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Lecture Notes

PHIL 406

Table of contents
  1. “Oppression”, Marilyn Frye
  2. “Locating Feminisms/Feminists”, Obioma Nnaemeka (2001)
  3. Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics, Kimberle Crenshaw (1989)
  4. The Invention of “the Male Gaze”, Lauren Michele Jackson, 2023
  5. “Feminism in ‘Waves’: Useful Metaphor or Not?”, Linda Nicholson (2010)
  6. “Epistemologies of Ignorance”, Shannon Sullivan and Nancy Tuana (2007)
  7. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective”, Donna Haraway (1988)
  8. “Have We Got a Theory for You! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism and the Demand for ‘The Woman’s Voice’
  9. “A Love Letter from a Critic”, Nash
  10. “Transnational Feminisms, Nonideal Theory, and ‘Other’ Women’s Power” by Serene J. Khader
  11. “Introduction: Bringing Feminist Theory Home”, Sara Ahmed
  12. “Only Joking!: On the Offensiveness of Humor”, McTernan
  13. “A Paradigm of Philosophy: The Adversary Method”, Janice Moulton
  14. “How Might We Address the Factors that Contribute to the Scarcity of Philosophers Who Are Women and/or of Color?”, Yolonda Y. Wilson
  15. “Asian Women: Invisibility, Locations, and Claims to Philosophy”, Yoko Arisaka
  16. Introduction
  17. “The Transfeminist Manifesto”, Emi Koyama
  18. “Trapped in the Wrong Theory: Rethinking Trans Oppression and Resistance”, Bettcher
  19. “Allies Behaving Badly: Gaslighitng as epistemic injustice”, Rachel McKinnon
  20. “The Shameful face of Philosophy”, Le Doeuff
  21. “Anything but Argument?”, Cora Diamond

“Oppression”, Marilyn Frye

For Thursday, 9/28.

  • Feminism fundamentally claims that women are oppressed. But what is oppression?
  • Response: being the oppressor is a form of oppression too.
    • Masculinity is impossible and psychologically damaging to aspire towards
  • Result: oppression has basically become a meaningless term, equivalent to limitation or suffering.
  • Reality: humans can be miserable without being oppressed.


  • Etymology: root of ‘ooppression’ is ‘press’ – molding, flattening, reducing, caught between forces.
  • The double bind: one must become invisible, one must participate in your own erasure. e.g.: Madonna/Whore complex
    • Important: systematically related pressures
    • Objection! There are groups which are made invisible… but also groups which are necessarily made visible, e.g. Jews and queers in Nazi Germany who had to wear identifying armbands.
  • Oppressed people are confined by forces which are not avoidable, but systematically related and which lock individuals in every direction. A cage is formed of many wires – you can’t just look at one.
    • Objection! If you adopt a broadly materialist view of social relations, then isn’t all misery fundamentally oppression? What kind of metaphysical account are we adopting here? What is our principle of causality?
  • One must take a systemic view of oppression, rather than focusing on individual actions.
    • Example: opening doors open for women. It’s kind of ridiculous, because there’s no purpose to it – helpfulness is false. These little gestures mask the lack of more substantive help elsewhere.
    • Gestures are symbolic and part of a symbolic web, and the message is that women are incapable
    • An element of mockery / irony / performativity
    • You must recognize when you are thinking microscopically


  • The human condition is that we all suffer frustraiton and limitation
  • We are all limited within the social structure
  • Surely in this case, everyone is oppressed. But it is not so.
  • One must look in context to determine if there is an element of an oppressive structure – are there forces which tend towards immobilization or reduction?
    • Objection! This is such a particular ontological view of freedom.
  • Not everything which frustrates of limits a person is oppressive, and not every harm contributes to oppression.
    • Example: Chivas Regal rich white playboy
    • Question! What does it mean to be part of an “oppressor” group? Can you ever get out of it?
  • Oppression is continued
  • Is oppression fundamentally economic?
  • Objection! The notion of oppression seems to become circular here, where oppression is defined as a systematic set of forces which are oppressive. What is the irreducible core of oppression? Continued harm?
  • Objection! There’s a clean divide between inside and out here which is problematic. Is there a Foucauldian dimension here too? We are all touched by power…
  • Objection! We cannot be naive structuralists… if every appeal to the oppressive or non-oppressive character of the particular relies upon asserting the oppressive web of forces, but we never actually understand how the web of forces is oppressive in an inrreducible way, then we are just asserting the existence of oppression without ever understanding it.
    • e.g. what does “for the benefit of men generally” mean?
    • What is the irreducible core of oppression? Is it sustained suffering? Is it something like dignity or honor? Or autonomy? We cannot be circular about it.
    • If it’s something like dignity… well then there’s a possible case to be made that men are indeed suffering real problems. Masculinity is not an easy thing to aspire to. Young men commit suicide over it.
  • Question! Is oppression the continued exercise of power over autonomy? “immobilization”… or is it something different?
  • Question! Is Sheryl Sandberg oppressed?
  • Question! Is there a kind of biological essentialism here? Social essentialism?


  • Interesting take – masculinity feels good to be affirmed, but to affirm masculinity one must negate vulnerability
  • With women, there is understanding; with men, there is judgement – so the social norms go, anyway.
  • Womens’ and mens’ restraints are both structurally oppressive to women


  • One is oppressed when one is a member of a group or a category – the category here is “woman”
  • A woman has little economic or political factor because she is a woman. Question! Is the significance of her oppression that she is a woman?
  • Simply being a man is not what stands between now and a better now.
  • Women are oppressed as women, but men are not oppressed as men

“Locating Feminisms/Feminists”, Obioma Nnaemeka (2001)

For Thursday, 9/28

  • Igboland: a masquerade dance is full of complexity and paradox
  • The history of feminist engagement is a sort of encounter between Igbo and masquerade
  • Feminist practice is a pioneer of the diversity business – feminist practice had tried to be diverse and multicultural (but failed)
  • “Sisterhood”
  • What is African feminism? What is the role of race in feminist discourse?
  • Feminist imperialism? Arrogance? – a simplifying of the global complexity
  • African women call themselves African; but they are called black in America and Europe. Geography and color?
  • Neofeminism for African feminism: from a philosophy of give-and-take and negotiation
    • Also: no-ego feminism
  • A question of agency, subjectivity, and power, including the power of self-identification.

Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics, Kimberle Crenshaw (1989)

  • “All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us are Brave”
  • Problematic idea: treat race and gender as mutually exclusive categories of experience. Antidiscrimination law uses a single-axis framework.
  • Black women are erased in theory
  • Subordination is conceptualized as a vector along an axis of privilege
  • Race discrimination: focus is on wealthy Black men; sex discrimination: focus is on wealthy White women.
  • Is discrimination against Black women sex discrimination?
  • Supposed contradiction arises from the assumption that claims of exclusion are unidirectional.
  • Traffic intersection: traffic flows both ways.
  • Black women experience discrimination both similar to and different from white women and Black men.
  • Categorical analyses limit expressivity.

The Significance of Doctrinal Treatment of Intersectionality

  • Common political and theoretical approach to discrimination which operates to marginalize Black women
  • Courts and feminist / civil rights thinkers. Black women are denied situation and centrality of their experiences. They are too much like women, too much like Blacks.
  • This isn’t just a lack of political will. It’s a fundamental theoretical failing when thinking about discrimination.

Fundamental question: What is the ontological category of race and gender? Is the focus unit a social group or is it the individual? And what does this mean epistemically, politically, ethically? What are the ontological commitments brought by discrimination?

  • How can you combine categories? How can you disentangle categories? Does intersectionality break with an “algorithmic” way of viewing discrimination, disparity?
  • Race and sex become significant only when they explicti disadvantage victims
  • Antidiscrimination law is not grounded in a bottom-up commitment to improve substantive conditions. It rather only regulates the extent to which certain protected features discriminate the determinations of outcomes
  • Question! What is the role of analogy in explaining this sort of stuff? Is it false, sneaky? Or does it change something?
  • “but for” analysis – it doesn’t consider other structural factors.
  • But is there something beyond the rational empiricst principle here? There is some sort of parallel to the prisoner’s dillemma here.
  • Both feminist theory and antiracist politics end up being Black middle class or Black men
  • Black women become marginalized. Or even – “wired in” by the birdcage.’

The Invention of “the Male Gaze”, Lauren Michele Jackson, 2023

  • The male gaze: British film theorist Laura Mulvey, 1973 “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”
  • The male gaze “projects its fantasy onto the female figrue, which is styled accordingly”
  • What are the mechanics of looking? Need the tools of psychoanalysis, especially of Jacques Lacan.
  • The Lacanian mirror stage: an infant achieves self-mastery by understnading their own reflection. Something similar happens wiht identification with onscreen characters.
  • Freud: infantile sexuality has a voyeuristic pleasure.
  • Mulvey: cinema reconciles the tension between the Lacanian mirror stage (self-understanding) and Freudian voyeruism (objectification of that outside
  • Our gaze is in sympathy with the camera’s interests, posed for our viewing.
  • Cinematic images reproduce gender as patriarchy sees it.
  • The cameras “teach us how to look”.
  • A central figrue now of feminist film criticism, an intellectual landmark.
  • Even the oppressor’s viewpoint can be s tie of uncertainty (Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks)
  • bell hooks, oppositional gaze – not developed merely by being Black and female, but rather cultivated by resisting dominant ways of looking.

“Feminism in ‘Waves’: Useful Metaphor or Not?”, Linda Nicholson (2010)

  • What is the current state of US feminism?
  • In the 1960s, it was very useful for feminists to describe their movement as the “second wave”, because it reminded people of the historical past and connections – a long tradition of activism.
  • The wave metaphor has outlived its usefulness. But it can also be a historical and political blockage.
  • It suggests that there is one phenomenon, “feminism”, which unites gender activism across the history of the United States.
  • But this is reductive and serves an obfuscatory purpose.
  • “The first wave” of suffragism may not even be convincingly called feminism.
  • Women were taking on and living a greater sense of equality of men only in the conditions brought about in the 20th century.
  • The hope is that gender activism has not died but ratehr just become more jazzy in its form.
  • Following the mass movements of the 1960s-80s, feminism began institutionalizing itself.
  • The gaps between men and women still continue to exist: rigid beauty standards, a sexual double standard, the wage gap, etc.
  • The post-WWII material movements of women into new jobs led towards generation of wide adoption (whereas it could not in the 1920s).
  • But liberal feminism is only one part of he feminist movement of the 60s-80s. Radical feminism
  • … but radical feminism could also only have advanced a small group of privileged women. It became alienating
  • Marxist and socialist feminism: did not resonate with much of the US population either
  • Feminism has achieved what it has achieved through resonance with the materially experienced needs of the ‘many’ / people.
  • We are not in a ‘third wave’ currently.
  • Rather, there is a kaleidoscope – the ocean’s ebbs and swells

“Epistemologies of Ignorance”, Shannon Sullivan and Nancy Tuana (2007)

  • Ignorance is of increasing concern, propped up as an alternative to elitism
  • It is “willfull ignorance”
  • Ignorance poses special epistemological questions.
  • Explaining ignorance is not new. But explaining ignornace as a substantive epistemic practice in itself is new.
  • Willfull ignorance attempts to explain and account for substatnive practices of ignorance as structural
  • Ignorance is a problem relating to ontologies of truth.
  • Three arguments
    1. Ignorance follows from the fact of our situatedness as knowers
    2. Ignornace is related to specific aspects of group identities
    3. Structural analysis of the ways in which oppressive systems produce ignorance


  • Lorraine Code: “S knows that p” epistemologies assume all S’s are interchangeable
  • Knowers are nonfungible
  • We need to develop a geography of the epistemic terrain – understand the sociopolitical structures which produce subjective positions and identities
  • This does not mean relativism
  • Epistemic advantages and disadvantages are not the same for all
  • Most knowledge is the product of judgement rather than deductive argument
  • An adequate concept of epistemic situatedness requires understanding the knower’s geneology.
  • An epistemic situation may be advantaged/disadvantaged depending on what kind of knowledge we are pursuing / i.e. exist in relation to specific kinds of inquiry.


  • Epistemic ignorance, not general, but rather focused on specific groups of knowers who share a social location
  • Specific features of women’s epistemic situation gives them an epistemic advantages; we can arrive at more empirically adequate descriptions when starting research from women’s lives.
  • Women are usually alienated from social power but rarely alienated from the everyday needs of maintaining material existence.
  • These analyses should be applied selectively, and locally
  • Harding: “members of oppressed groups have fewer interests in ignorance about the social order and fewer reasons to invest in maintaining or justifying the status quo than do dominant groups”
    • Yet in fact they might, for purposes of living within a system which suppresses anti-ignorance.
    • Peoples’ acceptance of various critical social theories are often a (complex) function of their social identy
  • Maybe good epistemic practices / virtues can overcome epistemic limitations
  • Belief formulation requires judgment calls about relevance, plausibility, coherence, etc. – and these are all already working within me.
  • Group identity makes an epistemically relevant difference, because it influences the transcendental a priori beliefs.
  • WHy is it important to have women on the Supreme Court or in law-making bodies? Only women are in a position to see the full weight of the significance of the law’s effect on women.
  • Aspects of group identity:
    1. All knowers are situated, and this has epistemic implications for judgement
    2. Situations are correlated in at least some important ways to social identity, without making essentializing claims
    3. Female gender identity includes a general marginality from social power and a lack of alienation from materiality
    4. A female-gendered location is a resource to build a feminist standpoint
    5. Male-identity is epistemically disadvantaged in dominant gender-related social power, less interest in questioning them, even.
  • G.I. Bill and the process of democratizing the US academy, the production of academic knowledge.
  • Epistemic ignorance is contextual


  • Epistemic ignornace provides a more structural account of the nature of oppressive systems.
  • A structural argument focuses on generally differentiated experiences and interests
  • Ignornace is not a lack, but rather a substantive epistemic practice which differentiates the social group
  • As a member of a dominant social group, one may inculcate patterns of belief-forming practices which create certain effects on systematic ignorance.
  • The Racial Contract prescribes an “inverted epistemology” / “epistemology of ignorance”, cognitive dysfunction – whites are unable to understand the world they’ve made
  • Racism is a type of subjectivity which forms patterns of perceptual attention that distort reality. (What is reality?)
  • Whiteness as a political construct includes a cognitive model and ensures a consensual halluciantion / racial fantasy. So there is a cognitive / moral economic psychically required


  • Frankfurt School’s critique of instrumental rationality. Project: a materialist critical analysis of reason under capitalism and fascism
  • Made links betwween kinds of knowing practices and political economy structures
  • Disagreement between Habermas and Marcuse + Horkheimer. Habermas: instruemntal rationality was a legitimate epistemic practice as long as it was not universalized hegemonically.
  • Horkheimer: argued against naive empiricism. Both the subject and the objective are historical. Critical theorists must denaturalize the product and process of knowledge.
  • Traditional theory vs critical theory: uniting epistemic and political factors
  • Instrumentalized reason is not an aid in truth, but works to obscure it.
  • When we describe the world around us, we are not merely reporting on natural creations, but products of collective human praxes.
  • Traditional theory’s focus on problem solving is congruent with capitalist rationality. This aims at prediction and quantification.
  • Explanation, hermeneutic interpretation, and normative argument are denigrated as useless speculations.
  • Universities might be places of sitting, meditation, and knowledge absorption. (Socratic orgasm.)
  • The result of social production of the knowing individual is a liquidation of the subject
  • The reduction of reason to analysis
  • White ignornace may be a type of loss of critical rationality: a process of self-preservation without the self
  • Little attention is paid in the philosophy of science to the structural economic organization of this society
  • Traditional epistemology cannot handle this level of reflexivity. Yet sociological concerns are central to any epistemnic assessment of knowledge.
  • Critical theory: bring consciousness to the link between the social production of knowledge and of society.
  • Horkheimer criticizes the use of pragmatic criteria and defends a notion of objective reason. Objective reason critiques subjective reason
  • We must not put science in service of subjective ends.
  • Reason must be restricted to preempt the objective truths it reveals, and ignorance is the result.


  • Horkheimer’s critiques can help us understand the way in which knowers are situated, structured, differentiated
  • Said: Orientalism naturalizes its object of study as discrete, stable, fixed
  • Epistemology must be reflexively aware and critical of its location within an econoimc system

“Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective”, Donna Haraway (1988)

  • What do we mean by ‘objectivity’
  • Feminists have selectively used two notions of the question of objectivity
  • One view: no insider’s perspective is privileged, inside/outside is blurred, etc.
  • Social constructionists assert that the ideological doctrine of the scientific method distract us from knowing the world effectively
  • Semiology and deconstruction: insist on the rhetorcial nature of truth (including scientific)
  • Yet… Haraway is wary of the fully textualized, structural world of the military, technology, battlefields, knowledge-power game.
  • We begin for wanting to deconstruct truth claims by historicizing, and we end up with “epistemological electroshock therapy”. And feminists have altogether abandoned the spirit of science.
  • The other seductive end of the boejctivity problem. Marxism is a promising resource for a feminist objective vision
  • Feminist empricism: encourages feminist Marxism and seeks leitimate knowledge claims / objectivity. We have to insist on a better account of the world, we cannot simply show modes of construction
  • Sandra Harding: “successor science”
  • Ethics and politics over epistemology
  • How do we simultaneously historicize (center the subject), recognize our own semiotic technologies, and have a commitment to “objectivity” towards the “real” world

The Persistence of Vision

  • The role of vision in feminist discourse: vision can avoid binary oppositions
  • All vision is embodied
  • A doctrine of embodied objectivity which accomodates feminist science projects: feminist objectivity means situated knowledges.
  • Feminist objectivity requires situated knowledges
  • Eyes have often been used to signify perversion / voyeurism / disturbing enjoyment
  • Insisting on the particular embodiment of all vision
  • Feminist writing of the bodyw hich emphasizes vision again – reclaim the power of modern sceicnes / technologies for objectivity debates
  • Objectivity is about particular and specific embodiment, not transcending limits and responsibility.
  • Only partial perspectives promise objective vision
  • Feminist objectivity is about limited location and situated knowledge, being answerable for what we see
  • There is no unmediated way of seeing the world: there are highly specific vritual possibilities; each is highly specific, partial, detailed, active.
  • We should not romanticize the periphery or the depths. Positions of the subjugated are not exempt from criticla reexamination. “the god trick”
  • Relativism: a way of being nowhere while claiming to be everywhere. The laternative is partial, locatable, critical knowledges. We cannot play god tricks like relativism and totalization.
  • Sustained, rational, objective inquiry rests on the politics & epistemoloyg of partial perspectives.
  • Be hostile to easy relativisms!
  • Being is very problematic / contingent
  • Vision is always a question of the power to see
  • Self-knowledge requires a semiotic-material technology to link meaning and bodies
  • The Western eye travels, wanders.
  • Subjecitvity/vision is multidimensional.
  • The promise of objectivity is that a scientific knower seeks the subject position of partial connection. We can see another without claiming to be them. Do not search for the “fetishized perfect subject of the essentialized Third World Woman”.
  • Critical ppositioning produces objectivity
  • Knowledge from an unmarked point of view is distorted, irrational
  • “Optical illusions projected from nowhere”

page 7

“Have We Got a Theory for You! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism and the Demand for ‘The Woman’s Voice’

  • What kind of way of doing philosophy do we need to embody?
  • What does it mean that we are writing in English right now?


  • Feminism is a response to the exclusion of women left out of a male account of the world.
  • Should feminists insist on moving/acting in accordance with wills and not against them?
  • It matters to us, what is said about us.
  • Not only about our life, but also about the symbolic reproduction of our life.
  • Part of human life is living it.
  • Is being silenced a kind of oppression?
  • “We cannot divorce life from the telling of it”
  • Internalized oppression: not speaking an authentic language, reducing symbolic understanding of living/life.
  • Who gets to tell the story about women? What happens when men tell the stories of women?
  • Consciousness-raising and telling one’s story as part of the feminist method
  • The articulation of experience is one of the hallmarks of a self-determining individual / community.
  • Demands grow from complaints, which do not specify which women have been silenced. But this is anti-intersectional.
  • “Woman’s voice” / “womens’ voices” are central to feminist theory
  • Silencing of women supposedly reveals a systematic pattern of power and authority.
  • Theorizing is integral to feminism, especially the concept of a woman’s voice
  • Interestingly, Black women know more about White women than White women may know about themselves, just to survive (partial knowledges)
  • Interjection: “Hispana voice”
  • Specific situations / viewpoints.
  • “your language and theories cannot express our experiences, and so we only succeed in communicating our experience of exclusion”
  • Exclusion as a way of complaining is tantamount to remaining silent.
  • Nothing necessitates them to understand our world, a sense of understanding with a stakes
  • Self-recognition, assimilation.
  • Friendship as the fundamental motive for investigation: non-interialist feminism requires real non-coerced space.
  • Abandon your universal calism, reducation of the theoretical.
  • The production of theory / knowledge

II: Some Questionable Assumption About Feminist theorizing

  • A woman’s and a theorist’s account of experiences.
  • One-sided dialogue
  • Systemic pressures to believe theories, even when they may not be “true”
  • Only when dialogue is genuine and reciprocal can we trust the outsider’s account.
  • Whose theories are articulated/said? What functions do they serve?

III: Ways of Talking or Being Talked About that are Helpful, Illuminating, Empowering, Respectful

  • WHo makes theories? What are they about? How are they tested? etc.
  • Some theoreis are androcentric, sexist, paternalistic, etc.
  • Feminist theory is no less immune to negative characterizations than Plato or Freud.
  • Suggestions for making it more helpful:
    1. See how parts of one’s life fit together.
    2. Help oneself locate themselves concretely in the world, rather than mystifying it.
    3. Allows one to reflect on theri own agency with respect to that location.
    4. Provides criteria for change and makes suggestions for genuine modes of resistance
    5. There is a connection between theory and consciousness. Is theory just a bonding ritual for acadmeic/educationally privileged feminists/women?
  • Feminist theory can empower one group while demoralizing another
  • Feminist theory is value laden. What is an axiology of feminism?

IV: Some Suggestions About How to do Theory That is no Imperialistic, Ethnocentric, Disrespectful

  • What are the commitments being made to the ‘profession’?
  • Should we create conditions for better production of feminist theory?
  • What is the shared text / the common language? Reconceptualizing the shared text. We must be unintrusive, inimportant, patient. And we need to come to terms with a sense of alienation.
  • No fetishisms of the Third World; no seeking for redemption / manifesting obligation.
  • Learning requires openness, sensiivity, self-questioning.
  • Mutual dialogue which does not reduce towards a common instance of “woman”.

“A Love Letter from a Critic”, Nash

  • A “vocal critic of intersectionality” – what does this mean?
  • What is a critic? What is tracing the stories we tell?
  • Black feminist theorists retell a singular story about intersectionality. One group of scholars supports intersectionality, and everyone else is opposed to it (‘the critics’). So intersectionality must be saved.
  • Intersectionality’s critic is actually imaginatively produced by black feminists; the critic is an imaginative projection.
  • Black feminists are enlisted in becoming what the field wants them to be – disciplinarians.

The Intersectionality Wars

  • “intersectionality” – declared dead?
  • Would killing intersectionality mean killing black feminism and black
  • Debates about intersectionality become all about for or against. Slippages animate the discursive space.
  • Debates are actually over the discipline’s key sign – black woman – in the field imaginary.
  • Movement of intersectionality to the center of feminism and women’s studies
  • How to signal attentiveness to difference
  • Defense of intersectionality from imagine abuse
  • Janet Halley: political ideas have prose styles. You have a political libido. Intersectionality wars underscore the violence inflicted upon intersectionality by critics.
  • Occultic commodification of black female subjectivity / the concept of intersectionality – been commodified and colonized for neoliberal regimes
  • Is criticism a violent practice? Milking the political libido – representing intersectionality under siege
  • A protective response is demanded.

Origin Stores

  • Competing origin stories about the genesis of intersectionality
  • Blackf eminism tethers intersectionality to a coherent origin, as a singular voice
  • Intersectionality origin stories: respond to the whiteness of women’s studies, and debate who termed the term, whose terrain intersectionality was, etc.
  • An insistence that intersectionality belongs in black feminism, and that it is in fact the intellectual contribution fo women’s studies
  • “Whitening of intersectionality”
  • Black feminism lays a proprietary claim to the analytic of intersectionality.
  • Who “owns” intersectionality?
  • Emphasizing intersectionality is a response to the imagined appropriation of black feminism.
  • Who is the origin academic? Patricia Hill Collins, Crenshaw, Combahee River Collective, etc. All these origin stories perform political work.
  • Does Crenshaw end up playing a God-role in the intersectionality?
  • “Crenshaw was Columbus” – a “gift of intersectionality”
  • Intersectionality was actually born in social movements and activism
  • Another historical effect: to suggest that black feminist intellectual and political work has always been intersectional.
  • A logic of ‘coinage’
  • What is the “lure of the signature”
  • This act of guarding origins shields the analytic from abuse


  • Intersectionality has been taken over by white women’s studies.
  • Policing intersectionality’s appropriations
  • “ocultic commodification”
  • If intersectionality has been commodified, then it is because it is the result of intellectual labor and has been imbued with value.
  • Fetishized marginality
  • Scholars can pretend to engage in intersectional labor
  • Intersectionality has in fact been used to undermine its very project.
  • Colonization for neoliberal regimes
  • Intersectional work is demanding! But it can be masqueraded.
  • Language of colonization points towards decolonial labor, returning intersectionality to black feminists
  • What is the difference between appropriation and travel of theories / circulation?
  • Is calling one’s work intersectional a claim to value?
  • Limiting the analytic – commodifying it, treating it as a fetish, etc.
  • Villains and saviors
  • “Speaking for” / who has the right to say

Intersectionality’s Critics

  • The critic is both ubiqitous and destructive
  • What is a “critique”
  • Intersectionality is a consensus-creating signifier.
  • Critique thieves!
  • Critics are monolithic
  • What are the problematic practices?
  • Lack of specificity
  • Jasbir Puar – the critique of intersectionality
  • Assemblage vs intersectional model of identity, messiness vs a formulaic grid
  • “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess”.
  • The manufacturing of an Other figure, the Woman Of Color, totally exterior
  • Queer theory vs feminism
  • A latent racialism?
  • Black feminists produce the critic rather than exposing it
  • The urgency is to save intersectionality from the critic – which justifies black feminism retroactivelyh

Love Letter from a Critic

  • Besiegment
  • Academic “outlaws”
  • Can we love the critic and interpret the critic as engaged in a loving practice?
  • Refuse the lure of territoriality

“Transnational Feminisms, Nonideal Theory, and ‘Other’ Women’s Power” by Serene J. Khader

  • Antirelativist framing of transnational feminist critiques
  • A nonideal context of transantional feminist praxis
  • Western feminism is critiqued for seeing ‘other” women only as victims of patriarchy.
  • But can we even object to women’s oppression? Or is it imperialist?
  • Are women’s rights human rights?
  • It is not simply about ethnocentrism. It is about failing to ask the rigth normative questions – about the nonideal context
  • Western feminists are fixated on pointing out the nonideality of non-Western cultures
  • Misuse of ideal theory
  • Westerm feminists need to ask if “other” women’s power is resistance

I: Ideal theory, colonial epistemic practices, and culture-ranking

  • Western feminists often see dismissals of other women’s power as required by moral universalism. (?)
  • Incorrectly assume an ideal vision of gender justice is needed.
  • “Ideal theory” – normative approaches that develop visions of just social conditions instead of analytical tools for rectifying existing ones
  • Colonial epistemic context: Western culture is closest to embodying the ideal
  • Other women’s power is dismissed for morally arbitrary reasons
  • “Resort to the cultural” and “cultural essentailism” – resort to the cultural happens when “other” women’s oppression is only explained in an ahistroical fashion; gender injustice is a result of “culture” as fetishized
  • “Moral blindness” / moral insensitivity
    • Lack of attention, keeps the gaze averted. The origin of non-Western practices is hidden.
    • Moral insensitivity bred by colonial epistemic practices. Knowing “other” cultures, “standing for” cultures metonymically. Synecdoche: parts representing holds.
    • “muslim culture”
  • The Western feminist eye is trained to pick out the oppressive practices of other cultures
  • Ideal theoretical habits exacerbate moral insensitivities
  • Transcendental institutionalism: there is a single best form of social organization
  • Emphasis on ideal theory in political philosophy bolsters the view that societies should look one way.
    • Ok, this is not really true for contemporary political philosophy
  • Cultural essentialism: “other” societies do not change. Western societies which have evolved are the most morally and politically developed.
  • Ideal theory conceals the thickness of normative ideals
    • Normative ideals hav ea descriptive thickness
  • How to ideals travel across contexts?
  • And may the injunction to achieve a paticular ideal include morally arbitrary components?
  • Do not confuse the unfamiliar with the normatively unacceptable
  • Ideal theory advocates for particular resolution when ideal and actuality diverge.
    • “gaps we see between our ideal and reality must be caused by problems in the world”
  • Ideal theory treats normative ideas as ossified; Western culture just is opposition to sexism
  • Ideal theory cannot analyze nonideal conditions
  • Western feminists can get obsessed with the idea of ranking cultures.

Ideal Theory and Other Women’s Power

  • Seeing “other” women’s power
  • Abstraction distorts what it attempts to describe, and by attributing features to the object which the object does not have
  • Idealization prevents us from perceiving the role normative views play in perpetuating injustice
  • Idealization of Western cultural forms.
  • The issue is not judgements about oppression, but rather attributing anti-oppressiveness to Western cultural forms for a morally arbitrary reason.
  • White French citizens mistake gender relations for ideal ones – the “tragedy of youg women covering their beautiful faces”
  • Gender justice requires “sexual liberation”, presenting oneself as a sexual object
  • The French cannot see the sexism of their own gender protocols.
  • Western cultural forms are morally arbitrary.
  • Western concepts can be idealized – need to contextualize and situate tools.
  • Universal goods may be sought out through different means

“Introduction: Bringing Feminist Theory Home”, Sara Ahmed

  • Feminism is how we “pick each other up”
  • Living a feminist life does not mean adopting a set of ideals
  • “Cultural feminism” – the idea that feminism is about how to live.
  • Feminism can be more easily dismissed when it is seen as itself being about dismissal, the feminist policer.
  • Feminists are not police.
  • To live a feminist life is to make everything into something questionable (Marx: ‘the ruthless criticism of all that exists’)
  • What kind of world are we building?
  • Hope

A Feminist Movement

  • Feminism is a movement: we are moved to become feminists.
  • Feminist movement is collective political movement
  • Feminist action as ripples in water
  • Convene \(\to\) convention
  • A movement needs to take place somewhere
  • Momentum, self-identification
  • Feminist movements can go undetected
  • Feminism needs to be everywhere because feminism is not everywhere
  • Patriarchal reasoning goes all the way down.
  • Assumption: feminism travels from West to East, feminism as an imperial gift. But for Ahmed, feminism travels from teh East
  • Feminism: movements require us to be moved.
  • Feminism, bell hooks: the movement to end sexism, sexual exploitation, and sexual oppression
  • Flavia Dzodan, feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit
  • Feminism must recognize what has not ended yet.
  • The postfeminist fantasy
  • As a feminist, you aim to bring to an end what some do not recognize as existing.
  • Materiality and mentality
  • Feminist movements must be cautious – waver your convictions


  • Feminism is homework: work done in the home assigned by an authority outside the home
  • Feminism is self-assignment
  • Feminism transforms the house
  • Feminist theory must be also exercised in home; it cannot be understood only as something which is done away from home.
  • citational chain of theory
  • Is doing theory about putting non-relevant questions into brackets?
  • You are assumed to be interrupting a happy occasion because of your negation.
  • How to make feminist theory become homework? ANd the university too?
  • “We use our particulars to challenge the universal”

Building Feminist Worlds

  • An embodied experience of power provides the basis for knowledge
  • THeoreticla work which is in touch with the world
  • The everyday si animation – the personal is theoretical.
  • To be a feminist is to stay a student
  • An intervention within academic feminism
  • Resonances, repeating words, repetition
  • Feminist instruction: start from experiences of becoming feminists, and generating new ideas about feminism.
  • “Sweaty concepts” - Audre Lorde. Being pulled out from a shattering experience.
    • Conceptual work is too often understood as different from describing the situation, but rather as a way of bringing-something-into-the-world
    • Descriptive work is conceptual work. Sweaty concepts come from bodies which are not at home in the world. Angles, points of view. Sweat is bodily; it is trying, there will be labor.
  • Pronouns, you vs. me, straining, labor of identification.
  • Building feminist worlds from feminist materials; feminist theory as world-making. Feminist theory is not merely a tool to be used and then shelved away. You cannot do feminist theory without being a feminist.
  • How do we dismantle a world built to accomodate only some bodies?
  • No one is born a woman; it is an assignment.
  • Fighting for women as women… possibly a contradiciton here?
  • Citation is feminist memory
  • Assemble your own kit
  • Feminist classics
  • How do books make communities
  • Labor of going over materials, texts
  • Feminism is a fragile archive, we must take responsibility and give care

“Only Joking!: On the Offensiveness of Humor”, McTernan

  • Tim Hunt, Nobel winning biochemist.
  • Should people take offense?
  • There is a tension in how we should take jokes. We often take offense at humorous remarks
  • Should we ought not to take offense at jokes?
  • What is the right way to do comedy? Rape jokes, homophobic jokes, punching down, etc.
  • Perhaps comedy’s nature is to be offensive.

Theories of humor and the offensive

  • What is the nature of humor?
  • Superiority theory, relief theory, incongruity theory
  • Pluralism: each theory best captures some type of humor, but no one theory captures all types.
  • Superiority theory
    • Humor is an attentive demolition of another
    • Expression of our superiority over others or our former selves
    • Kant’s remarks
    • Mockery is a way to deflate others and to exercise a claim of superiority
    • Sarcasm: aggressive humor where the individual becomes a victim of a humorous utterance
    • “so kind of you to join us” – targeting one individual to entertain others
  • Relief theory
    • Humor is a release to free the libidinal energy we would have otherwise had.
    • We repress sexual desire and hostility
    • We let out a desire that we ordinarily repress
    • There is somethig troubling about the kind of hostility that jokes reveal
    • Men telling rape jokes? He may have suppressed the hostility
  • Incongruity theory
    • Humor lies in the incongruity between expectations and the outcome
    • Three features: something must be appraised as a violation, something must be appraised as benign, and these appraisals are juxtaposed
    • Perhaps jokes make light of our moral standards, e.g. dead baby jokes. They are transgressive.
    • Jokes express lack of concern for those who by moral standards deserve some kind of concern for human dignity.
    • Norms
  • Why do we find things amusing?
  • Two objections to the protrayal of offensiveness from the incongruity theory
    • We can both be offended and find something humorous. Both amusement and an offensive reaction, e.g. “I ought to be offended by that”. Form and content. But: one emotion can overcome th eother, or we can be a pluralist about humor
    • The fact that an utterance was intended as benign makes it so. Successful humor depends on finding a violation benign. But who is the party involved?
  • So far, none of these three theories gives us much to defend the idea that something which is humorous is not to take offense from.

Some linguistics of jokes

  • Speech-acts? Serious vs non-serious jokes? Does this give us cause to take offense?
  • Humor: a decommitment from one’s utterance, one’s remarks are uttered non-seriously, i.e. disassociation, play, etc.
  • Humor is a way of trying out behavior which is socailly risky, to have an ‘out’
  • Maybe this is a reason to people’s claims of only joking. It is an attempt to retract risky social moves. Offense comes from taking the joke as serious.
  • Jokes violate Gricean rules of conversation – we may say false, unjustified, exaggerated things. Comedy trades off on ambiguity.
  • Sometimes jokes may be invoked in the spirit of playfulness. But what matters is how the joke functions
  • Humor might be a deviation from ordinary interactions.

How offensive jokes function

  • Phillipe Schlenker: when a slur is used without correction or dissent, background presuppositions of a conversation shift; derogatory propositions become part of the common ground.
  • Norm violations might cease to become violations.
  • Why do men find sexist content more funny? Distance and lack of commitment.
  • What is the causal role of jokes?
  • Women tend to be more committed to anti-sexist norms
  • What does a commitment to norms mean?
  • Does one signal agreement to acceptability, you are finding the violation benign, and signalling to tohers that you do so too.
  • Humor being made visible
  • Serious utterances do not always demand a response from us in the same way that humor does, a joke is kind of an open question. It may even be rude not to respond to joke.
  • Serious utterances like “women ought to do the laundry” do not necessarily shape the common ground.

The riskiness of humor

  • “I was only joking!”, “it was meant to b efunny!”
  • There is no good reason to refrain from taking offense
  • Saying you were only joking may
    • let you off the hook for having seriously said something
    • one shouldn’t be too literal in interpreting a joke, but rather “Girl” in the abstract
  • Jokes read in relation to their audience
  • Offending people is what we risk when we make jokes.
  • Benign violations vs nonbenign violations.
  • Offense is one way to resist the way in which humor can introduce or reinforce social inequalities in our interactions.
  • Taking offense is denying that a humorous remark is benign

“A Paradigm of Philosophy: The Adversary Method”, Janice Moulton

The Unhappy Conflation of Aggression with Success

  • Aggression – often positively accepted in philosophic methodology, but also associated with sex
  • Aggression – an offensive action or procedure, culpable unprovoked overt hostile attack
  • Physical aggression is not good. But aggression is still rewarded: power, activity, ambition, authority, competence, effectiveness
  • One may need to olearn to behave aggressively to appear competent, seem superior, gain power
  • Male aggression is perceived as natural
  • It appears as if women must behave aggressively to be thought aggressive.
  • Female aggression is more conscious as an object of critique than male aggression
  • Maybe an aggressive woman is “unnatural”
  • Some feminists dismiss the sex distinction
  • It is a mistake to associate aggressiveness with these positive traits
  • Polite speech can still be very powerful and effective
  • Conflation of aggression with positive concepts
  • Aggression often equated with energy. But in fact aggression can hinder activities
  • Argument: philosophy incorporates aggression into its methodology

Scientific Reasoning

  • Scientific claims are supposedly objective and value free.
  • Karl Popper: scientific statements invoke values, but resasoning is objective and deductive
  • Kuhn – even the reasoning used in science is not value free or certain
  • Science involves a paradigm, beliefs about methodology and evaluation of research
  • Theory changes because it is more satisfying becuase it is more important.
  • Philosophy is also governed by paradigms?

Philosophy Reasoning – the Adversary Paradigm

  • Philosophic reasoning – unimpassioned debate between adversaries who defend their own views against others’. Adversary Paradigm
  • Address work to an imagined opponent and muster evidence to support it.
  • An adversary does not think about all the things
  • Objection to the adversary method – role as a paradigm. Adversary method dominates the methodologya nd misrepresents philosophic reasoning
  • Question – are philosophy and science the same? Are there really such things as Kuhnian paradigms?
  • Science: criticism of a paradigm is not successful unless there is an alternative paradigm

Defects of the Adversary Paradigm

  • If evaluatio nis not adversarial, it is assumed to be weaker, less effective.
  • But even Plato argued that you must have shared assumptions. A debate is not possible among people who truly disagree about everything.
  • Claims and arguments are rarely isolated; they are part of an interrelated system of ideas
  • “Debates” in which there just defeat for one argument but not necessarily change the entire system of values don’t really change anything
  • Adversarial criticism of arguments may merely strengthen support for other ideas. (“Why would that be so bad?”)
  • Adversary Paradigm allows for “programmatic” claims in philsoophy which are exempt
    • Popular claims in philosophy gain immunty from criticism because their details are not worked out. Objections can be dismissed as things to be considered later.
    • Irrefutability / adversarial immunity becomes the measure for philosophical worth

Misinterpreting the History of Philosophy

  • Under any paradigm, we are going to reinterpret history and recast the positions of earlier philosophers
  • Earlier philosophers are cast as if they were trying to address adversaries instead of trying to build a foudnation for scientific reasoning and explaining human nature.
  • Philosophers in excess of the adversarial mold are usually ignored.
  • Socratic method – identified with elenchus, discussion led towards leading one person to admit his views are wrong. Elenchus – about shaking people up on their cherished convictions to begin philosophical inquiries with a more open mind. Adversary Method: show that the other party is wrong.
  • Inability to win a public debate is not a good reason for giving up a belief. The Adversary Method is not a good format for reconciling idsagremeents
  • Socrates’ aim was not to rebut, but to show people to think for themselves.

Restriction of Philosophical Issues

  • What kinds of questions are asked? What kinds of answers are acceptable?
  • Philosophy of language
    • What properties can be subjected to deductive reasoning?
    • Meaning is the deductive consequences of sentences
    • We ask not what a sentence says but what it guarantees.
  • Philosophy of science
    • Non-deductive reasoning is thought to be no reasoning at all
  • Ethics
    • There must be a single supreme moral principle
  • Adversary Paradigm: only ideas which can be advocated and defended are admitted, we deny philosophies which examine ideas for their own sake
  • In metaphysics and epistemology, there is an assumption that language is necessary for thinking. Can creatures without language have thoughts?
  • We are expected to consider and honor positions unlike our own to meet their objections
    • Moral theories for egoists
    • Theories of knowledge for skeptics
  • Philosophic energy is expended arguing for the existence of some things, but what even are those things about.
  • There is a lot of energy about the existence of e.g. free will but no positive accounts of what it will be
  • Philosophers are drawn to extreme positions, but this distorts the landscape of what actually deserves attention.

The Paradigm Leads to Bad Reasoning

  • Adversary Paradigm accepts reasoning whose goal is to convince an opponent, and disregards discussion with like-minded thinkers or to figure something out for oneself.
  • Counterexamples, analogies, etc.
  • To construct an analogy which is not the issue at question is very difficult.
  • Judith Thomson – A Defense of Abortion. Suppose the right-to-life supporters have all their premises granted.
    • Right to property appealed to
    • But it is shown that abortion is wrong when starting from alternative claims. But there are many other reasons too.
    • Counterexamples – they can show that arguments do not support a conclusion, but do not provide a positive reason for accepting a conclusion.
  • Not just, is the argument valid? but also, what are the plausible premises to make ths argument good? Why is this argument important?
  • Experience may be a necessary element in reasoning processes

“How Might We Address the Factors that Contribute to the Scarcity of Philosophers Who Are Women and/or of Color?”, Yolonda Y. Wilson

  • Philosophy in the US is relatively homogenous.
  • Including alternative voices helps us build more interesting and important philosophy

4, Revisited

  • Are people told they don’t belong in philosophy departments?
  • How do graduat estudents interact with each other? They wield power over each other and undergraduates
  • Giving some people preference of the benefit of the doubt

3, Revisited

  • Women experience gender bias more frequently than we may perceive, and the perception of this may not always be immediate (it can “sink in”)
  • Sublinical bias
  • “maybe it’s just me”
  • a pheonmenology of sexism?

2, Revisited

  • Indviduals perform worse when their stigmatized status is called to attention.
  • We shouldn’t automatically default to “philosophy is hard”
  • The soft bigotry of low expectations

1, Revisited

  • We have to put in the work
  • Why do undergraduate women not pursue the philosophy major?
  • Charles Mills: a belief in the whiteness of philosophy, or even the conceptual whiteness of the discipline. Is there a guilty silence about race?
  • BS detectors begin pinging and this is not addressed in a serious way. “Philosopher X was a product of his time, but let’s not let that get in the way of the real work of philosophy.”
  • But there are more issues than just this. The issue is that the issues are ignored
  • Another idea: women or nonwhite students are only or primarily interested in race and gender
    • Academic stereotyping / essentializing
  • Ghettoizing of students and topics


  • Philosophy departments are microcosms of larger society
  • Don’t leave the world behind when you enter a philosophy department
  • Some of the hand-wringing feels disingenuous

“Asian Women: Invisibility, Locations, and Claims to Philosophy”, Yoko Arisaka


“The Transfeminist Manifesto”, Emi Koyama

  • Broadening of the American feminist movement in the 2nd half of the 20th century
  • Diversity is our strength, not our weakness
  • What do feminists stand for? Whom do they represent?
  • “Trans” – encompassing a wider range of gender norm violations
  • “Trans women” – live as women despite sex assignment at birth
  • Overcoming a male/female dichotomy
  • Transfeminism: movement by and for trans women to view their liberation as linked to the liberation of all women and beyond
  • Trans men have made a greater contribution than trans women (…hm)
  • Transfeminism is not about “taking over” feminism, but about extending and advancing feminism through liberation and coalition work
  • “Women from different backgrounds stand up for each other”

Primary Principles

  • Primary principles of transfeminism
    • Each individual has the right to define his or her own identity and to expect society to respect it. (ok… not so sure.) Expressing gender without fear of discrimination or violence.
    • We have the sole right to make decisions about our own bodies.
  • No one is free from existing regularizations of the gender system
  • Medicine: appointed to decide who is genuinely a woman or not
  • “Proving” womanhood by receiving hormonal interventions
  • Transfeminism: no one is to be coerced into personal decisions about their gender identity to be a “real” man or woman.
  • Trans women’s safety depends on how well they can pass as “normal”
  • Transfeminism challenges (trans) women on how we internalize patriarchal gender mandates
  • “Purity test”
  • Denial of agency

The Question of Male Privilege

  • Perhaps trans women and men benefit from male privilege?
  • Are f2m transsexuals “traitors” to feminism?
  • Trans women born as males surely still have benefited from it
  • Privilege is invisible to those who possess it, and very visible to those who lack it
  • What happens when trans women attempt to access “women’s spaces”?
  • 70s lesbian feminism: white, middle-class women prioritizing sexism as the most fundamental social inequality
  • Transfeminists confront their own privileges

Deconstructing the Reverse Essentialism

  • Gender is socially and culturally constructed. Sure.
  • But is there such a thing as true biological sex?
  • Feminists only questioned half of the problem…
  • Transfeminism holds that sex and gender are both socially constructed; the distinction is a matter of convenience.
  • People whose anatomical characteristics do not conform to male or female are manipulated into living the sex they have been assigned.
    • intersex people
  • Genital mutilation of intersex children is abusive because it violates consent
  • Trans liberation: taking back the right to define ourselves
  • It’s tempting to essentialize gender identity, “women trapped in men’s bodies”
  • General public more likely to support trans people if the idea is that they were born with a biological error
  • We should not fetishize a notion of a “male” or “female” mind

Body Image/Consciousness as a Feminist Issue

  • We might be ashamed or uncomfortable about our appearances, so we modify ourselves
  • We neglect social and political factors contributing to our personal decisions
  • You can fight against institutional enforcement of gender roles while also advocating for individuals’ rights to choose how they live to feel safe
  • Destablizing the heterosexist patriarchy

Violence Against Women

  • Feminists have identified violence against women not merely as isolated events, but a function of the patriarchy to keep women subjugated
  • Trans women are particularly subject to violence
  • Violence against trans people needs to be worked on
  • Transfeminism: fighting transphobia and sexism simultaneously in teh economic arena and in social and political ones

Health and Reproductive Choice

  • Trans women have no capacity for bearing children but should be invested in the women’s reproductive rights movement
  • Trans people are stigmatized because “we mess with our reproductive organs”
  • Taboo against self-determination of reproductive organs
  • Hormones for trans women and birth control for non-trans women
  • Reproductive choice is also about resisting sterilization and coerced abortion
  • The right to choose is not exclusively a heterosexual issue – it is about women determining what they do with their bodies
  • It is futile to intellectually debate who is and isn’t a woman – it’s time to build alliances.

“Trapped in the Wrong Theory: Rethinking Trans Oppression and Resistance”, Bettcher

  • “Wrong-body” model: transsexuality is a misalignment between gender identity and the sexed body
  • If transsexuality a problem of the mind? or of the body?
  • Weak wrong-body model: born with medical condition of transsexuality, and becomes a woman or a man
  • Strong wrong-body model: one’s real sex is determined by gender identity. One has “already really been” a man or a woman
  • How to theorize for yourself?
  • Alternative ways of living gender

What’s at stake?

  • If gender is a social construction, then what does this mean for transsexual people for whom gender identity seems to mean so much more?
  • What about trans people beyond the binary?
  • Different political manifestations
    • “Transsexual” – distance oneself from the standard transgender model. “Transsexual separatism. Wrong associations with gender nonnomrative people / cross-dressers?
    • “Genderqueer”, “trans*”, … – the irony is clear.
  • Transgender politics appeals to both the beyond the binary and the wrong body model.
  • A politics of ability?
  • Wrong-body fails to secure validity – many different features are part of sexual determination. Are they male or female? You can’t really say.
  • Perhaps a genitally postoperative transsexual woman is actually in violation of the binary. But one is admited into the category of woman “marginally”
  • It’s not really even clear by the stronger version if a transsexual woman really is female or a woman prior to genital reconstruction.
  • Why not avoid saying that anything is wrong at all?
  • What if gender identity itself is problematic?
  • Transsexual claims to belong to a sex do not appear to be metaphysically justified; they are political in nature.
  • Transfeminism: politics focusing on intersections of sexist and transphobic oppression.
  • How can transsexual women be oppressed both as being women and as being beyond the binary?
  • Wrong body account: problematic commitments from a feminist perspective, e.g. appeal to innate gender identity. It cannot be innate.
  • A genuinely intermeshing account of trans oppression and the oppression of women

Thinking trans

  • Genitcal configurations don’t undermine facts about “who we are”
  • Does “trans woman” mean someone who is beyond the binary?
  • “I’m a woman”
  • Trans women can be “paradigmatic women”, while simultaneously being a man in the dominant culture
  • Wrong-body and transgender approaches: take the dominant meanings of gender terms for granted – blocking off possibly resistant meanings.
  • The problem is not the rigidty of binary categories but the assumption that there is only one interpretation.
  • Rather than focusing on abstract vectors of oppression, think about institutionalized transphobic violence
  • Trans people perceived as “deceivers” – presenting themselves as something they are not – deceivers and pretenders
  • Being “discovered” as “a transgender”
  • Deceiver allows us to rethink the notion of doing gender. Clothing conceals the body. Misalignment of concealment and “the thing underneath” – reality enforcement.
    • Identity invalidation
    • Appearance-reality contrast
    • Deceiver-pretender double bind
    • Genital verification
  • Genitalia as a concealed reality
  • Are genitalia “natural possessions”?
  • Public gender presentation euphemistically communicates moral genitalia
  • Cultural genitalia
  • We can say that genitals have nothing to do with the negotiations of gender. But the certainly do.
  • Sex is moral in nature – gender is a euphemistic display of concealed moral (genital) sex (it really is about penises?)
  • What explains moral genitalia is the subjection of bodies to sex-differential boundaries of privacy and decency, which is essential to the possibility of intimacy.
  • Sex-differentiated forms of nakedness.
  • As variations of reality enforcement move away from paradigmatic cases, they lose commonly associated features
  • Reality enforcement is institutionalized – blending reality enforcement with sexual violation

Resistance in the wrong-body narrative

  • Trans people are constructed as construction; in a world where we all play a part, trans individuals play actors.
  • Naturalization vs denaturalization?
  • A constrast between appearance and reality, a genitalization of the body
  • Material vs inner body
  • Wrong-body narrative outlines a telos
  • Clinical distrust of trans people
  • Fuller opposition to reality enforcement: gender presentation vs genitalia
  • “Trapped in the wrong theory”

“Allies Behaving Badly: Gaslighitng as epistemic injustice”, Rachel McKinnon

  • Increasing epistemic insights from considering trans perspectives
  • “Allies”, “safe spaces”, etc. What is an ally?
  • Gaslighting
  • Abandon allyship; replace it with cultivating active bystanders
  • Subtle gaslighting: listener doesn’t believe a speaker’s testimon.
  • Epistemic injustice cricle
  • We have a strong reason to believe when someone tells us with respect to harassment and discrimination
  • Gaslighting by allies fails to afford first person epistemic authority
  • Allies need to see harm for themselves
  • Betryal

“The Shameful face of Philosophy”, Le Doeuff

From Teh Philosophical Imaginary

  • Philsosophy is not a story, not a work of literature; it breaks through the domain of image.
  • We also find statues which breath in mythological terms, a pictorial world
  • Decorations
  • Thinking in images
  • Studies of myth and dream
  • Narrow version: interpretation of imagery in philosophical texts goes together wtih a search fro points of tension in work. Imagery is inseparable from the difficulties
  • Broader version: meaning conveyed by images works for and against teh system which deploys them.
  • The work of essays takes place in between the location of a difficulty and a contradiction
  • Philosophical imaginary
  • Images need to be decoded; but if the images of philosophical texts are so functional, are they not “Made” to measure, that there is not just an imaginary in philosophy but a properly philosophical imaginary
  • Icon of the feminine in philosophy: not universal. Formulated in conjunction with phallocratic prejudices.
  • Imagery as a cultural product
  • there is not just one reason or one imaginary

“Anything but Argument?”, Cora Diamond


  • Finding arguments
  • A convincing appeal must go beyond assertiont o argument
  • Whom are we trying to convince when we engage in philosophical discussion?
  • We do not expect to convince anyone who is incapable of following our arguments
  • What about novels? Surely some people will not be convinced.
  • Whys hould a philosopher aim at convincing by argument those who can be convinced by good arguments?
  • With metaphysics, you can make plain the grounds of moral standing
  • Is the only way of going beyond assertion to go to wards argument?
  • Proceeding beyond assertion: attempt to convince others of a way of looking at things in a way which makes plain a cost of rejecting the view in question
  • How to go from particularistic affections to an objective hierarchy of values?


  • O’Neill’s conception of moral thinking makes it impossible ot account for the moral force of a lot of literature
  • “Properly philosophical” paradigm of moral thinking: interweaving of fact and principle.
  • “Responding with the heart”, poetry
  • Attending to a child as a center of a view of the world
  • Paradigms of attention – leaving behind moral views resting on ignorance of what children are like