Ontological Commitments, Sex and Gender

  • Mari MikkolaEmail author


This chapter develops an alternative for (what feminists call) “the sex/gender distinction”. I do so in order to avoid certain problematic implications the distinction underpins. First, the sex/gender distinction paradigmatically holds that some social conditions determine one’s gender (whether one is a woman or a man), and that some biological conditions determine one’s sex (whether one is female or male). Further, sex and gender come apart. Taking gender as socially constructed, this implies that women exist mind-dependently, or due to productive human social activities; thus, it should be possible to do away with them just by altering the social conditions on which gender depends. In addition, some feminists take gender to depend on oppressive social conditions. Changing our social environments, then, would not only unwittingly eradicate women; doing away with women should be feminism’s political goal. I argue that both implications are unacceptable. In response, I argue for a view that is more congenial to ordinary thinking and that doesn’t have the goal of eradicating women.


Social Construction Parental Leave Ontological Commitment Social Agent Covariance Relation 
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An earlier version of the paper was presented at the “Thinking about Sex and Gender” conference in February 2008 at Lancaster University, UK. I am grateful to those present for their helpful comments and suggestions. This chapter has also benefited greatly from discussions with and comments received from Jules Holroyd, Kathleen Lennon, Jennifer Saul, Alison Stone, Alessandra Tanesini and Charlotte Witt.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

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