Titles & Abstracts
"Embodied Meanings: Gender Identity, Racial Identity, Mixed Identities"
If the categories of gender and race are best understood as positions in a social structure, then in principle one can be gendered and raced without incorporating that fact into one's self-understanding. How, then, should we understand gender and race identity? I argue that a common model (suggested by Ian Hacking (following Anscombe), and developed by Anthony Appiah) that analyzes identity in terms of the content of one's intentions to act is inadequate to capture a broad range of unintentional and even unconscious behavior that are plausibly relevant to one's identity. I offer an alternative proposal that takes into account unreflective, unintended, and unconscious aspects of embodiment.
"Speaker's Freedom and Maker's Knowledge"
Free speech has traditionally been defended in the name of knowledge. Pornography has not been defended in the name of knowledge. Liberals say it is fantasy, feminists say it is lies; and neither lies nor fantasy are conducive to knowledge. However, I want to consider the uncomfortable fact that pornography is a source of knowledge, if certain feminist claims are true. A claim that pornography objectifies is, in part, a claim that pornography shapes the world: pornography makes the world arrange itself, and women arrange themselves, to match the pornographic vision. This means pornography does not (or not only) tell lies about women. It tells truths too, because what it says is, in part, self-fulfilling. I want to consider the oddity of the knowledge in question: how it resembles what philosophers have called 'maker's knowledge', the knowledge God is supposed to have of his creatures, the knowledge agents are supposed to have of their actions. This epistemological aspect of objectification does not, in the end, yield a surprising knowledge-based defense of pornography; but it does let us see objectification's moral dimension in a different light.
"Pornography and Philosophical Authority"
What qualifies philosophers, as philosophers, to weigh in on contemporary social issues? What underwrites our claims to authority as cultural critics? The point of this paper is to suggest, using the exemplary case of pornography, that the cost for philosophers of failing to see the pertinence of these questions to our undertakings has been to ensure the general irrelevance of what we do. Criticizing the idea that our job is to "apply" philosophy to social concerns, as some philosophers have done in using J. L. Austin's How to Do Things With Words in constructing anti-pornography arguments, this paper unfashionably recommends a return to a grander, more ambitious understanding of what licenses the philosopher's particular claim to cultural authority.
"Buns in the Oven: Objectification, Surrogacy and Women's Autonomy"
Over the past decade, a number of feminist philosophers have forcefully argued a case for commercial surrogate pregnancy, based on the idea that reconstructing pregnancy as a productive, economic endeavor shifts the boundaries of the public/private dichotomy. The claim is that insofar as contract pregnancy disengages women from the stereotypes that assume a "natural" domesticity in their labour, women's autonomy is enhanced. In this paper I consider whether commercial surrogacy arrangements are in fact able to enhance women's reproductive autonomy in the aforementioned way. Through my analysis of the culture of commercial contract pregnancy, I show that a malign form of objectification toward the surrogate mother occurs, which has both direct and subversive negative effects on autonomy. The harm of objectification exists both for the surrogate herself, and women more generally. While these effects may not lead us to the claim that all surrogate arrangements ought to be rejected, they challenge some of the more recent feminist arguments for commercial surrogacy, from within a distinctly feminist context.
"A Plea for 'Sex'"
Both in ordinary social discourse and in feminist debates, the term 'gender' has virtually replaced the use of the term 'sex'. In the case of the latter, the reason may be the Butlerian argument that sex is constructed just as much as gender is. This paper argues, on the contrary, for the importance for feminists of recognizing that a primitive concept of sex (understood in terms of genitalia) is still a constituent of social oppression, and that, because sex discrimination is not the same as gender discrimination, many women (and some men) still encounter sex discrimination in addition to gender discrimination.
"Is Female to Male as Black is to White?: Sex and Miscibility"
This paper will pursue analogies between sex and race concepts in order to understand "how far down" sex goes-i.e., the biological substrate that supports sex identities. Although human bodies can be systematically sorted into common sex and race categories, sex and race terms are generally shorthand ways of recognizing complex and commonly occurring patterns of bodily features and traits. I will suggest that sex, like race, is socially meaningful while biologically misleading. To some extent then, we might want to avoid sexing and racing bodies. I will argue that it is difficult to curb the practice of ascribing sex and race to bodies, in part, because sex and race terms are defined in ways that involve logical circularity. Unable to change our habits, we modify our conceptual systems for sexing and racing bodies by inventing new categories that borrow components of the old categories. However, just as mixed-race categories perpetuate ideas of racial purity that can have noxious social consequences, mixed-sex identities similarly perpetuate notions of sex normalcy and authenticity that render some bodily patterns anomalous and freakish, rather than simply rare. I will consider the implications of this claim for transgender, transsexual, intersex, and third sex/gender approaches to sex and gender.
"Prostitution as Unwanted Sex"
I argue that the behavior of "johns" (persons, usually men, who purchase sexual services from others in prostitution) is morally wrong insofar as it is an imposition of unwanted sex. After a brief explanation of the distinction between wanting something and consenting to it, I offer an account of what prostitution is typically like for the women, and of its typical damaging effects on their bodies and psyches. I contend that one important explanation for those effects is that the sex they are having is unwanted, and that this fact renders morally problematic the behavior of those who inflict the unwanted sex on them. I then detail one significant reason for thinking that when it comes to sex, especially the sex of prostitution, mere consent is not good enough.