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Daly, Helen. Modelling Sex/gender
2017, Think 16 (46):79-92
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Added by: Franci Mangraviti

People often assume that everyone can be divided by sex/gender (that is, by physical and social characteristics having to do with maleness and femaleness) into two tidy categories: male and female. Careful thought, however, leads us to reject that simple ‘binary’ picture, since not all people fall precisely into one group or the other. But if we do not think of sex/gender in terms of those two categories, how else might we think of it? Here I consider four distinct models; each model correctly captures some features of sex/gender, and so each is appropriate in some contexts. But the first three models are inadequate when tough questions arise, like whether trans women should be admitted as students at a women’s college or when it is appropriate for intersex athletes to compete in women’s athletic events. (‘Trans’ refers to the wide range of people who have an atypical gender identity for someone of their birth-assigned sex, and ‘intersex’ refers to people whose bodies naturally develop with markedly different physical sex characteristics than are paradigmatic of either men or women.) Such questions of inclusion and exclusion matter enormously to the people whose lives are affected by them, but ordinary notions of sex/gender offer few answers. The fourth model I describe is especially designed to make those hard decisions easier by providing a process to clarify what matters.

Comment (from this Blueprint): Very accessible introduction to the problems with folk gender models. If one wants to emphasize the contrast between normative vs descriptive account of gender terms, the piece is naturally paired with Rory Collins' "Modeling gender as a multidimensional sorites paradox".

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Waters, Anne. Language Matters: Nondiscrete Nonbinary Dualisms
2003, In Waters A., ed. American Indian Thought, pp.97-115.
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Added by: Franci Mangraviti

From the Introduction: "Anne Waters shows how nondiscrete nonbinary ontologies of being operate as background framework to some of America’s Indigenous languages. This background logic explains
why and how gender, for example, can be understood as a non-essentialized concept in
some Indigenous languages of the Americas. [...] The Indigenous understanding that all things interpenetrate and are relationally interdependent embraces a manifold of complexity, resembling a world of multifariously associated connections and intimate fusions Such a nondiscretely aggregate ontology ought not to be expected to easily give way to a metaphysics of a sharply defined discretely organized binary ontology. From an Indigenous ontology, some multigendered identities may be more kaleidoscopic and protean concepts than Euro-American culture has yet to imagine."

Comment: available in this Blueprint

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