Where metaphysics tries to explain what is the universe and what it is like, feminist metaphysics questions how metaphysical answers have supported sexism.[1] Feminist metaphysics overlaps with fields such as the philosophy of mind and philosophy of self.[1] Feminist metaphysicians such as Sally Haslanger,[2] Ásta,[3] and Judith Butler[4] have sought to explain the nature of gender in the interest of advancing feminist goals. Philosophers such as Robin Dembroff[5] and Talia Mae Bettcher[6] have sought to explain the genders of transgender and non-binary people.

Social construction

Simone de Beauvoir was the first feminist theorist to distinguish sex from gender, as is suggested by her famous line, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”[4] In her seminal work The Second Sex, de Beauvoir argues that, although biological features distinguish men and women, these features neither cause nor justify the social conditions which disadvantage women.[4] Since de Beauvoir, many feminists have argued that constructed categories re-enforce social hierarchies because they appear to be natural.[7] Later theorists such as Judith Butler would challenge de Beauvoir's commitment to the pre-social existence of sex, arguing that sex is socially constructed as well as gender.[4] Feminist metaphysics has thus challenged the apparent naturalness of both sex and gender.

Another aim of feminist metaphysics has been to provide a basis for feminist activism by explaining what unites women as a group.[8] These accounts have historically centered on cisgender women, but more recent accounts have sought to include transgender women as well.[9][10][6] Robin Dembroff has introduced a metaphysical account of non-binary genders.[5]


  1. ^ a b Haslanger, Sally; Sveinsdóttir, Ásta Kristjana (2011). "Feminist Metaphysics". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 ed.). ISSN 1095-5054. OCLC 224325075.
  2. ^ Haslanger, Sally (March 2000). "Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?". Noûs. 34 (1): 31–55. doi:10.1111/0029-4624.00201. ISSN 0029-4624.
  3. ^ Ásta (2018-08-16), "Categories We Live By", Categories We Live by, Oxford University Press, pp. 127–128, doi:10.1093/oso/9780190256791.003.0008, ISBN 978-0-19-025679-1
  4. ^ a b c d Sveinsdóttir, Ásta Kristjana (2010-11-12), "The Metaphysics of Sex and Gender", Feminist Metaphysics, Springer Netherlands, pp. 47–65, doi:10.1007/978-90-481-3783-1_4, ISBN 978-90-481-3782-4
  5. ^ a b Dembroff, Robin (10 August 2019). "Beyond Binary: Genderqueer as Critical Gender Kind" (PDF). Philosopher's Imprint. S2CID 111381570. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2020.
  6. ^ a b Bettcher, Talia. Power, Nicholas; Halwani, Raja; Soble, Alan (eds.). "Trans Women and the Meaning of "Woman"". The Philosophy of Sex: 233–250.
  7. ^ Warnke, Georgia (2008). After Identity: Rethinking Race, Sex, and Gender. Cambridge, UK & New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-88281-1. OCLC 165408056.
  8. ^ Bach, Theodore (January 2012). "Gender Is a Natural Kind with a Historical Essence". Ethics. 122 (2): 231–272. doi:10.1086/663232. ISSN 0014-1704.
  9. ^ Jenkins, Katharine (January 2016). "Amelioration and Inclusion: Gender Identity and the Concept of Woman". Ethics. 126 (2): 394–421. doi:10.1086/683535. ISSN 0014-1704.
  10. ^ Andler, Matthew Salett (2017-07-01). "Gender Identity and Exclusion: A Reply to Jenkins". Ethics. 127 (4): 883–895. doi:10.1086/691583. ISSN 0014-1704.

Further reading