My research is primarily in social philosophy, especially the ontology of social categories. I'm interested in how social categories such as races and genders exist, and how these categories are bound up with systematic injustices. I'm also interested in feminist philosophy and critical philosophy of race more broadly, in the philosophy of sex and sexuality, and in social epistemology. Topics I have written about include rape myths, pornography, and gender identity.
In this paper, I identify a distinctive form of injustice – ‘ontic injustice – in which an individual is wronged by the very fact of being socially constructed as a member of a certain social kind. To be a member of a certain social kind is, at least in part, to be subject to certain social constraints and enablements, and these constraints and enablements can be wrongful to the individual who is subjected to them, in the sense that they inflict a moral injury. The concept of ontic injustice is valuable in three main ways: it draws our attention to the role played by social kinds in enacting wrongful constraints and enablements; it clarifies our options for developing accounts of the ontology of particular social kinds, such as gender kinds; and – along with the related concept of ‘ontic oppression’ – it helps us to understand and respond to oppression.
This paper uses social ontology, specifically John Searle’s account of institutional reality, to advance a feminist analysis of the harms of certain types of pornography. I take as my starting point two claims made by Catharine MacKinnon: (1) that pornography subordinates women (the subordination claim), and (2) that pornography constructs women’s natures in a way that is somehow defective (the constructionist claim). I offer an argument for the two claims that draws on Searle’s account of how institutional entities are constructed through the collective intentional imposition of status functions. I then argue that there is good reason to think that the two claims apply to other forms of representation besides pornography, and that broader versions of the claims are more plausible than the original, narrower ones.
This chapter explores the link between epistemic injustice and ignorance. We show how different varieties of epistemic injustice contribute to the production and maintenance of various forms of ignorance including a special form of ignorance we call ‘lack of conceptual know-how’. The dynamics we identify are illustrated by a discussion of the ways in which trans people are subjected to epistemic injustice.
Feminist analyses of gender concepts must avoid the inclusion problem, the fault of marginalizing or excluding some prima facie women. Sally Haslanger’s ‘ameliorative’ analysis of gender concepts seeks to do so by deﬁning woman by reference to subordination. I argue that Haslanger’s analysis problematically marginalizes trans women, thereby failing to avoid the inclusion problem. I propose an improved ameliorative analysis that ensures the inclusion of trans women. This analysis yields ‘twin’ target concepts of woman, one concerning gender as class and the other concerning gender as identity, both of which I hold to be equally necessary for feminist aims.
This paper argues that rape myths and domestic abuse myths constitute hermeneutical injustices. The prevalence of these myths makes victims of rape and of domestic abuse less likely to apply those terms to their experiences. I argue that victims in this situation lack the conceptual resources needed to render their experience sufficiently intelligible, meaning that they are suffering a form of hermeneutical injustice. Attending to this distinctive case sheds new light not only on the functioning of social myths of this kind but on the nature of hermeneutical injustice itself, since the case of the victim who accepts myths is importantly different from other cases of hermeneutical injustice discussed in the literature to date.
In this paper I explore the situation of feminist academics, positing a tension between the demands of feminist research and the norms of academia. Feminist research, I suggest, may be subject to de-legitimization on the grounds of supposed lack of objectivity; to marginalization from the main body of a discipline; and to conceptual hostility when operating within the main body of a discipline. I then show that the situation of feminist academics can be conceptualised as a double bind: a set of circumstances in which an agent is given a set of competing demands, with no possibility of receiving clarification as to which demands to pursue. I argue that this interpretation of the situation of feminist academics is helpful because it prompts constructive ways of thinking and facilitates solidarity.
The nature of sexual desire is one that has been a topic of profound interest to feminist theorists, yet this body of work is routinely overlooked by those working on this topic within the analytic tradition, resulting in two quite separate literatures. Focussing on the work of feminist theorist Andrea Dworkin – a distinctive and polarizing figure – I argue that much is lost by this partitioning. I first introduce Dworkin’s work on sexual intercourse and offer some clarifications. Then, using Igor Primoratz’s account of sex as an example, I argue that analytic work on sexual desire would benefit greatly from Dworkin’s valuable insights about the socially constructed nature of sex. Finally, I bring Dworkin into conversation with Seiriol Morgan’s work on sexual meaning.