Gender abolitionism, gender transitioning, and nonbinary identities - Holly Lawford-Smith (uMelb)

MSPT Seminar (17/09/2018): Holly Lawford-Smith (uMelb)

Gender abolitionism, gender transitioning, and nonbinary identities

Here is a plausible view: gender is a cage. Or to be more precise, it’s two cages: ‘man’ and ‘woman’. The cages trap people with the biological sex ‘male’ and ‘female’. Those of the male sex are trapped as men, those of the female sex are trapped as women. Gender roles come along with stereotypes and fixed expectations about behaviour, and these constrain the ways that people can present themselves, and can behave–at least without fear of censure. It would be bad enough if our current gender system only trapped people into roles that were ‘equal but different’. But it does more than that; it traps people into roles that are unequal. The ‘man’ class of people oppresses the ‘woman’ class of people. Bad science is wheeled in to justify this inequality, and violence and other forms of social policing work to maintain it. If genders are cages, then surely we want to let people out. But there’s a question about what we should be aiming for in terms of ending gendered oppression (the ideal) and how we should get there (the best transitional pathway). Should we open the doors to the cages, so that people can move freely between them, but leave the cages themselves in place? 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 gender roles at all, just males and females free to do and be whatever they like? In this paper I'll consider these three pathways and their comparative tradeoffs, arguing that the worst pathway is to merely open the cage doors, while which is the best pathway depends on resolving an empirical question about the resilience of the gender binary in its current form.



Date & time

Mon 17 Sep 2018, 12:30pm to 2:00pm


Room 2.02 Sir Roland Wilson Building, ANU


Holly Lawford-Smith (uMelb)

Event series


Oliver Rawle


Updated:  17 September 2018/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications