed, but it’s important” is the sort of move one would expect from someone who’s really got nothing. One needs much more than that to support a charge of scholarly malpractice.

b) Suppose I have some arguments to present on Topic T, and that I hold that the existing theory on Topic T is incorrect or sophistical. But there is, let us suppose, a huge literature on Topic T, all of which takes the existing theory for granted. For instance, consider Gettier’s famous article challenging the ‘justified true belief’ view of knowledge. There was a considerably body of literature in epistemology already, and that literature took the JTB view for granted. And yet, Gettier’s article didn’t show a deep engagement with that literature. It simply argued that the JTB account must be incorrect. What do you think follows from this? Do you think that it proves that Gettier was engaged in scholarly malpractice? Do you think it would have been appropriate for the editors to reject Gettier’s article and insist that he stop being ‘lazy’ and ‘ignorant’ and spend a few years immersing himself in traditional epistemology before he dared to question the JTB account? It seems to follow from your principle that it is.

Moreover, your principle seems to run into even worse problems when the bodies of literature in question have been produced under less-than-objective conditions. There are great bodies of literature supporting Young Earth Creationism, a flat earth, Scientology, phrenology, and so on. Will you suggest that nobody ought to have raised arguments for atheism before mastering all the literature produced by medieval theologians (who worked in a system that was blatantly tilted against atheism), and that nobody should be allowed to criticize Stalinism before immersing him- or herself in the pro-Stalinist literature produced under Stalin, or that nobody should criticize Scientology without first reading the scholarly works of L. Ron Hubbard and his devotees? That seems to be a very bad rule. It would allow people devoted to a blatantly faulty paradigm to defend their views too arrogantly and easily.

It seems that the correct principle should be something like this:

1. People who present theories, arguments or objections in any field should be permitted to do so, but may reasonably be expected to respond fairly to criticisms by others, especially by those with a background in that field. If they refuse to respond fairly to those criticisms, then they may not rightly expect to be treated as though they have good replies to those criticisms.

2. Directing interlocutors to engage with some literature, or faulting them for having failed to engage with that literature, is not a legitimate substitute for providing them with a refutation, objection or argument that appears in that literature. Allowing this practice would have the bad effect of fostering unhealthy scholarly practices, and hence permitting bad or unclear general theories to persist. It is just too easy for those who support the status quo in those areas of study to deflect all criticisms that way, and it will always be possible for such supporters of the dominant paradigm to protest that the critics haven’t engaged _enough_ with the literature. Instead of directing critics to the literature, those who support the theory should use their own mastery of the literature to say exactly what is going wrong, if anything is.

3. It is sometimes legitimate for the defender of a generally accepted theory within a discipline to treat a consensus within that discipline as fairly compelling grounds for thinking that the theory is probably correct, despite the fact that someone is criticizing it and the defender doesn’t know a precise refutation. Even in these cases, the defender may not rightly treat the critic as mistaken: the consensus within the discipline may be incorrect, even if good scholarly practices are followed within that discipline. However, it would _not_ be legitimate for the defender of the theory to treat the consensus within the literature as good grounds for confidence if (as in the case of the Scientology literature, say) the people who have produced that ‘literature’ are all of the same general view, or if there is no rigorous peer review system in place that ensures that the arguments made can reasonably withstand the strongest available criticism, or if there is political pressure within the field to withhold certain lines of criticism, and so on. In such cases, a consensus within the literature cannot be used to support the theory.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

In an admittedly far less politically charged context, if I were to tell metaphysicians that their otherwise-plausible thesis about X is ruled out for reasons of physics, and when asked for details said that it wasn’t my job to provide them and they should go and read 2,000 pages of quantum field theory, I think they’d be irritated.

In fact, I tell metaphysicians that their ideas don’t work for physics reasons all the time – but I’ve always assumed I have at least some obligation to outline the form of my objection, even if the full details require engagement with the physics literature. And if I persistently failed to do so, it might create the suspicion that I was bluffing.Report

just some person
just some person
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

I think the form of example used by Justin Kalef is regrettable, though I basically agree on much of principle. But I would not assimilate this situation to the obvious hackery of flat eartherism or anything of the like, which seems prejudicial and unnecessary. Rather, I’d just point out that opinions of “[this area of philosophy] is all wrong about [X] because they haven’t read [Y]” are common. You might hear someone saying that metaphysicians are just wandering in the outer darkness because they’ve wrongly dismissed Whitehead or that the solution to everything is found in Making It Explicit (notably: 770 pages and not particularly easy reading), and so on and so on.

It’s worth emphasizing that these claims aren’t ridiculous on their face!

The work of explaining and defending these claims succinctly is not impossible, even when done in front of uninterested or hostile audiences. In fact, this is what specialist scholars must do on the job market. But as the job market also shows, doing so really well is also difficult and draining. If one could do it perfectly, and at length and considering all objections, that would be a paper in Phil review or etc., as the genre “nobody in this literature understands how this other person/literature was right about everything” seems like it’s a staple.

Consequently, I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong in saying that one has a certain view of what is shown in a given literature but not further engaging. But yet doing so also doesn’t carry any special weight with anyone else; it goes in the queue with the Whitehead fans and etc. There are partisans all through philosophy, operating in their own methodological bubbles, and they mostly soldier on.

I am reminded of Clark Glymour’s interview where he consigned all of traditional epistemology to the flames, as a form of 17th order schmess that has been eclipsed by the power and specificity of formal methods. I wouldn’t expect any traditionalist to just take it from Clark what the (large) formal literature (that they haven’t read) is supposed to show. Why would they? They’re not going to go out and learn the math then crunch a bunch of papers because some guy said so. It’s on Clark to make them see, which will be hard as their amour propre depends on not seeing it.

What I see in some of these debates on trans issues is a similar reformatory yearning as the one I see in Clark’s cranky interview—yearning to not go through the imperfect, unfair process of convincing everyone on their own terms. But the side doors going around that process are few and far between. That is not to say they don’t exist. CMU might win the long term battle by convincing science and industry, and thereby get the money and prominence to rewrite the field. And trans inclusive feminists might leverage alliances with other humanities to make their literature and methodologies the recognized gold standard. All of that’s generally fair play, and fine, but it is also unsurprising and not pernicious for those who hold different first order views to contest their ground.

For my own two cents, I am basically in the position of someone who takes the trans inclusive policy on almost all issues to be obviously correct, but for boring consequentialist reasons. I also find the literature being gestured at rough going, and am generally unsympathetic to no platforming. So I have my methodological reservations with respect to how to ground and defend a set or policies I otherwise basically support. Hence my attempt to sketch my take on methodological considerations above. In any case, I would like to thank MadameXY for valuable contributions to this discussion. Being dogpiled on the internet can be a bummer, and this reader anyway appreciated the content.Report

Nicole
Nicole
Reply to  Nicole
2 years ago

Madame XY, This is not about majorities and minorities. This is about philosophy. TI philosophers want to maintain that there is a legitimate transgender metaphysics. Well, that’s great, and I’d love to see it. But it’s THEIR job, and not mine, to make the case for it. If you can only point to the The Empire Strikes Back, I don’t think it lays out a metaphysics as much as it is a historical and social survey with some analysis. It doesn’t actually explain what it means to be transgender, or gendered, or sexed in any meaningful way.

I must repeat how unproductive it is to dismiss those asking for an open, honest dialogue on the basis of their supposed ignorance. Either make your case or don’t. As others have pointed out, you wouldn’t put up with that kind of game-playing regarding any other philosophical issue.Report

Trans grad student
Trans grad student
Reply to  Nicole
2 years ago

As has been stated over and over again by the people who you are demanding justify themselves, this is not any old philosophical issue. Do the reading and then we’ll talk.Report

Nicole
Nicole
Reply to  Nicole
2 years ago

I’ve been asking for days now what precisely I might read that could enlighten me…to no avail. I’m beginning to think that you simply don’t know either.

You act like it’s an imposition to enlighten people, you act like it’s an imposition to direct people toward how they might be enlightened, you act like it’s an imposition that people are not enlightened…..Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Nicole
2 years ago

Again and again, we see the same thing here. Some people insist that we accept their ideology without questioning it, but they are not even willing to give a clear and consistent articulation of what that ideology is, let alone defend it. Then, when they are repeatedly and politely asked to do so, they express indignation that they are being asked to respect the basic norms of reasonable discourse, but they continue to expect that people ‘educate’ themselves (begging the question in the process, as they seem to be psychologically incapable of considering the possibility that they could be mistaken in any respect) by engaging in a long course of quite possibly fruitless study just to find out what the ideology even is, when those who advocate the ideology could presumably explain it very easily if they understand it.

How has it come to this, that these antics are now a recognizable feature of what should be a conversation among professional philosophers? I understand that trans philosophy is an area that many in the discipline work on. The principle of charity compels me to assume that the unknown people who are behaving in this anti-philosophical fashion are not representative of the philosophical standards of that subdiscipline. Perhaps we are even being trolled by someone behind these monikers.

However, presumably at least _someone_ who reads this blog has some understanding of the actual positions held by various people within trans philosophy, and would be willing and able to explain those positions so that this conversation can continue. I for one have long wondered about the correct articulation of the metaphysical views accepted by many transgender activists, and it seems that many others here share my curiosity. Could someone please inform us about this?Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  Suzy Killmister
2 years ago

‘For my own two cents, I am basically in the position of someone who takes the trans inclusive policy on almost all issues to be obviously correct, but for boring consequentialist reasons. I also find the literature being gestured at rough going, and am generally unsympathetic to no platforming.’

This is only a suspicion, and I don’t have any direct evidence for it, but change the bit about finding the literature to be rough going to a conditional (since I suspect the majority of philosophers haven’t read any of it) and I suspect a position like this one will turn out to actually be the majority position in the field. But I also suspect that most people who hold this position (which I’m somewhat sympathetic to) don’t feel much emotional intensity about the issue and so aren’t commenting. I also suspect they are disproportionately like to have Justin Kalef’s indignant attitude towards people saying ‘read the literature, it’s not my job to educate you’, towards a decent proportion (though not all!) of the arguments produced by those (both trans inclusive and exclusive) who think that this is an issue of ‘metaphysics of gender’ rather than one to be thought about in a broadly consequentialist way, i.e. think that they are a blatantly sophistical and partisan embarrassment. (Once again, I have some sympathy for this view, though I have given literally zero evidence for it, and so anyone who disagrees is totally within their rights to dismiss it.) But as I say, this is just a suspicion, not something I have any direct evidence to offer for. I guess I’m just posting it because it’s sometimes worthwhile raising a possibility that feels likely to you, even if you can’t quite say why, and also to remind people that the loudest voices on the internet on X issue may not be particularly representative of opinion in the profession as a whole.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  David Mathers
2 years ago

That is, think the public informal arguments of those people are sophistical etc. *Hopefully* people aren’t forming that opinion about the arguments in actual papers without at least skimming them or at least relying on trustworthy summary.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  Nicole
2 years ago

‘the legitimacy of transgenderism/sexuality’

I think it’s at least as fair to request that you have some account of what ‘legitimacy’ is here as that the trans activists can give a theoretical account of gender. Like, suppose we do answer the legitimacy questions with ‘no, it’s not legitimate’, which of the following are we then committed to?

1) It’s immoral to claim a trans identity
2) It’s wrong for 3rd parties to treat trans women as women and trans men as men in ordinary social interactions (for example, with regard to pronoun use etc.)
3) No one is *obligated* to treat trans people as the gender they say they are in social situations.
4) The law should treat trans women as men and trans men as women.
5) Trans women should be excluded from women’s spaces (i.e. bathrooms, domestic violence shelters, prisons etc.) and trans men from equivalent male spaces.
6) When analyzing gender in an academic context, our theories of what gender is should treat trans men as women and trans women as men.
7) (Weaker than 6) When analyzing gender in an academic context, our theories of what gender is should treat *some* trans men as women and *some* trans women as men (perhaps depending on what they are read as by other people or how they’ve been socialized.)
8) ‘Trans women are women’ and ‘trans men are men’ are literally false sentences of English, right now.
9) We shouldn’t act to make the sentences in 8 true sentences of English.

It’s unclear, to say the least, that all these stand and fall together, but all of them are kind of suggested by the claim ‘trans identity is not legitimate.’Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  David Mathers
2 years ago

Thank you for this, David. My inner philosopher has been cringing all through this conversation, and others like it, at the amount of work that seems to be heaped on the shoulders of such an unclear concept. I’m looking forward to the clarification of what exactly is meant.Report

John Collins
John Collins
2 years ago

Your general plea for civility and the value of listening can only be commended, although it is never a bad thing to be tolerant of differences in natural coarseness of speech and idiom, and be better at detecting intention. Philosophy is an intellectual discipline, not a community. Personally, I find the use of ‘cis’ and ‘privilege’ to be exasperatingly grating, especially in the mouths of those with an all too comfortable background, but whatever – people can talk as they will. I think that the more procedural suggestions you make under 1-3 are questionable.

1. The AS statement of support did not endorse the content of Kathleen Stock’s article, and nor did KS’s article suggest that any critics do not have the right to respond. The statement merely defended KS’s right to have a forum for a view on the relevant issues, which extends to any philosophical view, as the founding statement of AS indicates. Given all of this, there is no need for a statement of the blindingly obvious when the topic is trans-related, for this would only serve to suggest that adopting a philosophical position in and of itself might be harmful, which is false.

2. By this policy, the issue of trans id and related topics would be rendered utterly unique in the field. I can see no rationale for treating this cluster of issues as special save for the volume of a lobby.

3. This policy is either empty or invidious. A relevantly uninformed piece will not pass peer review, regardless of topic. On the other hand, philosophers should be free to publish non-peer reviewed pieces that are more or less informal for a wider public. What I have noticed of late is that appeals to ‘the literature’ are often weaponised concerning this topic in a manner that is unwitnessed elsewhere. One should never appeal to the literature as an argumentative move, but seek, rather, to explain the relevant propositions one has in mind. A failure to do so suggests that the literature is actually poor or obscure. More prosaically, everyone has the right to ‘screw the literature’ and start from basics, if the literature is perceived to be, say, intellectually corrupt or incompetent. The soundness of such a move may be judged by its fruit, just as in any other area.

In general, I can see no basis for offering bespoke accommodation to a philosophical position that appears to bring in its wake policies on how it ought to be assessed.Report

Skunk Option
Skunk Option
2 years ago

Calling some feminist views trans-inclusive and others trans-exclusionary misrepresents the dialectic *within feminist debates* (it may be truly representative outside of feminist debates). Here is a more accurate depiction of the dialectic within feminist debates: trans-inclusive without exceptions versus trans-inclusive with exceptions. The following set of questions is a rhetorical device to help us see why.

1. Why do “trans exclusionary” feminists advocate for the potential exclusion of trans women from restrooms, domestic violence shelters, changing rooms, and caring roles that require great physical intimacy (e.g. elder care for certain women) BUT NOT workplaces, educational institutions, or housing?
2. Why has Kathleen Stock claimed (on your very blog) that she would welcome trans men into (cis) women’s spaces? (Leaving aside that presumably trans men would self-select out of such spaces; more on self-selecting out further down). More generally, why are “trans exclusionary” feminists NOT taking issue with trans men accessing anything?
3. Why has Stock been referenced throughout your post but not, for instance, Alex Byrne, who makes similar claims to Stock’s and the upshot of whose arguments are the same as those of “trans exclusionary” feminists?
4. Why have abortion rights and reproductive health and justice in general been so central to feminists’ concerns?
5. Why is the gender pay gap overwhelmingly a motherhood/birth parent pay gap?
6. How do wartime criminals know who to rape to enact genocide via rape?
7. How do people performing FGM know on whom to perform it?
8. Why would “trans exclusionary” feminists advocate for the *general* protection from violence, discrimination, and harassment of trans people? (They do, albeit too weakly IMO.)
9. Why would a bunch of left-leaning progressive people, many of whom are LGB and even some T, only take a “conservative” position on this single issue and basically nothing else?
10. Why might trans women’s inclusion be completely acceptable in sports such as women’s archery but not in women’s weightlifting?

I could go on. But the answer to all of the above is this: because in A FEW, LIMITED CONTEXTS it is tracking *sex* that matters for purposes of fairness/justice, not gender and not gender identity. Arguably, even in these contexts it is preferable to err on the side of inclusion *for purposes of fairness/justice.* But that has been/is expected to be assumed rather than has been demonstrated. The counterpoint being, of course, that in these contexts it may be preferable to err on the side of exclusion *for purposes of fairness/justice.* We cannot adjudicate that without giving as much attention and weight to the testimony of women and other people who’ve been harmed by *sex*-based discrimination and oppression as we do to the testimony of trans women (I am saying trans *women* because overwhelmingly it is their voices we are hearing, which, I think, is in itself not coincidental), but also of other trans people. To drive this point home, I will ask: have you listened as compassionately and given as much weight to the testimony of a woman who expressed her self-selection out of *choose any institution/situation wherein sex (not gender and not gender identity) matters or may matter, such as, potentially, a rape crisis center*? T philosopher self-selected out of philosophy, which is really terrible. It must have taken a lot of abuse for her to go as far as opting out. I don’t doubt the reality of transphobia, or the reality of its harms. But many women would self-select and have self-selected out of, for instance, rape crisis centers because policies changed from allowing admission (both as patients/clients and as staff) to such centers based on sex to allowing admission based on gender identity. Now, a job/career and a temporary refuge are not the same thing, so the comparison is limited. I think in some ways opting out of a job/career has more gravity, and in some ways opting out of a temporary refuge does. Of course professional philosophy is not a context in which sex rather than gender or gender identity matters; quite the reverse. But what I am trying to point out is the asymmetrical sympathy (I dare say himpathy, much to Manne’s chagrin, I’m sure) that is being elicited for these instances of different kinds of people self-selecting out of things that they want/need because it is just too painful to participate. Whose pain do we care about? If trans inclusion *without exception* means that a lot of women (and potentially men too) self-select out of certain things, will there be DN posts of this length and showing this level of compassion about individual instances of it? My (partial) diagnosis is that not being listened to/taken seriously is itself still tracking *sex* in these discussions.Report

Madame XY
Madame XY
Reply to  Skunk Option
2 years ago

As a practical matter, being against trans people being able to use the appropriate gendered facilities is exclusionary of their participation in workplaces and educational institutions, restricting shelter access (where should they go?) is housing exclusion, etc.

There’s a grab-bag of red herring issues among these rhetorical questions, but there is a major difference between being asked to share space with people you don’t feel entirely comfortable with and being actively excluded from that space (especially as a preemptive measure, before anyone feels uncomfortable around you).Report

Skunk Option
Skunk Option
Reply to  Madame XY
2 years ago

I will adapt your point thus, just replacing trans with female, and gender with sex.

**As a practical matter, being against female people being able to use the appropriate sexed facilities is exclusionary of their participation in workplaces and educational institutions…”**

The only difference between what you’re saying and what I’m saying is that you think that access to certain facilities should divide along gender/gender identity lines, and I think access to certain facilities should divide along sex lines. The position that access to certain facilities should divide along sex lines is no more transphobic than the reverse position is sexphobic. (I want to point out that some feminists (Raymond, Jeffries, Greer) have been outright disgusted with trans people in general and wish trans people to just go away. I think they may more generally wish to exclude trans people from workplaces and educational institutions, in short, from public life. I don’t agree with them, and I find some of their views abhorrent. It is imperative that we find ways to include trans people in public life.)

But having the right to access/being included in workplaces, educational institutions, etc., is not the same thing as having the right to decide whether toilet, etc., access within those institutions divides along gender/gender identity lines versus along sex lines.

I take your point to be that in practice, trans people would self-select out; the *effect* (if not the intent) of dividing toilet access according to sex is trans-exclusionary. But this works in reverse too: the *effect* (if not the intent) of dividing toilet access according to gender identity is female-exclusionary for many females. Why not strategize for creative solutions or compromises, then?

The main response I’ve seen to this last question, which is sincere (speaking for myself), is that the discrimination or oppression or exclusion trans people face is more grave than the discrimination or oppression or exclusion female people face. But it is not clear to me that that’s true. We need data for that. We don’t now have that data, or the data is very bad/unreliable.

Finally I will point out that female people self-select out of careers when they give birth ALL THE TIME. It is ubiquitous in society. It boggles my mind how we can see that as a natural, uninteresting, or just slightly unfortunate pattern, while seeing t philosopher’s selecting out as a terrible shame or a tragedy.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  Skunk Option
2 years ago

If you’re worried about women being scared because they seem men in bathrooms, what about passing trans men in women’s bathrooms? If you’re worried about the risk of violence, what about the risk of violence from cis men to trans women in men’s bathrooms?Report

Helen
Helen
Reply to  Skunk Option
2 years ago

You hear the voices of trans women more than trans men because you *target* trans women more. If ‘gender critical’ philosophers were consistently accusing trans men of being inherently violent rapists who need to be segregated for the ‘protection’ of cis women (the majority of whom disagree with the ‘gender critical’ position) then I imagine you’d be hearing the voices of trans men much more frequently.Report

Avalonian
2 years ago

Thanks for this, Justin, I recently had a post on the 3AM dustup with a very similar thrust: https://theavalonian.com/2019/03/26/acknowledging-suffering/. I think that mutual recognition and acknowledgement of suffering is desperately needed (though I recognize that this is easier for me, a comparatively uninvolved person, to say).

I did notice the other day that Stock, on her Medium page, had responded directly to a critic (who is trans) with the kind of empathy and acknowledgement you are calling for here: “Of course I see how my writing as I did and do makes you feel like this. I’m honestly very sorry for that. The fact that I am upsetting good people trying to live authentic lives is not at all comfortable (that’s an understatement).” https://medium.com/@kathleenstock/dear-e-j-thank-you-so-much-for-this-beautiful-honest-and-fair-minded-response-which-ill-share-f33de18c2e77

I am perfectly happy to require of Gender Critical feminists that they display this kind of sensitivity, since I think we are all so required. But let’s not forget that this is a context in which members of our profession are openly *vilifying* Stock, no matter how much sensitivity she shows or how cautious she is. So I would go a little further than you do here and say that the vilification and demonization of Stock et al has to stop. If we don’t say this, GC feminists will justifiably feel uncomfortable that men (i.e. us) are declaring that we ought to be sensitive to one targeted group but not another, and they will be understandably suspicious of the fact that the group that remains open to hate and vilification just so happens to be natal women.Report

Christa Peterson
Reply to  Avalonian
2 years ago

> But let’s not forget that this is a context in which members of our profession are openly *vilifying* Stock, no matter how much sensitivity she shows or how cautious she is.

This is a gross, propagandistic misrepresentation. None of Stock’s pieces have showed caution or sensitivity towards trans people, though I suppose you were able to dig up a single reply to a comment that looks OK.

I think it would be helpful to include how Stock actually responded to t philosopher, to hearing a trans person was leaving the discipline because of a climate she is largely responsible for. It is somewhat different from what you’ve cherrypicked!

https://medium.com/@kathleenstock/according-to-31dea246311d
>I’m a parent, and I used to be a child (well into my thirties, in fact). I know what childish, performatively passive-aggressive, “you made me do it”-style behaviour looks like.

If you are in fact willing to require people treat trans people decently, I think it would be good to actually do that instead of pretending.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  Christa Peterson
2 years ago

Finding that one person ‘childish’ and ‘performatively passive aggressive’ isn’t actually a judgment on all trans people. Let’s not pretend that how people have spoken in the heat of the argument to activists on the other side indicates their opinion of all people in X social category. (Not a general defense of Stock’s way of expressing herself on this topic.) I can see why the style of argument in t philosopher’s piece might strike people as kind of bullying (agree with me on these issues or you’re a bad person who doesn’t care about people being hurt!) and I actually agree that trans women should have full access to women’s spaces.Report

Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Pre-Candidate Trans Man
2 years ago

While I don’t agree on every individual point of her proposal for reform, t philosopher’s essay deeply resonates with me and I applaud her for writing it. I have considered leaving the profession for similar reasons. I’ll confess to being a partisan in the first-order debate, so I will respect this request not to rehearse this debate in the comments and instead engage in the question of what this incident suggests about the professional norms of philosophy.

It is telling how many reactions like this I have read in response to t philosopher’s letter: “You judge this to be a hostile work environment? Well, you judged correctly because we didn’t want you anyway!” or “Can’t stand the heat of philosophy, get out of the kitchen! Oh, so now you are questioning why we left the oven on to begin with? Good riddance!” — I am allowing myself these goofy caricatures because I am beginning to agree with the gist of comments like these. They are right. As it stands currently, philosophy really doesn’t want people like me to stay in the profession. This comment isn’t meant to have accusatory bite, but instead be a plausible reading of the facts. After all, there is a surplus of PhDs. The field might as well drive out the ‘mouthy’ ones critical of philosophy’s current professional norms for whatever reason. Under conditions where the threat of defunding the humanities looms large, philosophy as a discipline privileges perpetuating itself as it currently understands itself and this seems to come at the expense of including people like me. In the minds of some, this calculation is easily worth it and whether those ‘weeded out’ happen to disproportionately be members of marginalized groups is a neutral-to-mildly regrettable after thought. Colleagues, I hear this message loud and clear.

I think what has inspired the ire of some senior voices is an upcoming generation of people trained in philosophy willing to envision a discipline that does not make the same trade-off. They see — rightly — that the profession would look very different with a new set of norms in place. It would spell the end of philosophy (oh no!)… and the rise of philosophy* (oh yes!).Report

Mary Leng
2 years ago

[Originally posted this comment on a Facebook thread, so c&p-ing here.]

Hi Justin. On ‘Gender Critical’, you complain it isn’t accurate as all feminists are gender critical. This is a difficulty of trying to come up with a snappy term for a position. Specifically, we are gender critical in the sense that we are critical of the idea that *gender identity* is the main or even a significant axis of oppression in the system of patriarchy. On suitable other terms, you suggest ‘trans exclusionary’ is more accurate to distinguish us from other ‘trans inclusionary’ feminists. By your own principles this is not right either – if we’re talking about who gets included in the account of women as the politically relevant class when considering the forces of patriarchy, we are trans inclusive in the sense that we include trans men in this, whereas other feminists are trans exclusive in the sense of excluding trans men. So ‘trans exclusionary’ does not accurately distinguish between positions either. If you really want to frame us as the meanies who are all about excluding people, you might as well be accurate and call us ‘male exclusionary’. I would prefer to stick with ‘gender critical’.Report

PhilGrad
PhilGrad
Reply to  Mary Leng
2 years ago

To suggest that “trans-exclusionary” is a poor description because one includes trans men in the category of women is disingenuous in the extreme, (not least because trans-exclusionary rhetoric trends to treat the existence of trans men as an afterthought at best).Report

Helen
Helen
Reply to  Mary Leng
2 years ago

Misgendering trans men is not ‘trans inclusionary’. I also think it is inaccurate to label you gender critical. There are plenty of women and feminists who criticise gender roles and how gender shapes patriarchy without engaging in trans exclusionary rhetoric.Report

Max DuBoff
Max DuBoff
2 years ago

Although the recommendation not to bar good-faith philosophical discussion seems reasonable, might it make sense to bar from conferences and talks those who disrespect others, e.g. those who deadname or misgender trans folks? Indeed, a Wheaton’s Law-inspired policy, while potentially open to abuse, seems like it could help the culture of the profession if it had broad support.

On a more general note, it’s extremely disappointing to see how discriminatory the philosophical world still is. Particularly on a site like this, I would’ve expected better from the comments section.Report

Aunty Entity
Aunty Entity
Reply to  Max DuBoff
2 years ago

“On a more general note, it’s extremely disappointing to see how discriminatory the philosophical world still is. Particularly on a site like this, I would’ve expected better from the comments section.”

Oh, Max. It’s a balm to hear an honest reaction from the civilized world. I guess you’re new here. Welcome to the Thunderdome! I’m an old hand–but trust me when I say this isn’t something pontential targets ever get used to.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Max DuBoff
2 years ago

Hi, Max.

I like the sentiment of not being a dick, but the problem is that what what counts as being a dick in some contexts seems obvious to many on both sides, but their judgments differ because of precisely the background beliefs at issue.

On the one hand, we have a number of trans people and their supporters, who feel very strongly that trans women are fully women in every sense and that to do anything less than treat them that way is morally unacceptable.

On the other hand, we have a number of gender-critical feminists, who feel very strongly that trans women are *not* fully women (or, at least, that many of those who declare themselves to be women are not clearly women) and that forcing everyone to treat them as though they are women in every context is very harmful to women (and hence morally unacceptable).

Both sides of this issue make points that seem worth considering by philosophers. And those who feel very strongly that one side or the other is right naturally feel that the other side is ‘being a dick’ and hence in violation of Wheaton’s law. As so often, this is why Wheaton’s law doesn’t seem very helpful in cases where a genuine moral question is at stake. Or, rather, whoever happens to be in social ascendancy determines what counts as being a dick and everyone else grabs pitchforks with ‘Wheaton’s Law’ written on them.

Implementing your proposal of barring people from philosophy conferences if they’ve ever been found to have treated trans women as not fully women in some context would resolve the issue, but only because it takes one side of the dispute against the other and treats things that only one side would be apt to do as ‘being a dick’. Being barred from conferences, etc., is more or less the kiss of death for a professional philosopher, so adopting your suggestion might effectively settle the question within philosophy: more or less anyone left in the discipline who doubts that trans women are fully women in every respect would be forced into silence about it.

One could, similarly, resolve tensions between theists and nonbelievers by banning anyone who has engaged in religious worship or, on the other side, by banning anyone guilty of blasphemy or impiety. In fact, both these tactics have been tried. Do you see some relevant difference between this and the ban you suggest?

Maybe a good way to move this forward would be to identify a neutral principle that has sufficient clarity to determine what counts as being a dick.Report

A Trans Grad Student Who Still Believes In Rationality
A Trans Grad Student Who Still Believes In Rationality
Reply to  Max DuBoff
2 years ago

I would support removing someone from a conference if they misgender and deadname other conference participants/attenders, but nothing more than that.

Outside the context of conferences: I support disciplinary action against people who repeatedly and deliberately misgender/deadname colleagues/students who are genuinely trans, as this is harassment/abuse and ought to be treated accordingly.

And I support not publishing papers which misgender or deadname trans people, or at least requiring a revision where the misgendering/deadnaming is removed.

Beyond these, I do not support restrictions on philosophers that have to do with misgendering/deadnaming.Report

xyz grad student
xyz grad student
2 years ago

I think people are failing to recognize the extent to which this is really an empirical matter. What’s at issue is whether trans women’s access to certain spaces, which have historically been limited to natal women, is harmful to natal women. This isn’t conceptual or metaphysical. It doesn’t matter what stance we take on the existence of gender identity, or whether “woman” is a cluster concept, or whatever. It’s entirely and completely a matter of looking out into the world and seeing whether the harms claimed by gender-critical feminists are really there.

I have tried my best to keep up on this, though (1) it’s not my area — so I’m happy to be corrected — and (2) there’s still a lot of data-collecting and testing to be done in the first place. I’ve been led to conclude — again, tentatively and open to persuasion — that the harms claimed by gender-critical feminists simply don’t exist. Even in the most implausible case, which is bathroom access, folks like Lawford-Smith have strenuously defended the claim that there are harms to natal women. I think trans folks are quite right to object that the empirical claim is just super implausible, and that to continue to hammer on about it starts to seem like prejudice rather than principled dissent.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  xyz grad student
2 years ago

This is a good point. I think it’s important to distinguish between (1) advocacy for (or, inquiry into) a particular view of sex/gender, and (2) advocacy for (or, inquiry into) the advisability of particular policy choices related to sex/gender.

I don’t know if you’re right about the evidence related to the empirical issue whether the harms claimed by gender-critical feminists exist. But it seems to me that, if you are, you’re also right that trans folk are quite right to object that continued assertion of the empirical claim looks more like prejudice than principled dissent.

But it also seems to me super implausible that the conception/metaphysical claim in (1) is so settled that advocacy for a “cluster concept, or whatever” looks more like prejudice than principled dissent. As I understand many of the trans folk, they think the philosophical community should not permit (or, at least, that it is bad to engage in) such advocacy or inquiry, quite apart from whether it is connected to any policy considerations.

The race analogy Justin makes here is helpful, I think. Of course the discipline should not shut down (and there is nothing bad about engaging in) inquiry into the conceptual/metaphysical nature of race. Such an inquiry does not involve anyone’s “right to exist.” That is so even if certain policy proposals involving race are not supported by evidenceReport

xyz grad student
xyz grad student
Reply to  Andrew
2 years ago

I agree with you and Justin that the metaphysical discussion should not be shut down, and to clarify, I did not say that it is the metaphysical discussion, on its own, that “looks more like prejudice than principled dissent”. The problem is that the metaphysical discussion here — that provided by Stock, Lawford-Smith, et al. — has been in the service of the policy proposals which I did say “look more like prejudice”. It’s fine to make metaphysical claims about gender, but it is not fine to do so while in the same breath falsely claiming that trans women in bathrooms are a threat to natal women, and calling your trans woman interlocutors “he” or “male”.Report

John Collins
John Collins
Reply to  xyz grad student
2 years ago

The relevant claim is not that TWs are a threat, although the data is not yet in, beyond individual cases, which are bad enough, but that the spaces at issue shouldn’t be open to males on the mere basis of self-id, which, as proposed, will be invariant over the sincere and insincere. Shift the example from toilets in a student bar to a battered women’s shelter or prison, and the issue ought to be a no brainier.Report

xyz grad student
xyz grad student
Reply to  John Collins
2 years ago

I don’t think it’s a no brainer at all, John, because what matters is not whether it seems prima facie like it might be bad (to some people), but what the actual effects are. It may be too early to say with confidence, but I’m not at all convinced that self-ID is a harmful policy at all, even in the more controversial cases.Report

John Collins
John Collins
Reply to  xyz grad student
2 years ago

Xyz grad student: I agree only insofar as the issues are empirical, and cannot be settled a priori. In effect, though, you are saying that it might be no bad thing to give up female-only spaces, for self-id does not magically change biology, still less does it do so when the person is insincere. In point of fact, though, no women involved in the running of such spaces are so blithe, and male violence is real. Hence, it remains a no brainier if the interests of vulnerable woman are paramount.Report

Jane Clare Jones
Jane Clare Jones
Reply to  xyz grad student
2 years ago

Xyz grad student.

You mean the controversial cases like the ones where women were sexually assaulted in prison? Are you not sure that those are demonstrable harms?

Or do you mean the information we’re getting about young girls not going to schools when they have their periods, because their toilets are now gender neutral? Maybe that is not a demonstrable harm either?

Or perhaps you mean the case of the refuge in Toronto, when vulnerable women in addiction rehab checked themselves out of their program, because a fully male bodied person was put in a dorm with them. I guess that’s not a harm?

Or the women being sued for not giving waxing services to a male bodied trans women who will possibly end up bankrupted, perhaps that’s not a harm?

Or the women who will lose out on achievements in sports and sports scholarships? I’m sure they’re not being harmed.

Or the women who are presently too scared to go for their cervical smears, because they’re rape survivors and no longer feel they can guarantee seeing a female health care provider. No doubt there is no harm there either.Report

Helen
Helen
Reply to  Jane Clare Jones
2 years ago

>You mean the controversial cases like the ones where women were sexually assaulted in prison? Are you not sure that those are demonstrable harms?
Yes, male guards assaulting women in prison is a major issue.

> Or do you mean the information we’re getting about young girls not going to schools when they have their periods, because their toilets are now gender neutral? Maybe that is not a demonstrable harm either?

Do you have a source for this? Because it strikes me as absurd. I’ve used gender neutral toilets for a decade now; most offices prefer them as cheaper. Girls don’t change their tampons in front of one another, cubicles are a thing.

> Or perhaps you mean the case of the refuge in Toronto, when vulnerable women in addiction rehab checked themselves out of their program, because a fully male bodied person was put in a dorm with them. I guess that’s not a harm?

If they checked out because they had a personal prejudice against a gay woman or person of colour, would you support that too Jane?

>Or the women who will lose out on achievements in sports and sports scholarships? I’m sure they’re not being harmed.
Trans people have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2004. Not one trans person has won a single medal. This ‘advantage’ seems to exist largely in theory.

>Or the women who are presently too scared to go for their cervical smears, because they’re rape survivors and no longer feel they can guarantee seeing a female health care provider. No doubt there is no harm there either.

???? This is a flagrant lie; NHS guidelines guarantee you can choose the sex and gender of your provider.

Women have enough real problems without people like you, Jane, making more up.Report

John Collins
John Collins
Reply to  Helen
2 years ago

Jane is more than capable of speaking for herself, but let me extrapolate. To the best of my knowledge, there are no robust studies on the effects of the diminution of female-only spaces and services by which one could make an empirical predication as to the effects of the proposed changes to the GRA in relation to EA10. Indeed, the relevant variables are so diverse, it is unclear how one might properly collect the data. Still, a corollary of your view appears to be that female-only spaces are anathema or else should be governed by criteria essentially appealing to the mental states of males. I find this obtuse at best when the attention is turned to prisons, rape shelters, etc.Report

faustusnotes
Reply to  John Collins
2 years ago

This is ridiculous. Toilets everywhere are self-policing, there is no one standing at the door with the authority of the state who checks your genitals when you go in. Any time you want, John Collins, you can walk into a women’s bathroom and get up to whatever mischief you want. But we all know, from simple lived experience, that this almost never happens. This kind of panic mongering that you – and the Stocks and Lawson Smiths of the world – are doing is despicable, because we all know from long history that there is no diminution of female-only spaces and that the safety of those spaces is self policed.

What Stock has done with her campaign against changes to the GRA is make – for the first time in modern history – a proposal for the actual policing of these spaces. Of course she hasn’t thought through the policy consequences of this – she and her mates are completely unaware of the history of this debate so why would we expect that they have bothered to read up on the possible policy consequences of their prejudices? – but the only possible practical way her campaign could work is to embolden certain bigots to start policing toilets themselves. And the consequences of that will be very very very anti-feminist, and if you haven’t thought through what those consequences will be for natal women you probably should.Report

P
P
Reply to  John Collins
2 years ago

Helen is mistaken. There is some empirical data that is concerning since introduction of self-id in the UK. For example, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has been moving transwomen into women prisons since 2014 on a self-id basis, with additional individual risk assessment in place. SPS is now reviewing the practice, following a number of concerning incidents as reported here:
https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-government-accused-of-putting-women-in-scottish-prisons-at-risk-1-4937495
Note that the overwhelming majority of women in prison serve sentences for less than 12 months for non-violent offenses. Most are victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and assault. Many have PTSD and are adversely affected (including triggered) by being forced to share intimate quarters with a male-bodied individual, even when that individual is not violent – so it’s not clear why the *only* thing we should be concerned about is rise in crime (such as sexual assault).
None of this is to say that imprisoned TW are not themselves vulnerable to violence (they are) or deserve protection (they do). But admitting them into female prisons based on *self-id* (even with added risk-assessment, which many trans advocates would object to) comes at significant cost to another extremely vulnerable and marginalized population, namely the female prison population. This strikes me as a reason against adopting self-id *when it comes to prisons, at least* and for different solutions such as housing imprisoned TW in third spaces. It also shows that the impact of self-id has to be carefully evaluated case-by-case. The impact of adopting self-id for campus or coffee shop bathrooms is very different (and likely minimal) from the impact of self-id for prisons, hospitals wards, rape shelters, or sports competition.

(Also worth pointing out that the article cited above shows Helen’s assertion that the NHS guarantees choice of “sex and gender of the provider” is mistaken: “NHS Lothian and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, had said their understanding was “that the combined protections of the EA and the GRA mean that to preclude transwomen with GRCs from providing female only healthcare would require illegal discrimination and a criminal sharing of information.” I’m no lawyer but this is also my understanding of how the details (and one does have to look at the details here) of the EA and the GRA interact.)Report

xyz grad student
xyz grad student
Reply to  Helen
2 years ago

Helen — thank you. This is exactly what I’m talking about. In practice, the bogeymen conjured up by defenders of the trans-exclusionary position just don’t surface.Report

Vincent
Vincent
Reply to  Helen
2 years ago

“If they checked out because they had a personal prejudice against a gay woman or person of colour, would you support that too Jane?”

Just wanted to flag this as what seems to me a very clearly question-begging analogy, which is moreover rather insensitive to the concerns being raised. Helen, can you really not see what might be significant about a male-bodied person being present at eg a rape crisis center?Report

Faustusnotes
Reply to  John Collins
2 years ago

I would like to know how you will screen people out of these spaces. If a natal man walks into the bathroom wearing a dress are you going to ask to see his dick?

The quality of discussion of these issues is really astoundingly bad. On the one hand we have Holly Lawford Smith sneering at trans women who say they are happy to have “passed” as women and on the other we have people like Holly Lawford Smith somehow sure they can judge who is a woman and who is a man in a bathroom – presumably without sexually assaulting them.

You haven’t figured this out and you think you’re qualified to ask “what is a woman”? No wonder this stuff has to be published in a rag like quillette.

Also, as a final aside, if you think the kind of language used by stock to dismiss her opponents – quoted by Peterson above and also including things like sneering at Ichikawa ‘s sexual identity – is a model of professional behavior, your discipline is in bigger trouble than just this issue. And if you think her behavior is a model of good feminist praxis – well those of us who grew up alongside real feminists probably won’t look very kindly on your “feminism”.Report

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
Reply to  Faustusnotes
2 years ago

The level of bad faith involved on this whole conversation about bathrooms and the policing of women’s space is really staggering. Let me explain:

1. Humans are, with a very high degree of reliability, able to determine the sex of other humans in the overwhelming majority of cases just by *looking at them.* Nobody is suggesting checking people’s genitals, and its completely and utterly absurd to suggest otherwise, as is this ridiculous conceit that determining other people’s sex is some kind of complex and mysterious process. Perhaps you would like to have a word with the facial recognition software that has been accused of ‘misgendering’ by trans advocates because lo, it can tell the sex of people from their faces.
2. Up until very recently the social conventions which governed the gatekeeping around female spaces was simple, men keep out of them because they know that someone who looked male and shouldn’t be in there would be challenged.
3. If you change our social convention such that women are both instructed that people who look transparently male may in fact be women, and are further made to understand that there will be a high social sanction for ‘misgendering’ up to and possibly including some kind of aggressive response from the person being challenged, and women also no longer able to rely of female solidarity around this, women will no longer feel able to challenge male people in their spaces. Ergo, the social protocols that keep male people out of female spaces will break down. Add to this the fact that in many situations where bathroom provision is being changed to accommodate trans people, the male toilet stays the same, and the female toilet becomes gender neutral, hence, male people are explicitly being given the right to access those spaces.Report

xyz grad student
xyz grad student
Reply to  Jane Jones
2 years ago

Jane, you seem like you’re flatly denying the existence of so-called “passing” trans people, which seems totally wrong.

Also, hang on, what about the argument that transgender reinforces harmful gender stereotypes? I’m not sure whether you hold that view or not, so please don’t take me to be putting words in your mouth. But it seems like a consequence of your argument here that defenders of the trans-exclusionary position can no longer use the gender-stereotypes argument against transgender, since here you’re arguing that we should *keep in place* the existing gender stereotypes. (“If you change our social convention such that women are both instructed that people who look transparently male may in fact be women….”)Report

Ninna
Ninna
Reply to  xyz grad student
2 years ago

Passing is also not a binary phenomenon and the threshold shifts with every interaction*, which makes it nearly impossible to formulate a metric for judging whether any given trans person “genuinely” passes as cisgender that would not result in a large number of false-positive identifications of cis people as trans if systematised. “People can always tell” is a wishful matra, and when repeated too often a trans person like myself starts hearing in it the deep paranoia and resentment that is counterpart to the disgust with which people respond to trans people they deem not to pass.

* Often for the most arbitrary of reasons if examined. For example, in many instances gender incongruent physical tells can result in a trans person being perceived as a homosexual cis person instead of outing a trans person as trans.Report

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
Reply to  xyz grad student
2 years ago

How do you propose we keep people who look male out of women’s spaces if we decide we will reconstruct social mores around the idea that women cannot challenge anyone in their spaces on the basis of perceiving them to be male?

Some trans women pass. Not many. Most of us have no problem with there being a small number of passing trans women in our spaces. We have a problem with having to pretend that someone like the person who attacked Julie Bindel the other night is a woman and letting that person in our intimate space. Because if we have to accept that person in our space, we cannot keep any male people out of our spaces, at all.Report

faustusnotes
Reply to  Jane Jones
2 years ago

Jane Jones, it’s good that you bring up facial recognition software, because it shows the problem very well. Facial recognition software can “correctly” assign gender with 95% sensitivity. If we assume it also has 95% specificity (papers don’t report this, I wonder why?) then we can see what a can of worms you’re planning to open with your ideas. Transgender people are very low prevalence – perhaps 1 in 100. We can use this information and Bayes’ Theorem to calculate that only about 20% of the people that the system identifies as transgender are actually transgender – the rest are misclassified. So if you were to set up a facial recognition system to let women into female-only spaces, 80% of the people it refused to allow in would be actually natal females.

Do you think you’re better than this? Because with a low prevalence phenomenon like trans people, you need to be very very close to 100% accurate to guarantee that most of the people you say are trans are actually trans. [But none of your philosopher buddies have bothered to think this issue through, have you?]

And let’s be clear here, it’s you and your gender “critical” friends who want to reorganize social mores, not the trans activists who want to use the bathroom of their choice. Up until now the use of bathrooms has always been self-policed, with people able to use the bathroom that they identify with and the other users of that bathroom choosing to call the police if that makes them uncomfortable. You want to change this law to make it a rule that even if no one is made uncomfortable, certain people are not allowed in certain bathrooms. You want the full force of the state to intervene in what has always been a process governed by social norms. Of course the police won’t be there, so your standby position is mobs of anti-trans vigilantes kicking people they *think* aren’t women out of bathrooms.

The media is full of stories of what happens to black americans when white americans are convinced they’re up to no good and call the police. How do you think it’s going to work out for trans women if anxious and sexist white women start calling the police on them? And I’ll bet you a groat that when you screw up – and you will – and call the cops on a natal female you thought was trans, the chances are strong that it will be a poor woman of colour. After all, you guys are convinced Caster Semenya’s a man, why should we think you’ll be any better behaved about poor black women in the bathroom than you are about high-achieving black women in public?Report

A small point
A small point
Reply to  faustusnotes
2 years ago

I think what Jane means is that in a sense the social mores governing bathroom use have been informally policed by others–not just self-policed. For instance I have a couple of friends who are somewhat butch lesbians who absolutely have been called called out by other women in women’s restrooms–“This is the women’s room.” Obviously they were misgendered. (And this was years and years ago, before trans women were on cis people’s minds.) You can think of this as a kind of informal policing of people’s bathroom use, and presumably it’s been going on forever–after all, people do sometimes enter the wrong bathroom! (I’ve done it myself.)

Jane is asking what will happen if cis women learn that they are no longer able to correct a man [i.e., someone that they perceive as a man, whether or not s/he is a man] entering a women’s bathroom.

I’m not sure there’s actually cause for concern here but just wanted to make clear what her concern seemed to be.Report

JT
JT
Reply to  xyz grad student
2 years ago

What’s more, in making the empirical claim the GC crowd also never seems to want to acknowledge the very well documented violence that transwomen often face when forced to use men’s bathrooms, locker rooms, etc. The fact is that it is way more dangerous to be trans than it is to be a ciswoman. Conveniently, this inconvenient fact is never really acknowledge or discussed by the trans-exclusionary crowd.Report

Helen
Helen
Reply to  JT
2 years ago

Or the fact that sharing spaces – as is done in multiple countries who have self id – and has been the case in Britain since 2010 (and in practice for decades) has empirically led to zero increase in crime?Report

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
Reply to  Helen
2 years ago

Self ID has not been the case in Britain since 2010. Where are you getting your legal interpretations from??? Stonewall?Report

Doudline
Doudline
Reply to  xyz grad student
2 years ago

On the contrary, I think that centering the “empirical matter” begs the question entirely.

One would not support banning women of a certain ethnicity, say, from gender-segregated spaces even if they were shown to pose an elevated risk of assault to other women. Why? Because women have an intrinsic right (qua women) to access these spaces, and to ban them on the basis of ethnic membership would be a form of collective punishment; one’s actions as an individual are the only legitimate motive to strip one of such a right.

By, again, centering the “empirical matter”, you are begging the question that trans women are not actually women and thus do not possess the same rights qua women as cis women do — otherwise one cannot defend their collective punishment no matter how badly the collective behaves.Report

Amy Olberding
Amy Olberding
2 years ago

I have a take on this that I expect can be easily pilloried but since I haven’t seen anyone else bring it up, here goes…

One more discouraging aspect of these debates to me is how their implications launch out into my life at large. I often feel that the rhetoric of the debate demands much more than that we take a “side” or, rather, that what is required to be on a “side” is to exile, despise, and generally remove from our respect those on the other “side.” E.g., some of the rhetoric seems to imply that one cannot be “trans inclusive” and simultaneously respect Kathleen Stock as a fellow philosopher, feminist, and, most broadly, person. To take this side is to commit to not respecting those on the other side, where “respect” just means to treat with ordinary courtesy, to assume that the other morally cares and struggles, to assume that the other suffers. So, to take the “side” is to take up a kind of arms against the other side, not only disagreeing but separating myself from those on it, treating them as enemies it would be traitorious to engage as people both serious and sincere, as if one is required to be unkind to “them” precisely to demonstrate one’s kindness to “us,” those on the “side” one takes. (And, to be clear, I do mean this to be reversible with the idea that whatever “side” one takes, the other “side” is to be removed from the scope of one’s respect.)

But if this is required, I just can’t do it. It’s possible that this sort of dividing off is meant to be only a professional dividing off, where closing people out of the scope of my respect is confined to an exercise I undertake professionally – it’s a philosopher-to-philosopher norm not a person-to-person norm. But the rhetoric seems to me to imply a lot more than that. Put plainly, when I read conversations that morally monster people on the “sides” here, I have to assume that those engaged in the monstering would find my personal life utterly awash in monsters. Everyone in this debate is to the left of most of the people with whom I spend my life. Thus, e.g., if I am meant to send Kathleen Stock, as a person, beyond the pale, I have to send almost everyone I know there too.

If my Facebook feed is indication, there are philosophers whose lives really do engage only those who share their own moral and political commitments. But I assume that there are others like me as well, people who have all sorts of kin and companions who operate to the right of everyone engaging these debates. And who feel alarmed that the interpersonal attitude we are encouraged to take up in these professional debates is an attitude impossible to adopt in life at large, barring a willingness to sever ourselves from (nearly) everyone we care about and with whom we spend our lives.

All of this is perhaps a roundabout way of saying that the disregard of civil norms in these conversations is not confined to these conversations’ subject matter. “Civility” is regularly derided, I know, but one of the things incivility is being used to signal across these conversations is just who among us can be tolerated among us, with incivility being a way to say that “these people” are pushed out beyond the pale, that we hold “these people” in contempt. We don’t count ourselves bound to them and we actively unbind from them by treating them or speaking of them in ways colleagues do not treat colleagues. But since these are not just colleagues but also people, the concern is that there are much, much wider normative claims being implicitly made here, ones about ethics in relationships, in one’s sociality, and so forth.

I realize this may be an idiosyncratic reaction, but I raise it because it does in fact bother me a great deal. There’s the dissonance entailed in realizing that I can have more humane conversations with my rural conservative friends amidst profoundly deeper moral disagreements than I could expect with philosophers whose political distance from me is comparably microscopic. And there’s the alienation of realizing that some philosophers would find my life, or me, morally monstrous because I decline to purify the company I keep to those whose views mirror my own.

I know some might say that this is only a professional issue, one that concerns who we platform. But it seems to me it long ago went beyond formal platforms and concerns who we behaviorally “platform” as people to be treated with dignity, kindness, and respect. And since we each as individual people must adopt habits and make choices about how we “platform” others for this in ordinary life, the implications of all this refuse, for me, to stay contained.

Here’s one of the odder aspects of this for me: I know that if I were to post on Facebook right now a giant “Fuck off, you miserable aching asshole!” comment about some of the philosophers engaging in this debate, I could expect loads of “likes” and social approval from professional peers, probably lots of elaboration on the original insult into ever more creative forms of mockery and scorn. The people who populate the rest of my life, in contrast, would receive such a remark with confused horror and would wonder why I was being so mean. Actually, they’d likely think I’m having an aneurism. The dissonance in this is becoming hard to bear. And one of these communities is experientially far more conducive to misanthropy than another.

I apologize for the length of this…Report

Trans grad student
Trans grad student
Reply to  Amy Olberding
2 years ago

Staying “neutral” in this debate is in itself a political commitment and it is naive to think otherwise. Moreover, staying “neutral” is not a privilege that some of us are afforded. It is sad that decrying bigotry makes you uncomfortable but if you read t philosopher’s letter you will see that being expected to tolerate bigoted views in her professional life and professional spaces was exactly what drove her from the discipline. I suspect you are the type of person she sees as complicit in driving her out.Report

Amy Olberding
Amy Olberding
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

Trans grad student, I regret enormously that t philosopher has left the field and the experiences that prompted it. One of my concerns is precisely that if it becomes normalized to use abusive or dehumanizing rhetoric to decry colleagues, the ill effects of such practices will not be evenly distributed, but will fall hardest on students like t philosopher.Report

Trans grad student
Trans grad student
Reply to  Amy Olberding
2 years ago

What a strange but fantastic coincidence that the path of least resistance (for you) also happens to be the path that most protects vulnerable groups.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Trans grad student
2 years ago

When you decide to treat any kind of debate as bigotry, you are setting yourself up for failureReport

Amy Olberding
Amy Olberding
Reply to  Amy Olberding
2 years ago

Shelley Tremain wrote to me privately to note that my remark about the aneurism will sound ableist so I just want to say sorry for that. Maybe there’s a lot of this sort of thing going on behind the scenes, people emailing each other privately to express reservations, objections, and so on in a friendly, instructive way – if so, the field may be nicer and more humane than our public face would suggest. Anyway, just wanted to post this since it was all done privately and both the correction and the generosity of the gesture are important to me.Report

Helen
Helen
Reply to  Amy Olberding
2 years ago

You’re asking trans individuals to remain civil towards people who are factually dangerous to them. I don’t know how much you know about the ‘gender critical’ position but the leaders advocate some extremely vile viewpoints; up to and including removing human rights protections for trans people (Hungerford) and advocating for trans people to be subject to conversion therapy (Jeffreys, plus most that I’ve spoken to informally). Would you also demand that a gay woman be polite to a philosopher who was – politely, civilly – advocating for her to lose her rights, be excluded, be subject to violence and ultimately be unmade through psychological torture?Report

Skef
Skef
Reply to  Helen
2 years ago

> You’re asking trans individuals to remain civil towards people who are factually dangerous to them.

This is wrong, and how it is wrong is an important aspect of her point. Nothing Olberding says in her comment puts requirements on trans individuals or any specific sub-group of philosophers.

Her point is about the requirements on taking sides. It could be simultaneously OK for trans people in the field to not remain civil towards those they see as set against their interests and that cis people in the field not be normatively called on to find the views or behavior of those on one or another of the sides of that disagreement unacceptable.

I’m gay. I think it would be wrong and arguably oppressive to ask me to attend a social function after a homophobic talk, or a talk that otherwise argued against my interests as a gay person. Indeed, I shouldn’t have to socialize with someone who has done that in other contexts. I shouldn’t be required to attend the talk itself, or sanctioned for speaking out about it in strong and/or emotional terms. There was probably a time within the past couple decades when politeness and feigned charity would have been expected of me, and my career might have suffered if I acted otherwise. That was wrong, and it’s a good thing that it’s over.

What has changed, and what from all appearances is tearing the profession apart, is the expectation that *everyone*, in relation to certain issues, have strong condemning views and speak out in these ways. This is probably driven less by changes in the profession than by larger social changes, which have made work environments into something like an extension of social media.

In 1995, say, I could be angry and dismissive about what I saw as dangerously mistaken views without putting any strong requirements on those around me. In 2019 I can’t. (Well — here I ignore the fact that the window in which anyone cared what a merely gay man had to say lasted maybe 15 years. You know what I mean.) That’s weird and unexpected and it changes the nature of the debate and the responsibilities of the parties to the debate.

Olberding is not saying that trans people need to act a certain way. She is questioning why everyone needs to. That is a good question that even the personally afflicted and threatened should be asking. Is there any room for those who don’t share your anger, and if not how is anything worthy of being called “debate” on those issues even possible?Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Amy Olberding
2 years ago

Dear Amy Olberding:

Thank you very much for posting the long comment. I agree wholeheartedly. I, too, have been deeply dismayed for years at the black-and-white thinking some of my peers in the discipline have been engaging in on a growing range of issues, even going as far as to suggest that people not be engaged with on account of their views.

I can’t think of anything more hurtful to philosophy and its purposes than to think, talk and act this way. Why are we here in this discipline at all? What’s the point of the work we do? We are here, or at least should be here, because we want to sort out the answers to some difficult questions, and we have enough intellectual humility to realize that we can’t do that effectively unless we listen charitably to the arguments and objections of our interlocutors. We are also here because, I hope, we see that the world will be a better place if we help spread the practice of resolving issues this way: not by screaming, not by socially ostracizing people or trying to destroy their lives, not by trying to intimidate people into silence when they have something to say against us, but by treating each other (and _especially_ those who disagree with us and are prepared to tell us why) as human beings deserving of respect.

Sure, some of these issues can get heated, and the discussions can get under our skin. That’s a sure sign that the things we’re talking about matter, and it’s a normal reaction when something you hold dear is questioned. But without that, there can be no philosophy. What should bind us together is a willingness to see those conversations through while stepping out of our entrenched positions to see the matter as objectively as we can. We should be thanking our interlocutors on the issues, not trying to run them out of the profession.

Thank you again for giving me hope that enough of us still care about what philosophy is.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
2 years ago

Appreciating the specific harms against those who identify as transgender is going to be very difficult for most philosophers. The small numbers distinguish this issue from those of other groups that find the climate of philosophy unwelcoming. Likely, only 1 out of 100 are transgender, and only 1 out of 10 has a close friend or family member who is (https://www.google.com/amp/s/fivethirtyeight.com/features/most-americans-say-they-dont-know-a-transgender-person-but-many-of-them-probably-do/amp/). I am in the latter group, and I am still learning, still making mistakes. Exposure is important for understanding, but more difficult in this case. Much of the focus is on the big harms (e.g. assault), but small frequent harms (e.g. the above, but also things like being socially excluded due to fear/disgust) can be harder to manage, in certain ways. It is worth keeping in mind that philosophy is perceived as less welcoming to those of underrepresented groups not just by those who identify as transgender, but by women, non-binary/gender queer, low SES, LGBQA, those with one or more disabilities, and those who identify as Black/African American (this is separate from how comfortable they find themselves to be in philosophy): https://www.dropbox.com/s/o70ungimoi199sl/diversity-inclusivity-survey%20%283%29.pdf?dl=0 . Yet, the average value provided by those who identify as transgender is quite low, between “very unwelcoming” and “somewhat unwelcoming.” In contrast, men find philosophy to be between “neither welcoming nor unwelcoming” and “somewhat welcoming” to those of underrepresented groups. This difference is worth keeping in mind. Understanding what it is like requires time and effort, as well as an open mind. From these numbers it looks like most of us just aren’t there yet, and could try a bit harder.Report

a quick point
a quick point
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
2 years ago

“Appreciating the specific harms against those who identify as transgender is going to be very difficult for most philosophers. The small numbers distinguish this issue from those of other groups that find the climate of philosophy unwelcoming.”
Just because there are more black people than transgender people doesn’t mean that the average (read: white, cis) philosopher is more likely to know a black philosopher than a transgender philosopher. I’ve actually known more transgender philosophers than black philosophers.Report

Ash
Ash
2 years ago

To comment on just one choice you make in your response:

There is no perfect term for the trans-exclusionary/gender critical position; at a minimum you might think “trans woman exclusionary radical feminist” is more accurate. More clumsy too though, and I like the balance you strike, of using the term “trans-exclusionary radical feminist” while not using the acronym.

I think what you said about the acronym (that it “has a punchy, vulgar feel to it”, thus lending itself to being used as a term of abuse) is just right. Those who defend using the term on the basis of its descriptive accuracy should presumably be at least as happy with the spelled out version.Report

First Year Theorist
First Year Theorist
2 years ago

Hi Justin,

Thanks for taking the time to write a long and thoughtful post. I know especially given your views it is probably hard to articulate space down the middle, because there are some normative commitments around language that will always be offensive to the other side.

So for instance, your use of the term “trans-exclusionary” seems to you to simply be a fact; GCF, of course, perceive that to be not only a hostile term, but also a descriptively false one (see comments above).

The same goes for the other side. When a GC feminist refers to a trans woman as male, that person is not intending to cause offense or harm – merely to describe the world as objectively as possible given metaphysical priors. Of course, a trans woman reads that as hostile and also false.

(I personally, am very sympathetic to maintain a male/female distinction, if only because I think it is key for transgender people to get the health care they need and deserve. For instance, see this very sad case of a transgender person giving birth to a still-born baby because this person was marked “male” instead of “female” in the health records: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2019/05/16/pregnant-transgender-man-births-stillborn-baby-hospital-missed-labor-signs/3692201002/)

But of course, in a conversation where the language is so poisonous, it’s very difficult for us to see these acts – using “trans exclusionary” for GCFs or “male” for trans women – as not in bad faith.

Secondly, as a political theorist, I want to reiterate an above point regarding the importance of empirics, but I want to argue for a slightly different take. It’s not that empirics about “future events” (what will happen when self-id becomes law?) is the driving force of these discussions; I think it’s rather empirics about who *is* trans and what hazards they’re facing that motivates different opinions. A lot of the work being done in these conversations is on the basis of our “empirical priors” – who do we think is *more* vulnerable? Natal women or trans women? Who we think is more at risk does a great deal of heavy lifting, I think, in determining which arguments resonate more.

And to be clear, the evidence is really *not* settled. We have some statistics on transgender people, and they’re dire, but they’re also frankly the result of shoddy work. A lot of them are self-identification online surveys, with no control group. And a lot of the rhetoric about trans people in general focuses on a very small group of trans people who have a number of intersectional components impacting their life outcomes, that is: poor black trans women who have sex with men and often work in the sex trade. These people are **insanely** vulnerable. People in the sex trade are vulnerable to abuse, black people are vulnerable to structural injustice, black males are especially vulnerable to violence, black males who have sex with males face social stigma, black women are vulnerable to domestic violence (56% have experienced it!) — how much does being trans add on top of this? We don’t know; our research isn’t good enough.

For more info, here’s a great and pro-trans autostraddle article on the rhetoric around these trans women: https://www.autostraddle.com/not-just-murder-victims-a-plea-on-trans-day-of-visibility-415642/

It seems obvious (to me at least) that this person is more vulnerable than the average white, middle-class, straight or lesbian woman in the academy, but is this the right comparison to be making?

That woman in the academy is often not comparing herself to the black trans person engaged in sex work, but rather to the middle or upper class white, previously ‘straight’ male who transitioned late in life – late enough to gain the professional and economic benefits of being male, and usually to have profited off of female labour in the form of a standard heterosexual household. Pippa Bunce, who dresses masculine one day and feminine the other day but won an award for “Women in Business”, is I think the archetypical example of this, though I think Alex Drummond is another public figure who is commonly referred to.

Finally, I would also like to add that the gender identity discussion hits home for some feminists too not because of the vulnerability of trans women versus cis women, but because of the vulnerability of another group altogether: teenage females. Having suffered a social-contagion + internalized homophobia induced eating disorder myself at 17 (and was it ever a bitch to get rid of; I didn’t get treatment until 25, and at 28 I still find myself in therapy), I worry a lot about what impact gender identity and body modification rhetoric has on someone who was like me – a teenage female looking desperately for a way out. We know some (currently) small percentage of trans men have detransitioned and made the eating disorder comparisons, and we worry about that population. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness; if we’re seeing a new manifestation of the body dysmorphia, self-loathing, and social emulation that affects so many females, we owe it to them in their vulnerability to investigate.Report

xyz grad student
xyz grad student
Reply to  First Year Theorist
2 years ago

A quick correction — as far as I know, Pippa Bunce does not claim to be a woman or to be transgender. And news reports (I can dig them up if desired) quoted multiple transgender activists criticizing the decision to award Bunce as a woman. As for Alex Drummond, if we’re referring to the same person, what’s so objectionable about her that wouldn’t be for any natal woman with a beard (they do, of course, exist)?Report

FYT
FYT
Reply to  xyz grad student
2 years ago

Thanks for the correction regarding some trans activists’ pushback. I would love to see the links. From what I can tell, Mx Bunce does label him/herself trans. See: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.ft.com/content/08f4b532-70c8-11e5-9b9e-690fdae72044

Also, I don’t think this has been posted anywhere yet and it’s a useful addition to the discussion, especially regarding naming: https://janeclarejones.com/2019/06/09/women-and-philosophy-a-reflection-on-recent-events/

A taste: “This, among many reasons, is one of my objections to the label TERF, or even, in Justin’s amendment, to calling us ‘trans-exclusive.’ It centres our position on the effect it has on trans women, and hence refuses to grant recognition that we are concerned about the definition of women and the functioning of female spaces because we care about female people. That is, calling us ‘trans exclusive’ is to refuse our intent to define ourselves through the act of centering ourselves, and to define us solely on the basis of the effect we have on male-born people. It is not then, as Christa Peterson claims ‘camouflage,’ it is, rather, refusing to allow women to be reduced to agents of male service, which is, in fact, the core mechanism of patriarchy”Report

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
2 years ago

I posted this on a Facebook thread, but I’ll post it here too:
If you want to have a snappy term to use as a contrast for “gender critical,” you could perhaps use “sex critical.” I take it that the view you’re calling “trans inclusive” is critical of the claim that there should be any sex-based rights or protections. You could also use the term “female exclusionary.” The view you’re calling “trans inclusive” is, of course, female exclusionary insofar as it holds that trans men (who are female) are not included in the category of “woman.”Report

Madame XY
Madame XY
Reply to  Molly Gardner
2 years ago

This claim traffics in false contrasts and is quite simply untrue. People who are inclusive of trans people often are in favour of sex-based rights, as evidenced by the considerable litigation to give trans people nondiscrimination rights under current court decisions of Titles VII and IX in the US. They are against twisting the definition of sex to exclude trans people from rights, but many would agree that sex is a useful if somewhat nuanced and messy concept, at least legally.

And many groups I’ve seen that welcome both cis and trans women have said they welcome trans men as well. The only people I’ve seen explicitly excluded from these spaces are cis men.Report

Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Reply to  Molly Gardner
2 years ago

I am not a female on any politically interesting account of female.Report

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  Pre-Candidate Trans Man
2 years ago

My point was that the view Justin calls “trans inclusive” is actually exclusionary insofar as it excludes trans men from the category of “women.” If, as you suggest, it also excludes trans men from the category of “female,” then it is all the more exclusionary–you are making my point for me, right?Report

powerless grad student
powerless grad student
Reply to  Molly Gardner
2 years ago

why on earth would we call a view exclusionary in virtue of “excluding” people from membership in a category they vigorously deny belonging toReport

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  powerless grad student
2 years ago

Because it does, in fact, exclude them from that category. You might be suggesting that “exclusionary” has negative connotations, and that we should therefore reserve “exclusionary” for views that do *bad* things, not for views that do *good* things. But if that were true, you can see why it would then be a bit disrespectful to call gender critical feminists “trans exclusionary.”Report

powerless grad student
powerless grad student
Reply to  Molly Gardner
2 years ago

Ordinary language intuitions only go so far, but I don’t think it does exclude them, in the same way that I am not “excluded” from counting as a dog and my dog is not “excluded” from counting as a chair. I don’t hear “exclude” as the term-negation of “include”. Maybe you do.

In any case, there is obvious middle-ground between “exclude means not include” and “exclude means something bad”, viz. “exclude means not include when inclusion is politically at issue” or even “exclude means not include when those in question prefer inclusion”. Perhaps sometimes it is just to exclude people from membership in a category they would like to be members of.

This is in fact what “TERF” was coined to do: neutrally lay out the debate between two camps within radical feminism who differed on this issue, without prejudging it. It hasn’t become a slur just because people who use it are sometimes mean, any more than “segregationist” has become a slur in the several decades since anyone could reasonably describe the politics of segregation while remaining neutral about which side was right. In the 1940s if you supported Jim Crow you were a segregationist because you took sides in a political debate that was treated as live by those with power, and now if you think we should bring back Jim Crow you are a segregationist and you suck and people will surely be mean to you on twitter. Nevertheless, “segregationist” describes your view.Report

Josh
Josh
Reply to  Molly Gardner
2 years ago

Because one view excludes them from categories they want to be included in, and the other includes them from categories they want to be in.Report

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  Josh
2 years ago

In any case, it is not true that the sole concern of gender critical feminists is to exclude trans women from female spaces. Gender critical feminists are also concerned about other effects of a view that takes gender to be innate–effects such as chest binding in teenage girls and the growing number of detransitioners who say that they were wrongly led to believe that transitioning would help them overcome trauma, anxiety, and depression. To capture these broader concerns it might make more sense to represent the debate in terms of a “gender critical” versus a “sex critical” view.Report

powerless grad student
powerless grad student
Reply to  Josh
2 years ago

Molly–who in the world thinks that gender is innate? That is bananas. There is basically no kind of feminism that thinks that, which is why “gender critical” misleadingly fails to distinguish the view from any other kind of feminism. As for the detransitioners, they are a very small percentage of people who transition and the medical establishment is pretty much unequivocal on this issue. At this point your definition of gender critical = claiming that a feature of all feminism is unique to your brand, and anti-vax-esque medical skepticism. I take Mary Daly and Shulamith Firestone far too seriously to let this characterization be the successor to their trans-exclusive but nevertheless genuinely *radical* feminsm.Report

powerless grad student
powerless grad student
Reply to  Josh
2 years ago

See Julia Serano on the “detransitioner” scare (largely the product of Jesse Signal’s deeply irresponsible reporting). She’s a biology PhD, but don’t take her word for her: the piece is full of links.

https://medium.com/@juliaserano/detransition-desistance-and-disinformation-a-guide-for-understanding-transgender-children-993b7342946eReport

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  Josh
2 years ago

My understanding was that what I’m calling the “sex critical” view (or what Justin is calling the “trans-inclusive view”) holds that gender–or more precisely, gender-identity–is innate: it is a feature of the brain you are born with. Isn’t that the view expressed in the article you just linked to? Here’s a quote from that article: “According to the UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, ‘Children as young as 18 months old have articulated information about their gender identity and gender expression preferences.’ By the ages of three and four, children are already displaying preferences in gender expression and identity. Indeed, this is the age that many transsexuals report first knowing that they should be the other gender.” The gender critical view is critical of the idea that you can have this kind of “built-in gender,” and the “sex critical” view, I take it, is not. Is that an incorrect characterization of the “sex critical”/”trans inclusive” view?Report

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  Molly Gardner
2 years ago

Also, one more quick point about which of the two views should be called “exclusionary.” A case can be made that the view Justin calls “inclusive” not only excludes trans men (who, I readily grant, do not want to be included anyway), but also excludes many lesbians who *want* to be included in the category of “women. ” It excludes these lesbians if (1) it takes identifying with a certain set of gender attributes to be both a necessary and sufficient condition for being a woman and (2) these lesbians do not identify with those gender attributes.Report

Helen
Helen
Reply to  Molly Gardner
2 years ago

Agreeing with your terminology means agreeing trans men are female and thus tacitly invalidating them; so, no.Report

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
Reply to  Helen
2 years ago

Trans men are female otherwise they wouldn’t be trans. This conversation will get no where if we can’t agree to be honest about the facts. This is the whole problem here.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Helen
2 years ago

But many of them have penises and testes. How are they female?Report

EM
EM
Reply to  krell_154
2 years ago

Testes? Really? If a trans man has testes, it’s because he’s coincidentally intersex and has nothing to do with being trans.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  EM
2 years ago

my bad, you’re rightReport

Madame XY
Madame XY
Reply to  EM
2 years ago

EM, do you realize that many intersex people who do not accept their sex assigned at birth also consider themselves trans? It’s often much easier to access transition care that is not in the direction of one’s sex assigned at birth as a trans person than as an intersex person. Speaking from direct experience here.Report

Ed
Ed
2 years ago

I got the impression from t philosopher’s piece that they have to put up with a lot of skeptical questions about their gender in _informal_ interactions with philosophers. And I got the impression that they have to put up with such questions far more frequently than people who think they have racial, religious, class etc. identities have to put up with skeptical questions about these categories.

If that’s part of the normal experience of trans philosophers in the profession, I think we can agree with t philosopher that it’s annoying, exhausting, potentially even damaging professionally (“what? a REAL philosopher would find it in them to engage always in these intrinsically interesting questions!”), and just plain fucked up. It’s not something that should continue if it’s happening, which I’m sure it is, because philosophers aren’t the most well-adjusted socially.

But I also get the impression from t philosopher’s piece, and discussion around these topics more generally, that a number of individuals would prefer that skeptical questions about gender identity aren’t asked at all, including in _formal_ venues like journals, books, and other professional outlets. And they’d prefer this even though no one tolerates such bans on asking skeptical questions about race, class, etc. No one in our profession should agree with such a suggestion.

So I’m on board with a kind of “see something/say something” response that Justin recommends. I’m going to tell my colleagues to stop pestering trans folk at the post-conference pub, hike, or whatever. But I’m not going to tell anyone which questions are appropriate for philosophical investigation in proper scholarly channels.Report

Madame XY
Madame XY
Reply to  Ed
2 years ago

For most trans people in philosophy, the impression that often comes across is that no one is interested in what you have to say unless you are defending your existence. One of my friends even had her transition used as an example in a class discussion of the mind-body problem. That is not to say that other minorities don’t have to deal with such cringeworthy stuff, but there is a lot of low-level, constant aggression directed at trans people in university settings. Add to that, people starting transition are uniquely vulnerable, as they often haven’t developed the skills to cope with discrimination; realizing one of the distinguished older professors now sees you as a woman because he is sexually harassing you is a hard situation to find oneself in.

As for the intellectual validity of asking questions about gender identity, a lot of the anger comes from the fact that most of the discussion from cis scholars consists of horribly misrepresentative stereotypes, some of them recycled from second-wave feminism and which I personally have been hearing for decades, since my teens. Trans scholars have interesting, really nuanced things to say about gender, though often not in the usual places philosophers look. I think the field would be really helped if cis people ceded more of the lead to trans scholars. Trans scholars are not a monolith, and you can find a diversity of views only if you listen to them.Report

Ed
Ed
Reply to  Madame XY
2 years ago

“For most trans people in philosophy, the impression that often comes across is that no one is interested in what you have to say unless you are defending your existence. One of my friends even had her transition used as an example in a class discussion of the mind-body problem.”

That’s awful. And I can totally see it happening. Philosophers really do quite often live up to the stereotype of being horribly out of sync socially, professionally, etc. Trans folk shouldn’t have to deal with that kind of bullshit. The point of your first paragraph is very well taken.

But I have to push back on what you’re suggesting in the next.

“Trans scholars have interesting, really nuanced things to say about gender, though often not in the usual places philosophers look. I think the field would be really helped if cis people ceded more of the lead to trans scholars.”

Maybe. But that’s to be sorted out in the scholarly process of refereeing, conferencing, and the like. It’s not for anyone to decide outside the context of the scholarly process.Report

Madame XY
Madame XY
Reply to  Ed
2 years ago

“Maybe. But that’s to be sorted out in the scholarly process of refereeing, conferencing, and the like. It’s not for anyone to decide outside the context of the scholarly process.”

The problem is that institutional access through scholarly processes have historically excluded trans scholars. Many of the seminal texts in trans studies, taught in university classes, have been authored outside of academia. As with any studies based on identity, I hope you could agree that the system would appear broken when those who actually have that identity aren’t participating for the most part in the formal channels of the scholarly literature. The work that people within the community are formulating and reading is vastly different from what I see presented to/by cis scholars. Maybe it will change as trans scholars mature, but why accede to that institutional failure if the most interesting stuff is being written outside academia?Report

Ed
Ed
Reply to  Madame XY
2 years ago

Thanks for continuing the exchange. Two quick points:

“The problem is that institutional access through scholarly processes have historically excluded trans scholars.”

You’re probably right – they’ve been in some sense excluded historically. But in my experience in the profession, things have been changing. Has it been quick? No, of course not, nothing in academia is quick. But change is happening, which brings me to an answer to your rhetorical question:

“Maybe it will change as trans scholars mature, but why accede to that institutional failure if the most interesting stuff is being written outside academia?”

Because working within the formal mechanisms of the scholarly process preserves its integrity _in the long run_.

Compare to the situation in philosophy of race. Many of the most interesting ideas regarding race were shared outside the academy for decades, while within the academy, lots of nonsense surrounding race was published and debated. But now debates in the philosophy of race are rich and thriving, with plenty of interesting contributions from scholars who didn’t self-select themselves out of contributing for not having enough skin in the game racially, as you seem to to be suggesting cis scholars do now in philosophy of gender.Report

Madame XY
Madame XY
Reply to  Ed
2 years ago

Ed, I’m not saying that cis scholars should “self-select themselves out” of philosophical questions of gender, just that if they work in the field, they need to take heed of the actual contributions of trans scholars, who, in addition to the burgeoning number of grad students (who themselves face many institutional obstacles), include a number of people writing outside the mainstream, formal system. Most of the work I’ve read by cis scholars has been so off-base with basic elements of trans experience that I wonder whether they’re conducting scholarship in the mode of WIlliam Prescott, who wrote histories of Mexico and Peru without bothering to visit either country.

I do not share your optimism that leaving the formal mechanisms to gatekeep the system will eventually produce adequate scholarship within the formal channels. What little formal scholarship we have by trans scholars has often been championed by other trans people, in contrast to the mealy-mouthed support our self-stylized “allies” pretend to offer.

Besides, I don’t think it’s entirely outside the realm of possibility that with the continued tacit support of trans-antagonistic and -exclusionary ideas, which provide intellectual cover for the rollback of trans rights, there may not be a trans community in the future to provide these scholars. I’m not so alarmist to think that this is how things are trending, but I do think it could happen with the current rollback interacting with additional setbacks to the community. A previous rollback of trans rights in the 1980s in combination with the AIDS crisis left those of us who came of awareness as trans in the 1990s and early 2000s in a community that had been erased. The only reason there are a community of openly trans people is that the internet happened to come at an opportune time. Historical memory is relatively short, however, even among trans people themselves, so that may not be readily apparent to someone who hasn’t lived it.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
2 years ago

What makes a word applicable to something or not depends on difficult questions in metaphysics and philosophy of language. To insist that it is obvious to whom the English word “woman” is applicable ignores this. It would be bad enough if everyone who took a strong opinion either way were familiar with the metphysical and linguistic difficulties and thinks that they have been resolved. Far more common, though, is taking a strong position while ignoring metaphysics and philosophy of language altogether.

I recommend re-reading George Orwell’s “The Prevention of LIterature” (1946) on the way that political theory becomes unchallengeable.Report

Ted
Ted
2 years ago

Thanks for picking this up Justin – an important discussion for sure. This is a long post, but I just want to comment on one area of it. First a lengthy quote from you, which I disagree with:

“One possible response to t philosopher’s suffering is just to tell her: “deal with it.”

But here’s the thing: we’re the it.

Our practices and speech aren’t beyond our control. They’re up to us. Telling t philosopher to just “deal with it” is like being told, “What you’re doing is harming me” and us saying, “That’s just how I am.”
“But you could change what you’re doing.”
“Not gonna do that.”

It’s not clear that “we’re the it”, and I think the way you’ve framed this is a little misleading. Let me now quote t philosopher from her open letter:

“The legitimacy of trans people as their identified genders is not up for debate.
Any trans discourse that does not proceed with a substantial amount of care at amplifying trans voices and understanding the trans experience should not exist. It is not merely TERFs that have harmed me as a philosopher. It is all of the philosophers willing to defend a TERF’s right to philosophically examine my existence, in journals or elsewhere. It is so disheartening to know that any comment section on a Daily Nous piece will be filled with comments from philosophers defending TERFs on the basis of “free speech” and “academic freedom”.
I do not have to tolerate these harms in another career. There is no dignity for me as an academic philosopher. And so I have decided to pursue another career. To be clear: this is an injustice. Being forced out of my chosen career due to transphobia is an unjust harm that has been done to me.”

I am hesitant about causing offense with this statement, but it seems as though rather than “us” being the “it” philosophy itself is the “it”.

The idea that philosophers should be barred from examining the proposition that one can self-select gender is an extreme one – I would categorise it as implicitly anti-philosophical to partition off large, current, questions like this one. For sure, I believe in affirmative action, and struggle when confronted by contrary views in public (as well as many other “racist” views regarding race and IQ, sexuality, etc.) But I certainly don’t expect these things to be off the table in serious philosophical forums. It strikes me as a huge step backwards to even consider it.

I also struggle with the idea that philosophers should be beholden to police their colleagues. I suspect this is somewhere we disagree, but I think there is something dangerously Orwellian about demanding that other philosophers shun people who want to examine trans identity and its legitimacy. I am well within my rights to speak out about the misleading nature of research into racial intelligence, but mandating that other philosophers should not only accept my position as the correct one, but actively champion it within the profession is frankly shocking.

Finally, this phrase struck me as somewhat concerning: “I do not have to tolerate these harms in another career.” – as someone who has had decades of experience working outside of academia in the (so-called) “real world” I hope t philosopher is never disabused of this somewhat idealistic belief.

To be clear – just because I think questions over trans identity etc., are acceptable ones for philosophical study doesn’t mean I support negative treatment of trans individuals. The question is not whether trans people have equal rights (they do) or whether they are worthy of respect, empathy, and self-determination (unequivocally, they are). None of these things require intellectual deference, which is where I think a line has to be drawn.

I wish t philosopher the best of luck going forward, likewise everyone else in similar shoes.Report

Ted
Ted
Reply to  Ted
2 years ago

To be clear – I am definitely not saying that trans women aren’t women. I am simply saying that no one should be compelled to adopt a proposition with which they disagree, particularly if no argumentation is put forth for it.Report

Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Reply to  Ted
2 years ago

I work in the philosophy of a particular special science. As a result, I engage with people working in X science as well as historians and the occasional STS-oriented sociologist. I know enough about the norms of other disciplines to know that philosophy is an outlier with regard to how it responds to complaints from marginalized people who call for the reform of professional norms.

Other fields have somehow managed to engage in inquiry without happily rewarding those willing to espouse ‘controversial ideas’ over the protests of marginalized people and their allies. I am sure there are some historians who report that history these days is an Orwellian Nightmare or some such nonsense, but I doubt that happens at a higher rate than philosophy — in fact, I suspect the opposite is true. Am I failing to recognize that these other fields are, in fact, not engaging in responsible inquiry by not cultivating the ‘gender critical’ views under the banner of free speech? Should I conclude that philosophy’s norms allow for a particularly successful type of inquiry in comparison to these other fields? Doubt it — unless you measure success precisely by being able to publish on ‘controversial ideas’ (in which case I should really re-tool my prospectus).

I wonder what evidence in favor of the conclusion that we (who?) are served well by these norms would even look like. How would you convince someone who is not broadly sympathetic to Mill already that “*Everything* should be on the table!” with no professional consequences? Saying “Ah, this is just how it is in philosophy!” is inadequate. In the eyes of the marginalized who are claiming they are harmed by this norm, this amounts to a condemnation of present day philosophy (“It is just how it is that we do things in a way that harms you”).Report

Ted
Ted
Reply to  Pre-Candidate Trans Man
2 years ago

Not to offend you or question your personal experiences, but I wonder if this empirical claim “philosophy is an outlier with regard to how it responds to complaints from marginalized people who call for the reform of professional norms” should be accepted on purely anecdotal evidence? It seems to me that disciplines like genetics, psychology, and literature are full of far more contentious and heated discussions than philosophy is, many of which concern marginalized people and professional norms.

You state: “Other fields have somehow managed to engage in inquiry without happily rewarding those willing to espouse ‘controversial ideas’ over the protests of marginalized people and their allies.” Again, I’m not sure an explicitly empirical claim like this should be accepted without evidence. When you say people with “controversial ideas” are being rewarded, I take it you mean the philosophers that, in Justin’s post, he describes as “trans-exclusionary” (Stock et al). I am not sure what “rewards” Stock’s work on trans-gender issues is delivering – could you specify what these rewards are?

You ask: “Should I conclude that philosophy’s norms allow for a particularly successful type of inquiry in comparison to these other fields?” In one sense, the answer to this is certainly “yes”. Because philosophy as a subject reserves for itself the Aristotlean prerogative of investigating the “first principles” of things. That is, the grounds which other subjects are based upon are “fair game” for philosophers – or, in other words, physicists don’t study metaphysics, philosophers do. Physicists certainly accept metaphysical propositions, but the discipline is not concerned with examining them (I accept I am simplifying reality a little here, but I content this is still, broadly, true). It seems to me like questions about trans identity are specifically the proviso of philosophers rather than, say, biologists, social scientists, theologians, historians, or anyone else. But, of course, I am open to being persuaded otherwise. One pertinent question: if not philosophers, who? Or should the proposition that gender can be self-selected remain intellectually unexamined?

Last bit. You ask: “How would you convince someone who is not broadly sympathetic to Mill already that “*Everything* should be on the table!” with no professional consequences?” I would not, because that is not what I believe. My contention that questions about trans identity and the metaphysics of gender should be on the table because they are relatively young, hugely important, and show no signs of consensus, absolutely does not equate with a belief that all topics are up for discussion.Report

Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Reply to  Ted
2 years ago

You don’t have to take my word for it that philosophy is an outlier with regard to its professional norms. I happily concede that I can’t cite any studies. I will note that some philosophers seem to take pride in this difference in professional norms that may or may not exist. Such pride comes out when philosophers disparage the rest of the humanities or talk derisively about so-called “grievance studies”. Maybe these philosophers are failing to latch onto any real phenomena.

I phrased this in the language of controversial ideas to side-step referring to the trans-exclusionary position and to evoke the proposed journal (The Journal of Controversial Ideas) that was a news story making the rounds a few months ago. Gee, isn’t that something? A whole journal devoted to controversial ideas! I wonder why it is that two very famous ethicists are proposing it and not two scholars from, say, genetics, psychology and literature. Given how few trans men there are in the profession, I don’t want to specify the special science I work on since I worry this will effectively de-anonymize me. Let’s just say my friend’s work intersects with one of the disciplines you list as more contentious. No need to believe me, but I claim that even X field has taken a call to reform for greater inclusivity more seriously than philosophy has. *Internal* defenders of certain research would not knee-jerk defend it on the grounds of “free speech” and accuse critics of silencing them. External defenders of certain research might.

Is it not… suggestive, at least, to you that philosophy (a small field!) has produced the most trans-exclusionary public scholars? And that the Aristotelian Society invited one to give a talk despite never having published in a journal on the topic? Maybe we are disagreeing about what constitutes a reward. Such an invite at least constitutes a positively-valanced line on one’s CV. I sure hope I can earn an invite to AS with my Medium posts.

I am very embarrassed because at most I can continue to offer heaps and heaps of anecdotes.Report

Mary Leng
Reply to  Pre-Candidate Trans Man
2 years ago

Just to clarify for those who don’t know the Aristotelian Society’s procedures, they invite philosophers to speak on the basis of their reputations as philosophers (here’s a good philosopher, let’s hear what they have to say), and do so long in advance of the year’s programme (so in Stock’s case probably before any of her Medium posts). What you talk about on the day is then left up to you. E.g. I was invited, I assume, on the basis of my work in the philosophy of mathematics. I chose to talk about metaethics *despite never having published in a journal on the topic*. I’m not aware of any complaints, but I’m sorry to anyone who was disappointed by this. (A bit like when Bob Dylan showed up with an electric guitar?)Report

Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  Pre-Candidate Trans Man
2 years ago

The Journal of Controversial Ideas was founded by Jeff McMahan, Francesca Minerva, and Peter Singer. Francesca Minerva came up with the idea, so I think it’s particularly unfair to write her out of the history here.Report

Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Reply to  Ted
2 years ago

“It seems to me like questions about trans identity are specifically the proviso of philosophers rather than, say, biologists, social scientists, theologians, historians, or anyone else. But, of course, I am open to being persuaded otherwise. One pertinent question: if not philosophers, who? Or should the proposition that gender can be self-selected remain intellectually unexamined?”

The answer to the first question is “trans people”. And I think if you think trans people are self-selecting our genders either I misunderstand what you mean by “self-select” or you need to listen to how trans people answer the first question more.

“Because philosophy as a subject reserves for itself the Aristotlean prerogative of investigating the “first principles” of things. That is, the grounds which other subjects are based upon are “fair game” for philosophers – or, in other words, physicists don’t study metaphysics, philosophers do.”

You may as well tell me that philosophy reserves for itself the prerogative to stay in its fly bottle and because of this important prerogative we should treat calls for reform by trans philosophers with skepticism.Report

A Trans Grad Student Who Still Believes In Rationality
A Trans Grad Student Who Still Believes In Rationality
Reply to  Pre-Candidate Trans Man
2 years ago

“Other fields have somehow managed to engage in inquiry without happily rewarding those willing to espouse ‘controversial ideas’ over the protests of marginalized people and their allies.”

There is no other field whose job it is to explore certain questions, where members of one and only one marginalized group label as discrimination/marginalization any exploration that results in different views than their own on one of the topics that falls under the field. There is an attempt to silence such views, and when there is any resistance against that attempted silencing, this is framed as rewarding people with ‘bigoted’ views though that’s not the point at all.

We need to be clear about what sorts of things are beyond the pale and what aren’t. What people like you, t philosopher, and many commentators here are doing is labelling as ‘transphobic’, ‘TERF’, and ‘trans exclusionary’ a set of views that make some trans people feel uncomfortable, but are objectively neither intellectually nor morally outrageous. The notion of transphobia itself is problematic and a topic of genuine controversy, and you cannot simply throw around the word ‘transphobia’ and expect everyone to uncritically agree and agree with your recommendations on how to deal with it too (i.e. banish it and make sure it is never heard from again, no matter what else may be said about its content).

We are NOT talking about the view that transgenderism is a mental illness, or a state of delusion, etc. We are NOT talking about the view that it’s okay to misgender or deadname someone in front of them. We’re talking about views such as that being gay is about same-sex attraction (the thesis of Stock’s paper that she presented at the Aristotelian Society), that the claim that we ought to redefine a word that has traditionally picked out female people so it now also picks out male people is not obviously correct, and so on.

If the ‘trans exclusionary’ or whatever side is so philosophically weak, it should be very easy to defeat it. Go have debates with Stock or whoever, instead of simply labelling it as bigoted without any plausible analysis of bigotry on which you get this result.

The only positions that are beyond the pale are ones that are either intellectually outrageous (e.g. flat Earth), or that degrade the dignity or deny the equality of some groups of persons (e.g. defending slavery). The so-called trans exclusionary views are neither of those things. The closest thing to a bigoted opinion among them that I can find is the claim that trans women ought to be excluded from access to certain resources in certain ways, but even in such a case there are genuinely difficult questions, and if it is obvious that their view is wrong then it should be easy to rebut.

This is not to say that there isn’t genuine discrimination against trans people in the education system and in employment. There is, but the problem there isn’t people expressing views such as those I mentioned above. Fight against the discrimination, instead of trying to silence people doing philosophy in ways that you don’t like.Report

Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Pre-Candidate Trans Man

I am not sure why this is a response to my post.

I will try to spell out the dynamic I meant to highlight in a very simplified way:

Philosophers defend a certain set of norms as central to inquiry. Whatever those norms are, when people call for reform of these norms they tend to be told — sometimes verbally, sometimes non-verbally — that desire not to conform to these norms means that “philosophy is not for them”. Unfortunately, the people who tend to push reform are often marginalized people (women, black people, lesbians, indigenous people, working class people, etc.) in the profession. So critical marginalized people are effectively being told philosophy is not for them.

I am questioning what justifies these norms given that other comparable academic disciplines do just fine without them.

But hanks for the recommendation on what I should do! Rest assured I already do fight against anti-trans discrimination. And this fight would be made easier if gender-inclusive people stopped carrying water for a US administration intent on rolling back anti-discrimination protections for trans people.Report

Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Reply to  Pre-Candidate Trans Man
2 years ago

Jeez, sorry — what a faux pas: I meant “this fight would be made easier if gender-critical people stopped carrying water for a US administration intent on rolling back anti-discrimination protections for trans people.”Report

A Trans Grad Student Who Still Believes In Rationality
A Trans Grad Student Who Still Believes In Rationality
Reply to  Pre-Candidate Trans Man
2 years ago

The people you’re describing as calling for reform of those norms are calling for crucial norms to be thrown out entirely. It is correct and required for all right-thinking people to resist this.

It’s only in the context of trans issues that this ever happens, as far as I can see.

I’m not saying philosophy isn’t for people who don’t believe in things like free speech and rationality. They’re saying they want to leave, and I (and others) are saying: fine, suit yourself. Don’t try to manipulate us into accepting your views without critical thinking, or accepting your anti-intellectualism just because you got upset and left.

“I am questioning what justifies these norms given that other comparable academic disciplines do just fine without them.”

My previous comment addresses this. The other disciplines are not in fact doing without the norms, and philosophy is also relevantly different from those fields, making the application of the norms somewhat different.Report

Pre-Candidate Trans Man
Pre-Candidate Trans Man

I have managed to ‘do philosophy’ in my little niche without once driving a person to leave the profession. Am I to understand that I am an outlier here?

“There is no other field whose job it is to explore certain questions, where members of one and only one marginalized group label as discrimination/marginalization any exploration that results in different views than their own on one of the topics that falls under the field.”

You are right. No field with such a norm exists and no person in this comments section seems to be proposing such a norm.

I’ll just add that if I wanted to read serious scholarship about the oppression of women, I would seek recommendations from someone affiliated with a women’s studies department before I sought recommendations from a philosopher who has written a few Medium posts.Report

PhilGrad
PhilGrad

“If the ‘trans exclusionary’ or whatever side is so philosophically weak, it should be very easy to defeat it. Go have debates with Stock or whoever, instead of simply labelling it as bigoted without any plausible analysis of bigotry on which you get this result.”

One of the objections that has been made repeatedly in the face of the arguments put forth by so-called gender critical philosophers is that they fail to engage with the majority of work that has been and is being done by trans-inclusive feminists – work which already contains the kind of analysis you’re calling for here. The suggestion that trans-inclusive activists are “simply labelling as bigoted” opposing views just looks like another example of behaviour which suggests that their opponents aren’t engaging in good faith. It ignores the work of trans-inclusive scholars, (and affords undue weight to trans-exclusionary writers who are almost always offering nothing new to those who have put the effort in to actually engage with the relevant literature).

This is one reason why these views are not so easy to defeat, but it’s hardly surprising. Academic philosophy has done a pretty bad job of tackling many other forms of prejudice, so it’s no surprise that it should have a problem with transphobia as well.Report

Jane Jones
Jane Jones

A Trans Grad Student Who Still Believes In Rationality .

Thank you.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Pre-Candidate Trans Man
2 years ago

Pre-Candidate Trans Man, you are surely correct that there are other disciplines now who seem more than happy to let traditional standards of objectivity, rigor, comprehensiveness, etc. be outweighed by certain social and political considerations. In many of those disciplines, it seems clear, the fact that some vocal representatives of certain demographic groups claim to be offended and even harmed by the existence of a discussion or line of argument is in itself grounds for silencing the discussion or line of argument. In that sense, philosophy is indeed an outlier.

I also understand that you have a notion of ‘harm’ that indirectly implies that philosophy ought to follow these other disciplines. That notion of harm is certainly controversial. But rather than dispute it here, I’d like to mention some other considerations against copying the norms of those other disciplines.

1) it is far from clear that those other disciplines will be viable in the long haul. Under the current political climate at universities, with so many administrators devoted to the ‘woke’ ideology, the faculty skewing farther to the left than ever before and leftist politics suddenly dominated by identitarian concerns, these new ‘studies’ disciplines can rely on institutional support even if, say, their enrollment revenues are quite low and their majors are not very popular. Few in the current climate are comfortable at this point calling out those disciplines for placing a low value on traditional, objective academic values. Similarly, some more traditional disciplines that seem to have been largely taken over by woke scholarship have so far faced no economic consequences for doing so. But political trends are ephemeral. When the tide turns against all this — and that may come suddenly and sooner than we suspect — there may well be a good deal of housecleaning. Pressures from the high and growing costs of higher education have already pushed many universities to shut down entire departments, and those that will be seen as having jettisoned traditional standards in the service of a once-popular sociopolitical agenda will be quite vulnerable, particularly if that sociopolitical agenda is blamed in hindsight as a source of undesirable fanaticism in part of the population. Abandoning the objectivity and rigor of philosophy might bring a little short-term relief to some people, but that needs to be weighed against the risk it brings to all of us.

2) I find it astonishing how little attention is given to the long-term effects of making these moves. Silencing research and banishing those with the wrong ideas can seem great when one has no risk of holding those wrong ideas and when the people who can now find themselves more comfortable hold an ideology one endorses. But what happens when the political tides shift and those same sorts of moves are made by people with very bad ideas, and the views and lines of inquiry that are silenced are your own, and the people who need to be ‘included’ are, say, a bunch of redneck Bible-belt types who say they need people to stop saying such-and-such or else they feel uncomfortable and ‘harmed’? If we maintain the standards of the discipline, we could then refuse such people by pointing to those standards. But if we set a precedent of slackening them to further our political agenda, the actions of those future people will just be business as usual. It’s remarkably short-sighted to ignore those matters, and yet nobody pushing for these changes seems to take a moment to consider them.

3) Third, but not finally, most of us in philosophy are here because we like to reason things through on the basis of arguments and objections, regardless of what social pressures force us to think and say. If other people don’t want to engage in that project, there are now many other places within the university for them to play their trade under less intellectually challenging or threatening conditions. But philosophy is the only place left where we can do what we do. It would be considerate if those who don’t want to do that would just go elsewhere rather than try to take over yet another discipline and then boss us around from the inside. And we philosophers should then return the favor by not taking over those other disciplines and remaking them in a new political image.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

(Sorry for all the typos!)Report

Madame XY
Madame XY
2 years ago

“There is so much handwringing equivocation is this article, it doesn’t even have a spine to keep it upright.” A friend, who was too frustrated even to write a response, has neatly encapsulated the major problem of this post: barriers created by institutional culture and working conditions is being recast as a debate about ideas. Far too many academics overestimate their allyship, when in fact academic departments are quite well-structured machines for bureaucratic violence.

Most trans academics in all fields have had to deal at some point with harm to their careers for being trans. While universities have improved vastly since the 90s in the scope of their ostensible protections, many of us suffer from what I call the “Trans Elder Problem.” Those of us who are active now grew up and transitioned before there was any appreciable trans visibility, either in academia or in society at large. The combination of HIV, social stigma, and gatekeeping in the medical establishment meant that openly trans people were quite rare. As a result, very few people in academic leadership have much understanding of what trans people face. Add to that many trans people have to deal at some point with depression, and academia is notorious for its ableism regarding mental health issues, partly for some of the same institutional reasons (an advisor once complained that she now had to deal with student with depression, because antidepressants were preventing them from dropping out). It is also a reason that reforming institutional culture is something that trans academics are quite vocal about, because many of us have had quite direct experience with not being understood and having no one to turn to.

My personal experience is that academics usually treated any time I highlighted my trans identity as some sort of distasteful outdated identity politics, unless I was being asked invasive questions or to defend my right to exist. And the instances where I was asked to defend my identity, as if I had to justify myself to cis people. It was fairly exhausting, especially because I was expected to be an expert on uninteresting, false, and recycled arguments based on stereotypes I’d been hearing since I was a teen. I’m really glad I no longer have to deal with that, or with a colleague who would give me the stink-eye for using the women’s room, as well as the occasional student who would congratulate me for knowing how to use the toilet, I suppose.

Ideas are important, yes, but I think there’s a lot more work that needs to be done to ensure that trans scholars are given the space to work productively and be heard for their work. Institutional hierarchies currently favour trans-antagonistic and -ignorant folks as they continue to build the intellectual framework that is rolling back the newly-won rights of trans people across the world. I hope it won’t come as a surprise that the people who are under this direct threat see it as a hostile work environment beyond the challenges we have to face from being a minority with as yet little institutional representation in academia.Report

Yetanothergradstudent
Yetanothergradstudent
2 years ago

@Justin Weinberg, I don’t think you understand enough about these issues to be making professional recommendations about them.
Let’s start here:
“To help make progress on this question, I am going to leave “transphobic” out of it (see part II of this post). We can simply ask: ought the institutions of philosophy prohibit the defense of trans-exclusionary views?”
I don’t know what this means. What we’re talking about is transphobia in the profession (and especially when we’re dealing with TERFs like Stock, what we’re dealing with is transphobia). This is rather akin to hoping we can talk about the creation of the white ethnostate while leaving aside the racism.

As further evidence that you’re missing some of the issue here, here is the following recommendation of yours:
“If you are providing an academic platform for trans-exclusionary works, also provide one for trans philosophers or trans-inclusive philosophers.”
Why think that trans people will want to come and speak at an event where trans-exclusionary/transphobic views are receiving airtime? If there is a space in which it is ok to air trans-exclusionary/transphobic views, that space is probably not going to be perceived as safe by trans people.
For one, as t philosopher (and others) have been telling us, being around trans-exclusionary views isn’t safe. So to have this recommendation betrays ignorance here.

OK, those couple of points aside, lets actually get to the heart here…

You say “we” need to talk about trans-exclusionary/transphobic views.
Who is the “we” here? Is it trans people? I don’t see why we need to talk about those views…
It is **YOU** who apparently needs to talk about trans-exclusionary/transphobic views (“you” here being whoever says we still need to have this “discussion”.)
You say:
“The more I have learned about the philosophical and policy arguments regarding transgender issues, and in particular trans women, the closer I have come to a fairly strong trans-inclusive view. Like most philosophers, I’m not the kind of person who, on controversial matters, just takes others’ words for it. I want to hold the view of the matter that I believe is most justified, and to do that I need to understand the issues and to be moved by reasons and arguments, and to do that well, I need to make sure I’m getting a good accounting of the relevant considerations and opposing arguments. How can I do that? By engaging with the best work those with competing views have to offer.”
This isn’t about you, and I don’t understand how you can have read t philosopher’s testimony and then think it has something to do with you. (Again, this goes for anyone who pushes this ‘I just need to consider the arguments!!!’ line).
Why do we need to convince you of our existence?
Here’s why: because you are still the fucking gatekeepers, still. So apparently we *do* need to convince you of our existence. Which you keep reminding us of. Every time one of us says something like what t philosopher has told us, the rest of you sit up, all straight and proper and respectable, and tell us that, hey, y’all still gotta convince us that you’re people and deserve rights and respect.
Why does your comfort, your desire to ‘appraise both sides’ matter more than other people’s comfort and safety and space and inclusion and lives?
Because apparently they do – y’all get to “discuss” our existence from the comfort of your power while we get to leave the profession or put up with “it” – and apparently y’all continue to be comfortable with this fact. Because Every. Fucking. Time one of us raises our head above the parapet to say, “hey, maybe y’all could show us basic respect and decency” the profession puts its collective head up its collective arse and responds with, “but are you worthy of it?”
Fuck that.

There is no centre line of neutrality that you so imagine/pretend is there. To continue to believe that there is is to continue to play into the hands of trans-exclusionary philosophy. To TERFs. To transphobes.

You pretend like trans-exclusion/transphobia are scholarly topics. They aren’t. The TERF position isn’t a scholarly position.

It is noteworthy that the greatest intellectual sophistication is coming from those users with “grad student” handles, those who seem to show some awareness for the layers and layers and layers of critique of this imagined centrism, of the respectability tactics TERFs employ to mask the hate of their ideology, the rampant non-scholarly character of the trans-exclusionary position. I suggest you go and look at some of these critiques before you once again try to cleave to the centre.
Sunlight isn’t the best disinfectant.Report

Trans grad student
Trans grad student
Reply to  Yetanothergradstudent
2 years ago

This is such a good comment. Thank youReport

Michael Brent
Michael Brent
Reply to  Yetanothergradstudent
2 years ago

Echoing the above sentiments. Thank you for this.Report

Avalonian
Reply to  Yetanothergradstudent
2 years ago

This discussion can be hurtful and can cause real pain, and in the spirit of Justin’s post I mean it when I say that I honestly regret that. I also wish that this cold, impersonal online interaction could be dropped for something more human and real, and I think many of us should really get offline and start talking to and listening to our trans colleagues in our own departments.

“Let’s get to the heart here… you say “we” need to talk about trans-exclusionary/transphobic views…Who is the “we” here? Is it trans people? I don’t see why we need to talk about those views”

But I want to ask: isn’t the “we” you’re asking about just anyone who has a real personal stake in the way that we, as a society, think, talk and behave with respect to sex and gender? Doesn’t this category include a huge number of non-trans people, many of whom will be from historically marginalized groups? Just to take one example, black men are disproportionate targets of institutional violence in this country, and their gender appears to play a non-trivial role in their being so targeted. Suppose a black male philosopher didn’t agree that violence against non-passing black trans men ought to be thought of as the same phenomenon, and wanted to claim that that a distinct form of violence against black *male* bodies is importantly tied to certain sex-related or biological markers. (That, I believe, is what a kind of Gender Critical position might say about that). It cannot be that the person with the most “intellectual sophistication” would literally censor him, right? So how do we negotiate this problem? Is there any level of discussion in this arena that you might find acceptable or important?Report

Yetanothergradstudent
Yetanothergradstudent
Reply to  Avalonian
2 years ago

Avalonian, I’m not particularly interested in imagined or hypothetical debates. “What if-ism” is usually a diversionary tactic deployed to deflect the actual issues.
Is there a scholar who is actually making this case? And in so doing, actually responding to a real, concrete issue of inclusion/space-allocation/rights-allocation? If so, please provide links.
One quick response to such a position — no one is saying that trans people have identical experiences to their cis counterparts; our theories of identity today must be intersectional, that is pretty well established at this point. Second, that the experiences are not identical doesn’t entail that one or the other of those experiences is *not* an experience of oppression/harm/violence. One can recognize that this experience here is an experience of oppression while also recognizing that this other experience over here is also an experience of oppression.

Again, though, the heart…

I’ve not claimed that we can’t debate what people have a real personal stake in.
This misrepresents what I’ve said in at least a couple of ways. Let’s look at them:
First, I think it is disingenuous to cast what I’ve said about how some trans people feel about these debates in terms of issues about “having a real personal stake” in the subject at hand. A real, personal stake is not what’s the matter here – that’s far too broad a notion. Y’all are debating our *existence*. The issue is an issue of presence, existence, and survival.
Second, you exclude entirely my point about gatekeeping, in the attempt to reframe this as a debate about personal matters. It’s not a debate about personal matters; it’s an issue of gatekeeping. So I’ll repeat, and quote myself: “Because Every. Fucking. Time one of us raises our head above the parapet to say, “hey, maybe y’all could show us basic respect and decency” the profession puts its collective head up its collective arse and responds with, “but are you worthy of it?””
Third, the attempt to engage in and shift up to a hypothetical, abstract level belies the situational contingencies that are constitutive of this situation. We’re not in a Rawlsian original position here, y’know. Again, I didn’t frame my point as about “personal stakes” wherever they may fall or be felt – I was talking about trans inclusion. Because historically, trans people have been excluded from most institutions – there’s a lot of documentation of this that you can go and read. So the field from which this ‘discussion’ starts – as it seems to every other fucking week – isn’t a level one. Being sceptical about trans people isn’t the same as, say, being sceptical about men (ah, if only). Indeed, see how silly that sounds? But that’s not because cis people are somehow more metaphysically ‘reasonable’ or ‘robust’ (lemme tell you now, you ain’t). It’s because of power. It’s because of power. It’s – as we’ve been saying for so, so long – because of the frickin’ power.

So the tl;dr version of my answer to your question of whether I think there are some debates in arena’s of “personal stakes”, as you say, that are acceptable totally I do, yeah. But not all are. And I think how you find out what’s worth talking about isn’t by appealing to some imagined centre where all ideas can get their fair shake; rather.Report

Jane Clare Jones
Jane Clare Jones
Reply to  Yetanothergradstudent
2 years ago

We’re not debating your existence. We are debating the metaphysics of one potential explanation of your existence – an explanation which, notably, many trans people also reject, while still existing. And we are debating the implications of this particular view of trans existence on social mores, on laws, and on the sex-based rights of women. You cannot continue to pretend that changing the definition of a woman from a sex based definition to a gender identity based definition has no effect on female people. You are changing the meaning of the class of people to which we belong, insisting on a change of mores about all resources which have previously been allocated to us on the basis of sex, refusing to allow us to even express an opinion about it, and trying to throw us out of our profession for not complying.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Yetanothergradstudent
2 years ago

Yetanothergradstudent, you write: “I’m not particularly interested in imagined or hypothetical debates. “What if-ism” is usually a diversionary tactic deployed to deflect the actual issues…the attempt to engage in and shift up to a hypothetical, abstract level belies the situational contingencies that are constitutive of this situation. We’re not in a Rawlsian original position here, y’know.”

This is, I must say, a baffling thing to hear from someone I take to be a member of the philosophical community. The whole _point_ of the philosophical enterprise is to try consider issues in an objective and principled manner. If your interlocutors are examining the underlying principles you seem to be relying on and testing whether they really work in seemingly parallel cases, they are thereby engaging in philosophical practice. You may argue that they aren’t engaging in that practice correctly by pointing to a flaw in their reasoning, a reason for doubting one of their premises, or a problem with their analogies. But if you instead argue against the very practice of checking whether the principles in question are good ones by considering how they work in other cases, or by otherwise stepping back from one’s own interest and considering the matter from the outside, then I don’t know how you expect to win any support from an audience of philosophers qua philosophers.Report

merely hypothetical
merely hypothetical
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

This is one of several comments here that deserves a bit of limelight.

Terms like “what aboutism” and “what if ism” are now sometimes wielded — by philosophers! — to summarily dismiss objections to their views, without acknowledging the irony.As if philosophical argument doesn’t trade on careful consideration of hypothetical scenarios. Yet, this comment by Justin is the first one I’ve seen to push back on this new rhetorical move.

It seems as if, rather than trotting out the charge of “what aboutism” as if this were some sort of argumentative trump card, the philosopher (professional or otherwise) should say something like: “Look, I’m not wearing my philosopher’s hat now. I’m too busy fighting injustice to argue philosophy with you. After all, who needs philosophy when you KNOW that you’re in the right?” Then we’d all be clear as to what game we were playing.Report

Yetanothergradstudent
Yetanothergradstudent
Reply to  merely hypothetical
2 years ago

This point and the one you’re expanding on above would have so much more clout if you’d actually responded to the point I’m making. That hypotheticals get used to mask concrete issues of concern. I asked for actual examples of issues such as the intersectional issue that was raised in response to my original comment. None have been provided.

But, y’know, sure, I’m the bad interlocutor.

This is so annoying. We respond to and deconstruct the issues raised, and then y’all go right back to the beginning.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  Yetanothergradstudent
2 years ago

Yetanothergradstudent:

1: (Virtually) everybody has a gender that matters to them.
2: Views on transgender issues are inextricably entwined with views on gender more generally.
3: So actually, everyone has an important stake in this discussion.
4: People who have an important stake in a discussion shouldn’t be excluded.
5: No, we don’t just have to shut up and listen to trans people because you (and that’s a singular ‘you’, directed at you, Yetanothergradstudent, not ‘you’=trans people in general) say so.

Obviously, people acting in bad faith can always be reasonably excluded (4 is prima facie). I indeed have my doubts* about whether Stock and Lawford-Smith are entirely acting in good faith. But equally obviously, a policy of not just accepting claims that X group is acting in bad faith, when you first start reading about an issue, seems fairly sensible. Until you’ve read about it, how could you know who is telling the truth about who the bad faith actors are? You might say: easy, listen to marginalized people. But of course the gender critical/trans-exclusionary feminists claim that they are speaking for the marginalized identity ‘woman’. So unless you reject feminism entirely, you can’t rule them out on those grounds. (Of course, most feminists-rightly in my opinion-don’t agree with the trans-exclusionary view, but then, most women don’t identify as feminists, so this can hardly settle the matter about who should get a hearing if you want to attend to people claiming victimization on the basis of being women.) so if you You can of course rule them out if you read them, and you decide the arguments are so transparently bad that they can’t be being made in good faith and must be a result of bigotry. But that requires doing what Justin said he did and reading into the issue!

More generally, your clearly relying on some kind of implicit principle about what should/shouldn’t be a matter of debate. Can you tell the rest of us what it is, so we can assess whether or not it’s plausible?

*Doubts here really does *mean* doubts. I am unsure.Report

Yetanothergradstudent
Yetanothergradstudent
Reply to  David Mathers
2 years ago

At no point have I told anyone to shut up. Sooooo…Report

A Trans Grad Student Who Still Believes In Rationality
A Trans Grad Student Who Still Believes In Rationality
2 years ago

I think you’re too nice, Justin. That’s all I’ll say about the post.

I wrote a response to the MAP statement. I emailed you the link to it for consideration of inclusion of it in the post, but since I haven’t gotten a response and am impatient, I will paste it here too. If you do end up including the link in the post, then please delete this comment.

https://gbearcave.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/response-to-map-uk-and-map-international-joint-statement/Report

Mary Leng

^^^This statement is well worth a read.Report

Ninna
Ninna
2 years ago

The atmosphere of this debate would be improved if we could move away from the Trans vs Gender Critical framing. Spotlight trans work without placing it in relation to the Gender Critical position and Gender Critical writings unrelated to trans issues, if that’s even possible.

From the coverage it gets it’s hard not to conclude that Gender Critical feminism is defined by a fixation on trans people that in and of itself is prejudicial, regardless of the opinion being forwarded. And I’ve seen very little to dissuade me from that impression from prominent GC philosophers like Stock, Lawford Smith, Clare Jones. Even less from the Gender Critical discussion spaces they’ve linked to in their writing – Graham Linehan’s twitter feed, Mumsnet’s feminism forum, Gender Critical reddit, the facebook pages of the lady who sells the Adult Human Female shirts and banners. Gender Critical feminist critiques of Gender Critical feminism are rare (or perhaps I just don’t where to look, can someone help me out?) but this longform interview from 2016 from a trans academic who took up and then rejected the position still seems a pretty accurate estimation of the flaws one finds with these spaces: https://www.transadvocate.com/is-sadism-popular-with-terfs-a-chat-with-an-ex-gendercrit_n_18568.htm#Report

Yetanothergradstudent
Yetanothergradstudent
Reply to  Ninna
2 years ago

Ninna, I agree it’d be really good to spotlight trans and enby work without placing it in relation to TERF work would be good.
It’s exceedingly frustrating to watch this continually not happen. Moreover, to watch what does happen, which is often that the TERF position is spotlighted, and then NONE of the trans/enby work from decades of theorizing is spotlighted alongside it; instead we get this centrist handwringing.Report

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Yetanothergradstudent
2 years ago

If the spotlight is often on gender-critical rather than trans-inclusive work, surely this is because the explicit aim of many trans-inclusivists is for gender-critical work to be denied a platform. Note that the same is not true for gender-critical thinkers. Much as they have moral as well intellectual issues with many trans-inclusive premises, no gender-critical thinkers (that I’m aware of) argue that trans-inclusive views should be excluded from academic philosophy.

Anyway, having told us that Stock’s views are so horrendous that they ought to be actively excluded from academic settings, it can’t be too surprising that people are keen to have a look at those views to judge for themselves.Report

Helen
Helen
Reply to  Paul
2 years ago

Oh please. The complete opposite is true. It isn’t trans inclusive philosophers on TV, at the Hays festival, writing for the Independent, being invited to discussion panels. Can you name even one trans inclusive philosopher who has been given a slot on Have I Got New for You, for example? Or perhaps you’d like to examine how during a panel on trans events, on one side was Greer, and on the other was a model who happened to be trans? Were all the trans inclusive philosophers busy?Report

Christa Peterson
Reply to  Paul
2 years ago

I don’t know what planet this conversation is happening on. If you haven’t noticed trans exclusionary philosophers retaliating against the people opposing them, you’re not paying any attention. Stock and Leiter tried to get Nathan Oseroff fired from his job at the APA blog for saying that what she is doing constitutes spreading hate. “Gender critical” philosophers have explicitly supported Leiter in his repeated calls for “gatekeepers” to keep me out of academic philosophy based on my vocal opposition to them, which has in reality been substantive criticism and never calls for them to be somehow thrown from the discipline. It’s true that one side has tried to silence the other here, but it’s not the one everyone’s pretending.Report

JTD
JTD
2 years ago

Any genuine transphobia in the philosophy profession is unacceptable and needs to stop. If some trans philosophers decide that they have to leave philosophy because of genuine transphobia that they face, that is terrible and tragic. However, it is not transphobia for philosophers to hold or discuss various philosophical views about the nature of gender, sex, and transgender that some (perhaps many) trans philosophers take to be incompatible with their own understanding of who they are and what it means to be trans. Nor is it transphobia for philosophers to discuss social policies related to trans people and make arguments about whether these policies involve a conflict of rights between trans people and other people, or arguments about how such conflicts, if they exist, should be resolved.

If t philosophy finds philosophers holding and discussing these various views deeply troubling and feels that she has to leave the philosophy profession because of it then I sympathizes with her difficult personal predicament. I imagine that it must be very difficult to love philosophy enough to want to be a professional philosopher and yet to find that one’s personal circumstances and needs make the free and open debate aspect of philosophy intolerable. I do not think that t philosopher is weak or blameworthy for finding herself in this predicament (even though other trans philosophers are able to tolerate free and open debate). I believe that we must respect each individual’s personal struggles and understand that what is possible for some is not possible for others. However, I also strongly reject the idea that her difficulties result from a problem with the discipline of philosophy. That any philosophical thesis can be freely and openly discussed is a fundamental and highly valuable feature of philosophy. Addressing t philosopher’s predicament by banning the expression of certain philosophical views is an unacceptable and deeply troubling suggestion that, if followed through, would fundamentally undermine philosophy. Therefore, I think that it is right for t philosopher to leave philosophy. If she finds the open debate aspect of philosophy intolerable then philosophy is not for her. It is possible to hold this position without denigrating, blaming, or being unsympathetic to the personal struggle of t philosopher.

I understand that some philosophers disagree with the position I have just articulated. Let me offer an argument to support my view. Trans identities are not the only identity a philosopher may hold that can come under scrutiny in philosophical debate. Let’s imagine a young religious philosopher whose personal identity is strongly tied to her own understanding of herself as a child of God. That she was created by an all-loving God in his own imagine is fundamental to how she conceives of and understands herself. That some people reject this basic truth and argue that she and others are not Gods children is deeply troubling to her and feels personally hurtful. Now we can imagine this philosopher getting to a point where she feels she has to leave philosophy because it is too much of a personal struggle to tolerate the open debates in philosophy about the existence of God and the nature of human beings. If her religious identity has been a long personal struggle for her, and she has faced significant discrimination in her personal life because of it, then I think we can sympathize with the difficulty of her predicament. I also think that it would be unfair to blame her or cast her as weak, even though other religious philosophers are able to live with, or even endorse, open debate on these topics in philosophy. Nonetheless, I think it is clear that philosophy is not to blame for her predicament and that addressing the problems of people like her by closing philosophical debate to certain topics would be a terrible mistake. We can be sympathetic to her struggles and yet say that philosophy just isn’t for her. I take it that this is all rather uncontroversial and will be agreed on by all.

The challenge then is for those who reject my position on t philosopher is to explain the relevant difference between her case and the religious case. There are various lines that might be taken here but all seem unpromising. For example, they might say that trans identities involves features that an individual takes to be essential properties of who she is, whereas religious identities do not. But this is false. Some religious people hold that their status as a being created in the imagine of a loving God is an essential feature of who they are such that, a being exactly like them in all respect except that of being created by a natural process rather than God would not be them.

Or, they might hold that the difference is that those with trans identities face significant discrimination and prejudice in society whereas those with religious identities do not. This may well be true if we are comparing trans individuals with Christians in contemporary US society, however, it is not true more generally. Muslims face significant discrimination and prejudice in contemporary US society. Christians face significant discrimination and prejudice in other societies where they are a religious minority. And all religions faced significant discrimination and prejudice in Stalinist Russia and Maoist China. Yet even if our imagined religious philosopher was from a time and place where she faced significant discrimination and prejudice it would not change the fact that stopping free and open debate in philosophy is not an acceptable solution to her problem.

So my critic must either: (1) come up with a relevant difference between the trans and religious case, or (2) endorse the radical position that trans, religious, and all other sensitive identities require philosophical debate to be drastically curtailed and censured, or (3) accept my position above on t philosopher.Report