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The IU Bloomington Libraries' Philosophy collection supports research and teaching in all branches of philosophy.

Metaphysics of Gender

While in common parlance the word gender often serves as a kid-friendly synonym for sex, in feminist and academic discussions, the two are often seen as conceptually distinct. A rough and hasty description of the sex-gender distinction might say that sex is a biological given, gender is a social construction, and never the twain shall meet. However, even if we grant the sex-gender distinction (and a number of feminists do reject it for a variety of reasons), it remains far from obvious what, precisely, gender is, what it means for gender to be socially constructed, or what we should make of gender anyway.

Fortunately, feminists and philosophers have recently taken interest in the metaphysics of gender. This LibGuide serves as a selective bibliography on some of the scholarly work being done in this fascinating and important field of inquiry. A companion subject post on this topic is forthcoming.

Getting Started
For introductory material on the philosophy of gender and feminist philosophy, check out these articles from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which also provides extensive bibliographies of their own that are worth exploring:

Additionally, the following bibliography identifies sources (within and without philosophy) on matters pertaining to trans genders, the lived experiences of transfolk, and intersectionality, and should prove a valuable resource for those interested in the metaphysics of gender:

Next Steps
If you'd like to explore this topic further, our library subject research portals are also a good place to get started; among other things, they provide tailored, subject-based lists of research resources:

Sources on the nature of social construction, considered as such or with particular respect to gender:

  • Diaz‐Leon, Esa. "What is Social Construction?" European Journal of Philosophy 23, no. 4 (2015): 1137-52. arrow-link
  • Hacking, Ian. The Social Construction of What? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999. arrow-link
  • Haslanger, Sally. "Ontology and Social Construction." Philosophical Topics 23, no. 2 (1995): 95-125. arrow-link
  • Mallon, Ron. "Naturalistic Approaches to Social Construction." In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward  N. Zalta. 2013. arrow-link
  • Sveinsdóttir, Ásta Kristjana. "The Social Construction of Human Kinds." Hypatia 28, no. 4 (2013): 716-32. arrow-link
  • Sveinsdóttir, Ásta. "Social Construction." Philosophy Compass 10, no. 12 (2015): 884-92. arrow-link

Sources on the genealogy of gender:

  • Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. 2nd ed. London, UK: Routledge, 1999. arrow-link
  • Germon, Jennifer. Gender: A Genealogy of an Idea. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. arrow-link
  • Repo, Jemima. The Biopolitics of Gender. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016. arrow-link

Sources on the metaphysics of gender:

  • Alcoff, Linda. Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006. arrow-link
  • Bach, Theodore. "Gender Is a Natural Kind with a Historical Essence." Ethics 122, no. 2 (2012): 231-72. arrow-link
  • Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. 2nd ed. London, UK: Routledge, 1999. arrow-link
  • Diaz-Leon, Esa. "'Woman' as a Politically Significant Term: A Solution to the Puzzle." Hypatia 31, no. 2 (2016): 245-58. arrow-link
  • Haslanger, Sally. "Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them to Be?" Noûs 34, no. 1 (2000): 31-55. arrow-link
  • Haslanger, Sally. Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012. arrow-link
  • Jenkins, Katharine. "Amelioration and Inclusion: Gender Identity and the Concept of Woman." Ethics 126, no. 2 (2016): 394-421. arrow-link
  • Overall, Christine. "Sex/Gender Transitions and Life-Changing Aspirations." In You've Changed: Sex Reassignment and Personal Identity, edited by Laurie Shrage, 11-27. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2009. arrow-link
  • Power, Nicholas, Raja Halwani, and Alan Soble, eds. Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings. 6th ed. New York, NY: Rowan & Littlefield, 2012. arrow-link
    • See, for example:
      • Ch. 14: Talia Bettcher, “Trans Women and the Meaning of 'Women'", 233-50.
      • Ch. 15: Christine Overall, “Trans Persons, Cisgender Persons, and Gender Identities”, 251-67.
  • Sveinsdóttir, Ásta Kristjana. "The Social Construction of Human Kinds." Hypatia 28, no. 4 (2013): 716-32. arrow-link
  • Witt, Charlotte. The Metaphysics of Gender. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011. arrow-link
  • Witt, Charlotte, ed. Feminist Metaphysics. New York, NY: Springer, 2010. arrow-link
    • See, for example:
      • Ch. 3: Natalie Stoljar, “Different Women. Gender and the Realism-Nominalism Debate”, 27-46.
      • Ch. 5: Mari Mikkola, “Ontological Commitments, Sex and Gender”, 67-83.

Sources on feminist metaphysics and the metaphysics of gender vis-à-vis "mainstream" metaphysics:

  • Barnes, Elizabeth. "Going Beyond the Fundamental: Feminism in Contemporary Metaphysics." Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 3, no. 114 (2014): 335–51. arrow-link
  • Mikkola, Mari. "Feminist Metaphysics and Philosophical Methodology." Philosophy Compass 11, no. 11 (2016): 661-70. arrow-link
  • Mikkola, Mari. "On the apparent antagonism between feminist and mainstream metaphysics." Philosophical Studies (2016): 1-14. arrow-link
  • Schaffer, Jonathan. "Social Construction as Grounding; or, Fundamentality for Feminists, a Reply to Barnes and Mikkola." Philosophical Studies (2016): 1-17. arrow-link
  • Sider, Theodore. "Substantivity in Feminist Metaphysics." Philosophical Studies (2016): 1-12. arrow-link