A woman can be an engineer; a man can be a nurse. A woman can be aggressive; a man can let a woman take the lead. A little girl can play with toy trucks; a little boy can play with dolls; A woman can have sex with another woman; a man can have sex with another man. Feminism regards gender roles as social constructs, essentially as customs that a society can choose to discard. Feminism has to be seen within the context of equalities, that is the ambition to establish gender equality.

Transgenderism seems to take the opposite approach. Instead of saying that gender roles are irrelevant they say that gender roles are dispositive. Transgenderists even goes so far as to reject determination of sex at birth, saying that we won't know the sex until the child starts to exhibit gender roles. It should be noted that about 1% of live births are intersex.

Transsexuality or transgenderism has existed since ancient times. It was studied scientifically in Germany during the interwar Weimar Republic. Magnus Hischfeld founded the Institut fur Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin. His theory went beyond the idea of a third sex to a spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity.

So, are we moving beyond inequality and binary genders? What does philosophy say about this?


4 Answers 4


I don't think the claim "feminism is all about tearing down gender roles" is reconcilable with the beliefs of many people who are widely regarded as feminists. E.g., many people who are widely regarded as feminists support the existence of women-only spaces of various kinds, so they clearly don't believe that a man should be able to do anything a woman can do: a man shouldn't be able to enter those spaces.

To pick one particularly contentious example, there's the question of who should be allowed to compete in women's sports. This is not a philosophical question about a platonic ideal of womanhood. It's a family of operationally well defined questions—can this person compete in this event?—with clear and significant consequences for the lives of actual people. The definition of "woman" that matters is the definition used by that organization's bylaws, which is likely to differ in detail from definitions used elsewhere. Transgender activists generally (always?) argue that the answer to questions of this sort should be yes, which would appear to make them feminist by your definition of feminism, if it's an operational definition.

Arguments about whether someone really is a true, platonic woman are a great way to rile people up, but you can't tell whether two people on opposite sides of this "issue" are just talking past each other, or truly disagree, until you get down to brass tacks: should that person there be allowed to do that thing?

  • But in order to say that the transgenderist would allow men to compete in women's sports, you have to reject the premise of the transgenderist, that the "man" in question is actually a woman. I'm asking a philosophical question here, not a political one, and just because two people come to the same answer on a practical question doesn't mean they have a philosophy in common. A realist and an idealist may both agree that if you drop the stone it will fall to the ground, but that doesn't mean they that they don't have radically opposing views of what the stone is. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 2:39
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    @DavidGudeman Let S be the set of men that seek to compete in women's sports. Are you saying that transgenderists would not allow (philosophically, if you like) members of S to compete in women's sports, and so are not (philosophically, if you like) feminist, even though they believe S is the empty set?
    – benrg
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 3:11
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    I'm not sure what you are asking. I believe that most transgenderists would deny that they want to allow men, any men at all, to compete in women's sports. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 3:36
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    Note that women-only championships have a promotional nature. I know many people who argue "Ideally, we wouldn't need this women-only championship, but currently this discipline is dominated by men, so we need to showcase women champions, and so for the next few decades we'll need to maintain a women-only championship in addition to the open championship." So the argument for women-only championship is the same as for positive discrimination and is a temporary tool to fight an unbalance. (This is particularly true of mind sports like chess or go where physiology is irrelevant.)
    – Stef
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 8:48
  • "Transgender activists generally (always?) argue that the answer to questions of this sort should be yes" - if you're talking about the question of "can this person compete", and "yes" meaning pro-trans people say anyone should be allowed to compete in anything, then this is false, in my experience. Pro-trans people are generally happy with the rules adopted by e.g. the Olympics since 2004, that allow trans people to compete, but only within very strictly defined criteria. Only some argue to abolish the gender divide in sports altogether. Outside of sports, enforcement would be a huge problem.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 4:14

There are clearly conflicts between certain aspects of transgender thinking and certain aspects of feminism. To see why this might be the case, consider one aspect of feminism, which is based on the view that women have been, for millennia, disadvantaged, subjugated, exploited, victimised, violated and constrained by male-dominated societies.

Quite understandably, some women are highly motivated to redress what they consider to be lasting injustices. They are in favour, for example, of safe spaces for women, a measure which they reasonably consider justified by historical data about the violation of the rights of women by men.

Some transgender advocates claim, amongst other things, that humans have the right to adopt whatever gender identity they feel applies to them, which means that any human can identify as a woman. You therefore arrive at a position in which a member of the class of humans which has historically been associated with the exploitation and suppression of women (ie what most people would call men), is able to claim membership of the set of humans which has historically been subject to the exploitation (ie what most people would call women), and thus evade any barriers designed to exclude them from mixing with women in the safe spaces.

To put the conflict more generally, some people consider that the rights of (biological) women to be protected against injustices by (biological) men outweigh the rights of biological men to be treated as women. Other people have the opposite view. I can see no resolution to the conflict unless and until human standards of behaviour evolve to the point at which we leave all our caveman instincts behind us. Or perhaps that should be caveperson instincts.


Transgenderism is not a rejection of feminism.

Sex or genders are not absolute. Sex or genders are dependent on conditions. What are the conditions? Body parts like penis or vagina or breasts, Feelings like feminine feelings or masculine feelings, perceptions (manly perceptions or feminine perceptions) , choices( manly choices or feminine choices) , consciousness ( manly consciousness or feminine consciousness).

All or some of the conditions come together or separate to define three genders,that is, male gender , female gender or transgender. It happens naturally but it doesn’t mean that it happens on its own. All sexes are conditioned by mother and father and environment. No mother or father wants their child to be a transgender for example- In India , transgenders are left to the transgender communities.

Having said that one should not hate transgender people. Transgenderism in no way refutes feminism or masculinism rather it accepts both.Transgenderism has its own existence it is just that there is only a minority of transgenders. Childism is a far greater force than Transgenderism and even feminism (in my opinion).

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    I'm sorry, but this is not an answer to the question; it is a political defense of transgenderism. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 4:38
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    @DavidGudeman Feminism is a misunderstood concept as it depends on culture. In India , rarely a mother would like a birth of transgender child. West is more tolerant. Having said that I still maintain that Transgenderism doesn’t reject feminism. It accepts both feminism and masculinism… Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 4:56
  • My question isn't about acceptance or rejecting; it's about logic. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 5:23
  • @DavidGudeman Is the title or the heading of your question is wrong ? My logic is that Transgenderism accepts both feminism and masculinism. (As the conditions given in my answer) Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 5:49

I realized that the question you asked abstracted from the concept of artificial gender. It is known that in some species the number of sexes is more than three. However, hermaphroditism is a creation of our species, although it is not in accordance with the nature of our species. Whether you see it as a genetic defect or not, gender identity cannot be naturally imposed on society. Therefore, the society in which hermaphrodites can establish their gender identity must be unique to them. Transsexuality is an absolute rejection of feminism, while hermaphroditism has little to do with feminism.

  • Please provide references to support you points, ideally from philosophical literature
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 19:02

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