Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

In which I agree with radical feminists...and then blame them

Public Discourse has posted my article, Rendering the Sexed Body Legally Invisible: How Transgender Law Hurts Women. In it, I rely substantially on the courageous work of Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, a political theorist and radical feminist out of the UK. Her website Sex and Gender: A Beginner's Guide is well worth the read, straight through. She also recently gave an hour long presentation on her views in which she argues that the "doctrine of gender identity" is conceptually incoherent. She has a sharp mind, trained as an analytic philosopher, and anyone who is interested in what "gender identity" is ought to take a listen (here's the Q/A). This article too is a very good and fair-minded read detailing the way in which trans' claims tend to suffer from the very gender essentialism radical feminists have been fighting for the last half century.  Radical feminists are ticked--and are releasing a collection of essays, with a foreword by Germaine Greer, very soon.  And here, Harvard law professor Jeannie Suk discusses the impending collision course of the new Obama edict with Title IX more generally. Did anyone take any time to think any of this through? (Alas, another merit of the system in which extensive political discourse beats out rendering executive "decrees".) 

The children involved here deserve the most attention, and many of these feminists are thankfully coming to their defense. The speed at which the medical community and legal establishment seems to be bending over backwards to help children conform their body to their mind rather than their mind to their given body is astonishing. (By conforming one's mind to one's given body I mean only that a boy need not think he must become a girl because he has more characteristically "feminine" personality traits and tastes, and vice versa.)  Reilly-Cooper discusses this at length in her talk. 

In everything I've read so far, I agree with the radical feminists (and thankfully, under Justice Ginsburg's guidance, the Supreme Court's limiting principle in sex discrimination law is the sexed body). The erasure of the female body has enormous consequences, as I discuss in my article today. But here's where these feminists suffer from a rather significant blind spot: abortion. My article's penultimate paragraphs: 

Radical feminists should be commended for resisting the trans movement’s current attempts to erase the female body from our law. But a feminism that embraces abortion as its sine qua non must bear part of the blame. It is one thing to claim that traditional gender norms confined women unfairly to roles and traits that denied them the opportunity to use their talents to contribute to the broader community. Few would now disagree with that basic “gender” critique. It is another thing altogether to assert that the equality of the sexes depends on women having the legal authority to destroy the child’s body growing within their own body.


Like the transgender’s attempt to alter his given body to better fit his ailing mind, the abortion activist seeks to distort women’s given bodies to fit into a culture ailing in its hostility to dependent children. For a prior generation of feminists, the biological asymmetry between men and women was a prescription for authentic social change, not a license to distort the wondrous capacity of the female body. Thus, it is no surprise that a society that rejects women’s bodies and the bodies of their vulnerable children would now countenance a distortion in the law so great that it portends the ejection of every body.


Bachiochi, Erika | Permalink