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date: 22 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Gender, like race, is a controversial and volatile topic. We encounter one another as embodied and thus gendered beings. But what precisely is gender? What does it mean to be feminine? This chapter offers a philosophical analysis of the concept of gender and discourses about gender. The opening sections begin with a discussion of key terms and distinctions such as gender essentialism, gender as a social construction, the distinction between gender and (biological) sex, gender realism and nominalism, and so forth. Specific examples—both historical and contemporary—are employed to elucidate the claim that gender is socially constructed. Two sections are devoted to prominent feminist philosophers, Judith Butler and Linda Martín Alcoff. The topics addressed in these sections include: Butler’s notion of performing gender and her rejection of the gender/sex distinction, and Alcoff’s development of gender as positionality and fluid identity and her historically and materially sensitive version of gender realism.

Keywords: gender essentialism, social construction, gender realism, gender nominalism, gender/sex distinction, Judith Butler, performing gender, Linda Martín Alcoff, gender as positionality, fluid identity

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