Dr Holly Lawford-Smith, radical feminist and associate professor in Political Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, reads her philosophical essay, Ending Sex-Based Oppression: Transitional Pathways arguing for the abolition of gender stereotypes, sometimes also referred to as sex roles. First published in Philosophia in November 2020.
From a radical feminist perspective, gender is a cage. Or to be more precise, it’s two cages. If genders are cages, then surely we want to let people out. Being less constrained in our choices is something we all have reason to want: theorists in recent years have emphasized the importance of the capability to do and be many different things. At the very least, we should want an end to sex-based oppression. But what does this entail, when it comes to gender? In this paper, I'll compare four 'transitional pathways', with a view to considering how each relates to the ultimate end of ending sex-based oppression. Should we open the doors to the cages, so that people can move freely between them, but leave the cages themselves in place? (Transgender pathway). Should we add more cages? (Nonbinary pathway). Should we make the cages bigger, so that people have a lot more room to move around inside them? Or should we dismantle the cages, so there are no more genders at all? (Gender abolitionist pathways). Some of these options are ‘gender revisionist’, others are gender abolitionist. I'll argue in favour of a gender abolitionist pathway.