Is your gender essential to who you are? If you were a man instead of a woman, or vice versa, would you be a different person? In her new book The Metaphysics of Gender (Oxford University Press, 2011), Charlotte Witt found that most people answered that obviously they’d be different if their gender differed – even though many feminist philosopher friends considered gender essentialism to be false. Thus a philosophical inquiry was born: what is gender essentialism, why might it be true, if it is true, and what consequences does this answer have for ourselves and societies?
In this engaging volume, Witt – who is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at the University of New Hampshire – argues that a certain form of gender essentialism is true. Gender is the social role that unifies us as social individuals, an ontological category distinct from both human organisms and persons. By distinguishing social individuals from persons, Witt hopes to promote the idea that the point of feminism is not giving women more choices, but about reconfiguring social roles so that they no longer oppress and exploit women.