|This is the monologue for the most recent episode of Why? Radio: "Should Prostitution Be Legal?" with guest Peter De Marneffe. |
Click here to listen to the episode.
I always define feminism for my students in the same way. It's the claim that gender is a legitimate category of analysis. In other words, feminism as a philosophy is the idea that we gain relevant information by asking how something affects women as women, and men as men. This seems commonplace now, but for most of the history of philosophy—frankly for most of the history of the human pursuit of knowledge—gender difference was invisible. All humans were men; women were just lesser, or incomplete.
We now know this isn’t true. There are biological differences, for sure, but there are also differences in cultural expectation and personal experience. Feminists disagree about how important these factors are—how much the difference is derived from nature and how much from culture—but whatever the cause, we still don’t understand many of its effects. This is true in politics. It’s also true in linguistics.