In Defense of Linguistic Luddism

by Moti Gorin


The Luddites weren’t a complacent group of workers. They worried about the loss of their jobs as a result of the introduction of new technologies, and so they went about destroying the textile machines that were rendering human laborers obsolete. The word ‘Luddite’ has since become a pejorative, applied to those who refuse to use or at least resist using technologies that most people are happy to use or, more generally, to those who oppose whatever material change the person employing the pejorative favors. As it turns out, the Luddites were correct, at least as far as their jobs were concerned, and it is fair to say their worries about automation under capitalist relations have not been assuaged since the 19th century. We continue to contend with the unilateral imposition of new technologies by those who have most to gain, or who believe they do, even celebrating such figures while paying far less attention to those who bear the costs.

I, along with many others including, implicitly, well-known feminists who know something about sexist language, recently was accused of exhibiting some “resistance to linguistic correction.” This was partly in response to my sarcastic expression, on Twitter, of puzzlement over humanity’s failure to come up with a word to refer to the kind of people who can get pregnant. I don’t have my own blog and I don’t plan to write an academic article on this topic, but in the essay in which she elaborates on her linguistic corrections at greater length, Kate Manne linked to a brief exchange we had on Twitter and characterized my comments there as transphobic (of course) and so I asked Dan if he’d be open to posting my response to Manne’s essay here. He kindly agreed.

Manne is correct that I’m resistant to the linguistic change under discussion, though I wouldn’t characterize it as resistance to “correction” any more than I would characterize the Luddites’ concerns about the new machinery as resistance to a “correction” in the production of textiles. I think there are good reasons for us to be linguistic Luddites with respect to the word “woman” and I want to raise some objections to Manne’s claim that “impregnable people” is more accurate, more kind, and more inclusive than “woman” in the context of reproductive rights in general and in our new era (in the United States, at least) of forced abortions in particular.

(It is important to note that nothing I say here will be original. It’s all been said over the years by feminists who are more learned, smarter, and more articulate than I am, to say nothing of the fact that these problems are quite literally visceral to them in a way they can never be for me, because I’m male and therefore necessarily, and not merely contingently, lacking the ability to get pregnant.)

On Twitter, I said that when I try to conceive of my wife and daughter not as a woman and a girl but as “impregnable” or “impregnable people” it feels degrading and sexist. Now, I am not a woman or a girl. Perhaps some or all women and girls would be fine being conceived of or referred to by men, or by their spouses or fathers in particular, not as women or girls but as “impregnable people.” I doubt many would, at least not when they aren’t under the gaze of the Kind and Inclusive (e.g., Human Resource officers, social media enforcers, etc.), but I suppose it’s possible. In any case I’m not a woman and so what I think about the kindness or unkindness of conceiving of women in this way will be derivative of what women think. All I can do is report that I feel I am doing something sexist and degrading when I conceive of my wife and daughter, or any other woman or girl, as “impregnable people” rather than as a woman and a girl.

Manne assures me I shouldn’t worry. This isn’t a problem, she explains, because I can continue to conceive of my wife and daughter as a woman and a girl. There is no need for me to conceive of them as impregnable people. Indeed, she points out that she refers to “such people” as women and girls in her work.

Manne then clarifies that in this context—when I’m thinking of my wife and daughter—by “such people” she meant daughters and wives. That is, I can without objection from Manne continue to conceive of my wife and my daughter as a woman and as a girl. That’s fine by me, of course, as this is how I conceive of them in the first place, at least sometimes, and I’m not the one arguing that in the context of abortion we should replace those words with “impregnable.”

But problems remain. First, although Manne is correct that nothing she’s ever written commits me to conceiving of my wife and daughter as “impregnables,” nothing she’s written suggests that I have any reason not to do so. So why shouldn’t I? If “impregnables” or “impregnable people” is inclusive and kind and accurate, it should be acceptable to refer not only to transmen, transboys, some nonbinary people, etc. with these terms, but also to any woman or girl who currently can get pregnant. After all, the latter are included in the “class of all and only those who can currently get pregnant.” Why should we reserve “impregnables” for only non-women who can get pregnant? What work, on Manne’s view, is ‘woman’ or ‘girl’ doing in the context of reproductive rights that “impregnable” and “non-impregnable” wouldn’t do? If inclusion is of such paramount importance, then distinguishing between fertile women and girls, on the one hand, and impregnables, on the other, is less inclusive than simply carving the world into two classes: impregnables and non-impregnables. We can, when discussing reproductive rights, increase inclusiveness without losing any accuracy in the process by doing away with ‘women’ and ‘girls’ entirely, since on Manne’s view ‘women’ and ‘girls’ are conceptually independent of the question of abortion rights—being a woman or a girl is neither necessary nor sufficient for being able to get pregnant. What matters is whether one can currently get pregnant and ‘impregnable’ is the word for that. Continuing to use ‘women’ or ‘girls’ to refer to fertile women and girls is a less accurate and inclusive way to refer to the relevant class of people because so many women and girls cannot get pregnant. (And what about style? Manne is a good writer who has found success with a wide audience. Clearly, she cares about style and linguistic economy is one stylistic virtue. Surely, ‘impregnable’ and ‘impregnable people’ is stylistically preferable to ‘women and girls and other people capable of pregnancy’.)

Manne’s view on the semantics of these terms along with her commitment to inclusion and kindness will almost certainly, further down the logical line, require that we do away with “woman” and “girl” in the context of reproductive rights. For by allowing ourselves to refer to fertile women and girls as “women” and “girls” do we not risk some unkindness to transmen, some non-binary people, etc. who will be reminded that the category into which Manne places them—impregnable people—is shared by others she’s happy to call “women” and “girls”? After all, the reason they fall into the same category is because they share bodies of the same type—the type that can gestate a baby—which renders them vulnerable to anti-abortion laws. Does Manne really want to risk harming transmen and boys, some nonbinary people, etc., by lumping them in the same category with people she calls “women” and “girls”? What about the dysphoria?

It’s only a matter of time until someone who is even more inclusive and more kind than Manne will offer a linguistic correction of their own by casually noting that it is “transphobic” to unnecessarily say or do anything that might remind transmen, some nonbinary people, etc., that they share with women and girls(and not merely other “impregnables,” which is gender identity neutral) the kind of bodies that anti-abortion laws seek to control. Far less cisheteronormative, and therefore also probably less white supremacist, fat-phobic, ableist, classist (just kidding, no one cares about class) to leave “woman” and “girl” behind as linguistically unnecessary appendages while discussing reproductive rights. The most accurate, inclusive, and kind thing to do when discussing reproductive rights is to reserve “women” and “girls” to refer only to the class of people who identify as women and girls (whether female or male) but who cannot get pregnant. This avoids harming transmen by lumping them in with women and also, as an ethical bonus, avoids harming transwomen by lumping them in with women whose bodies are when gestating a baby a constant reminder of the fundamental, insurmountable difference between “being assigned female at birth” and “being assigned male at birth.” When it comes to reproductive rights, “impregnable” is the linguistic baby, “women” and “girls” is the bathwater. Of course, I reject this line of thinking, but that’s because I reject the starting point. Those who accept the starting point will have difficulty resisting the slide, especially when it’s presented in terms of greater acceptance, social progress, and kindness, and when any effort to resist the slide will be cast as transphobia, bigotry, fascism, and so on.

Second, by making ‘woman’ and ‘girl’ co-extensive with ‘wife’ and ‘daughter’ in the context of my conceiving of my family members, Manne must assume that my wife and daughter are not trans (a safe assumption, given demographics, but one that risks correction by someone kinder than I). This is because if they were trans, i.e., male, it would be inaccurate, not sexist or demeaning, to conceive of them as “impregnable.” If she thought my wife and daughter might be trans, it wouldn’t make any sense for Manne to tell me I can simply conceive of them as a “woman” and a “girl” and thereby avoid the term I find sexist and demeaning. It was conceiving of them as “impregnable” that I was objecting to, and Manne knows this, and so Manne must know that my wife and daughter are not trans, i.e., that they are female persons. But if Manne knows this just on the basis of my objection to “impregnables,” she must have some idea why I would find it objectionable to conceive of a woman and a girl not as “woman” and “girl” but as “impregnable.” And as she emphasized, Manne uses “women” and “girl” in her own work when discussing reproductive rights, despite those terms being, on her view, less accurate, less kind, and less inclusive than “impregnable.” It’s therefore a bit puzzling why she’s convinced that the unkindness of using “woman” or “girl” exclusively when discussing reproductive rights is of greater moral concern than the unkindness of using “impregnable.” It seems to me that if either option is unkind then both are unkind, and the difficult question is how to navigate the tradeoffs involved in the distribution of unkindness. That there are tradeoffs in how benefits and burdens—including psychological benefits and burdens—are distributed has of course been one of the foundational points gender critical feminists have been making from day one. The only people who continue to deny the inevitability of tradeoffs seem to be those who have yet to find their own views in need of correction by someone a bit more inclusive, a degree or two kinder, than they are. But there are always such people and as we all know by now, though arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.

Now a more general question: Is it true that “impregnable” is more inclusive than “woman” or “girl”? Discussions of sex, gender, and language recently have taken on even more urgency following the US Supreme Court’s striking down Roe v Wade, which in 1973 established a (limited) constitutional right to abortion in the United States. The Roe decision makes no mention of those people Manne is worried about excluding: transmen, some nonbinary people, people with Differences/Disorders of Sexual Development (DSDs), etc. The justices limited themselves in that decision to women, mothers, and, in one place, girls. It would be astonishing if in 1973 the justices who decided Roe were thinking of transmen, transboys, nonbinary people, or people with DSDs when they considered the legal question of abortion. And yet does anyone think that “woman,” “mother,” or “girl” did not include trans or nonbinary people, or those with DSDs? Before the 2022 Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe, anyone who could get pregnant had a (limited) constitutional right to an abortion, because anyone who could get pregnant was covered under—was included as—a “woman,” “mother,” or “girl.” Unless someone wants to argue that trans men, nonbinary people, etc., were excluded in the Roe decision (and subsequent relevant decisions), it’s hard to see why fighting for reproductive rights requires more or different words than those used in a legal case that everyone on the pro-choice side of the debate agrees greatly advanced the health and liberty interests of anyone who can get pregnant. It’s just false that ‘women’ and ‘girls’ excludes transmen because everyone knows that in the context of reproductive rights the words ‘women’ and ‘girls’ refer to female persons, the only kind of people who can get pregnant.

Here are some examples of exclusive language: “Whites Only,” “Jews Need Not Apply,” “No TERFS.” Language like that is exclusive because it seeks to deny some people access to some part of the world, or some good, or whatever. What part of the world, what good, service, or advantage, does the word ‘women’ deny transmen? Certainly not access to abortion. But words can be exclusive in other ways, too. Racial slurs exclude by expressing contempt for and seeking to deny the targets of the slur equal moral consideration, equal standing. Calling a Jew a “kike” expresses contempt for Jews qua Jews and seeks to degrade the target of the slur. But ‘woman’ and ‘girl’ are not slurs, though they can be used in slur-like ways. For example, telling an emotionally sensitive boy that he’s “acting like a girl” seeks to degrade him by expressing to him that he’s failed to live up to some (sexist) standard to which boys are expected to conform. ‘Women’ and ‘girl’ don’t function like this, either, in the context of reproductive rights. There, the words simply refer to female persons, the only kind of persons who can get pregnant. Everyone understands this and always has, including the transmen who got abortions under Roe and those who will be unable to do so now that Roe has been overturned.

I’m not going to comment on other ways in which “women” might be thought to be exclusive, since that would go beyond the narrower question of whether we need linguistic corrections to our current vocabulary when we discuss reproductive rights.

Earlier I said how it’s not obvious that there are no important differences between how abortion laws affect (or don’t affect) different groups of people who cannot get pregnant. Manne’s distinction between impregnables and non-impregnables is, for her, the distinction between those who are affected by anti-abortion laws and those who are not. Now, I’m not going to trot out the familiar point that men (in the sense of “adult males”) are affected by abortion laws, too, since we play a crucial role in pregnancy, often in child-rearing, and so on. Rather, I want to suggest, from my admittedly distanced vantage point, that infertile women are affected by anti-abortion laws in ways that males, including transwomen, are not, and that this gives us good reason, in reproductive rights contexts, to preserve our sex-based understandings of the words ‘women’ and ‘girls’. When the state says, “In this land your control over your reproductive capacities is not a fundamental right,” it expresses a particular moral view about the kind of being you are in virtue of the kind of body you have. And as many people have pointed out over the decades, the conservative push to ban abortion is not only about the desire to protect the right to life of the fetus. It is also about the desire of men to control the bodies of women and, in particular, to control their bodies in matters of sex—reproduction, sexual intercourse, desire, pleasure, and so on. Now, if this is right (and it seems clearly right to me), then there is just a fundamental difference between a female person’s relation to society, as that relation is mediated and constructed by reproductive rights law, and a male’s relation to that same society.

A girl who cannot yet get pregnant but who one day might, a woman who had an abortion years ago but who is now past childbearing age, a woman who was born without a uterus, and a woman who is infertile but could gestate a baby via IVF if only she could afford the treatments, are not impregnable. Yet each of them, it seems to me, is intimately affected by anti-abortion laws in a way that male people are not and never could be. If it’s true that anti-abortion laws are about more than abortion and that they express hostility towards the sexual autonomy of women qua female persons, then it makes good sense to preserve a category for female persons, i.e., those people whose autonomy is broadly targeted by these laws. But when we carve the reproductive rights-relevant world into two crude categories—impregnable and not impregnable—we threaten our ability to recognize the various distinctive interests that only and all female people have, especially in a sexist society. Transwomen have their own, distinctive forms of oppression to contend with, but this oppression has nothing to do with a denial of the right to bodily autonomy motivated by men’s desire to control the sex lives of female persons. When Roe was overturned, this was a slap in the face not only to impregnables, but also to an 80 year old woman born without a uterus, because she knows what the majority of the US Supreme Court justices, and the people who put them in power, think of her and of who gets a say over how she uses her sexed body, and she knows the only reason she isn’t currently being denied reproductive autonomy is because of the contingencies of age and medical condition. Putting her into the same category of other non-impregnables like transwomen, or me, whose moral standing, whose full dignity as autonomous persons, remains untouched by anti-abortion laws, seems to me to be inaccurate and unkind, eliding distinctions of significant moral importance.

No doubt some who read this essay (assuming anyone reads it) will conclude that I’m transphobic. Unfortunately for trans people, who need a word to refer to the distinctive form of oppression they face, the word ‘transphobic’ has lost much of the moral and rhetorical force that makes it useful as a tool of liberation. These days, being called “transphobic” is like being called “anti-Semitic” by the Israeli right—its main function is for silencing people and not for pointing out genuine bigotry. I am concerned, though, that I’ve been “mansplaining,” wading as I have into a topic that does not—indeed cannot—affect me directly as a man but which so profoundly affects women. To make matters worse, I have been doing so in response to the writings of a woman and a feminist. If I’m guilty of mansplaining (it’s not always easy to tell), then I genuinely apologize to women, whether they are impregnable or not.

Moti Gorin is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Colorado State University.


123 responses to “In Defense of Linguistic Luddism”

  1. Manne’s ‘kind’ and ‘inclusive’ language reduces women and girls to a biological function. If Manne were a man, this would look like a case of misogyny.

  2. Dorothea

    Impregnable seems a strange word to use in this context. The dictionary definition is “incapable of being taken by assault; impenetrable” whereas pregnancy generally results from an act of penetration, and can be the result of actually being assaulted.

  3. Of all of the Wokelets — Manne, Dembroff, Kukla, etc. — Manne strikes me as the dumbest. Not that any of them is a particularly bright bulb. Stupid ideologies rot the brain.

  4. JProf

    I love the sarcastic comment about class [“classist (just kidding, no one cares about class)”]; unfortunately, it’s so true.

  5. venividigrizzly

    So to be clear, no one told you that you had to solely conceive of your wife and daughter as impregnables. You complained about people telling you that you had to solely conceive of your wife and daughter as impregnables (a lie). Someone told you that you didn’t have to solely conceive your wife and daughter as impregnables. Now you’re complaining that, though she may have never argued that, she’s never written that you don’t have any reason NOT to solely conceive of your wife and daughter as impregnables. Well that’s facile.

    You don’t have to solely conceive your wife and daughter as anything, bud, not even as your wife and daughter. I’m sure like anyone, they contain multitudes and can be conceived in any number of ways that cover whatever facet of their being that’s relevant to the moment. Their ability to carry a child is what’s relevant to the abortion debate for obvious reasons. Sleep well tonight.

    Manne freely avails herself of the terms “woman” and “girl”, even in her essay, and says outright that women are the primary targets of anti-abortion legislation. She just believes there are contexts in which more inclusive, precise language is good. She also gets that your exploiting this miserable moment to take a shot at trans people, suggesting that acknowledging them forces us into degrading cis-women, in your case, soley conceiving of your wife and daughter as impregnables (again, a lie). And this in the midst of a panic targeting trans people, most viciously enforced by the exact same coalition targeting abortion. Not great, bud.

  6. Nah, you’re just confused.

  7. Moti was much kinder than I would have been in response to such utter rot.

  8. venividigrizzly

    I am confused at how anyone could read this:

    “First, although Manne is correct that nothing she’s ever written commits me to conceiving of my wife and daughter as ‘impregnables,’ nothing she’s written suggests that I have any reason not to do so.”

    And not laugh. Then he proceeds to literally make up a person to get mad at and argues, via Rube Goldberg argument, that Manne implicitly allows their existence. I guess to save face that he clearly believed they existed just moments ago and made an embarassing tweet over it. Yes, I can conceive of a person making a bad argument to me (it seems very tangible right now). I can conceive a lot of things. But sorry, I’m not chasing waterfalls.

    It’s like drinking the identity politics of reactionary feminists melts the brain.

  9. Moti Gorin

    My point, as I explained, is that the reasons Manne gives for using “impregnables” rather than solely “women” and “girls” speak in favor of using “impregnables” solely when referring to anyone who can get pregnant, including women and girls. I think Manne just hasn’t taken her argument to its logical conclusion.

  10. venividigrizzly

    Sorry, I can’t properly respond to your essay. I’m confused. I think your “logical conclusion” has some Mister Fantastic reach, and the fact that you, as a philosopher, do not get that she might have very basic responses to this, like she did to your tweet, suggests that you are wrapped up in some ideologies, arguments, and sentiments that hamstring your POV. If you think it helps women to marginalize trans-women, I don’t think you get this moment, assuming you want to support the pro-choice movement. You are very much ghost-boxing with nothings in the service of the rightwing movement. I believe you don’t “identify” with that (I can also quibble about Leftist terms uselessly), but you are only contributing to divisions in the pro-choice coalition, and nothing else. Among the most on-board with pro-choice legislation are trans-people and people who are fully pro-trans. You are quibbling, fretting, convoluting over tweets and there are people actually fighting for women’s actual rights. Sorry, but you are not the hero here. You are the guy who is looking for an excuse to say we are wrong in our terminology (wtf?) for acknowledging trans people. This is the analytic philosopher par excellence, the worst dork.

  11. The people destroying the pro-choice coalition are the people who want to “center” everyone except for the 99% of the people whom abortion affects.

    Indeed, your take is so far out of whack with what’s actually going on, I thought you were trolling for a minute. But lets be clear, this ridiculous crap could easily lose us the next election. And it won’t be centrist’s fault. It’ll be the fault of the lunatic progressive wing of the party.

  12. Moti Gorin

    I’m responding to an essay in which Manne accused me and many others of being transphobic and in need of “correction.” I think the views she defends in her essay are misguided and I explained why. I don’t care—at all—that most trans people are pro choice, as am I, and I’m sure I agree with the majority of trans people on a whole host of political issues. But that’s totally irrelevant. You think my priorities are bad, and I can understand why, as there are many grave problems confronting us. But people get engaged in things, and sometimes they aren’t always what everyone agrees are the most important things. For example, instead of criticizing me for my piece, you could be agitating for criminal justice reform, or nuclear non-proliferation, or climate change mitigation. And yet here you are, arguing with an analytic philosophy dork. Go save the world.

  13. venividigrizzly

    Manne, and all the the puppets you throw on to her, are very much on board with centering woman. They are just eager with including trans-women. You are eager to divide the coalition over this very small group, which I think seems very petty, weird, and unproductive.

  14. Once again, confused beyond repair. We aren’t going to convince one another. Let’s drop it.

  15. venividigrizzly

    Moti, I think you are primarily driven by personal affront, and the argument motivated by your attempt to justify yourself. I think you’ve tied yourself in a lot of discursive knots, but I don’t buy your argument. It’s a lot of storm and fury between your claim that “people say I can’t call my wife and daughter ‘woman’ and ‘girl’ to which a representative woman responded “You can say ‘woman’ and ‘girl’ OK and I do too” and you spent a whole essay explaining she can’t say that because “just-winging-it” philosophy. Who is the one person who told you that you had to conceive your wife and child only as impregnables? Why did you not respond to them only with a laugh and a shrug as opposed to an essay which was only set to upset acknowledgement of trans people?

  16. From the end of Deputy Manne’s piece.

    “You may just have to make a small but necessary moral effort. And, if you are not prepared to do that, you should be corrected when applicable ”

    The clueless self-importance. The lampoonable pretense at toughness. The transparent dressing up of her preferences as necessities. The ability to dish it out, but not to take it. The overall juvenility of it all.

    Cornell certainly ain’t what it used to be.

  17. venividigrizzly

    Do you like your ideological and professional bugbears so much, stoking culture war bullshit that does nothing but divide your side, OR do you genuinely want to come together to protect women’s rights? You are not doing that in this piece or in your comments. I know you are very good at convincing yourself otherwise, just responding “No, I am not” but we are not in a period where we can be so glib, even to people we hold in contempt. Tell me, directly, how this helps women. Tell me, how this dude was actually told he has to consider his wife and daughter impregnables, an absurd accusation. One person. Just one person. Is this really worth it?

    You are a person who plays himself off as being concerned about his coalition. A large portion of that coalition is very on board with protecting trans people. You can’t ignore or marginalize that portion. You have to convince them, not wish them away. You also won’t create some stupid Andrew Yang coalition without them, pulling in a non-existent center. What will you do then? Hopefully try harder.

  18. ira

    ‘In need of correction.’

    That has such a Stalinist ‘rectification’ vibe: ‘Comrade, come this way. It won’t take long. In no time at all, your vocabulary will be party-perfect.’

  19. Philip Mertz

    seems less strange when I consider pregnancy results from an act of impregnation, and don’t think about castles, fortresses, etc

  20. “Try harder.”

    I’ll tell you what. Go fuck off instead.

  21. Moti Gorin

    I never claimed someone told me I can’t call my wife and daughter “woman” and “girl.” Again, my point is that the logic of the move toward “people with uteruses” and similar does not allow “women” and “girls.” You don’t have to buy the argument. But as I said in my piece, nothing there is new, and there are a lot of women (females), left wing women, who have been articulating the same view.

    I’m motivated primarily by two things: first and foremost is the current medical scandal in pediatric gender medicine, which topic I’m working on now in my academic research. Second, very much relatedly, is the current insanity, the unchecked conceptual confusion, on the so-called left when it comes issues of sex and gender, which is in my view is a gift to the right with a big fat bow on it. To the extent that I’m motivated by personal affront, it’s the affront experienced by anyone who thinks about this stuff for a minute, looks for arguments to justify radical claims, and finds only bluster and accusations of bigotry.

    Anyway, I’ve got a busy weekend so this is probably my last comment.

  22. Let me just be very clear, since I keep getting pulled into this imbecile conversation with the Manne Fan.

    1. If you think that the abortion catastrophe we just experienced calls for referring to women as ‘impregnables’, you are either batshit crazy or too stupid to count your toes.

    2. If you think this is a good idea politically; that it will strengthen the pro choice coalition, you are a fool and should be kept far away from politics if the Democrats are to have a chance of winning.

    3. Telling your elders and betters that they should heed you or be “held accountable” will only earn you the following: contempt; mockery; and dismissal. Ditto with calling them ‘phobes and ‘ists of every variety.

    4. No one deputized you for jack shit.

  23. Thank you Moti, and have a great weekend.

  24. Paul D. Van Pelt

    Liked your piece. Having become a thinker in philosophy, I try to avoid linguistic luddism. Would not have used luddism in that context, but, it fits. Now, when I am puzzled by a word or words used, I look it/them up to ascertain how they fit the context of the writer’s/ speaker’s topic. Many times they do. Sometimes, they don’t. As noted, the Luddites had a point. Warmest greetings to all.

  25. Moti Gorin

    Venividigrizzly, before I’m offline for a few days, I am curious to know whether you can explain the sense in which transmen are excluded, in reproductive rights contexts, by the word “woman.” Presumably you agree they were covered by Roe, even though Roe discusses only women, mothers, and girls. Transmen are included as “women” because they are adult females, and that’s the standard meaning of “women.”

    I’m guessing you also have a sense for why some people might find “impregnable” and “womb haver” and similar alienating to women, downright sexist. So what, on your view, justifies using “impregnables” and so on, exclusively, in the context of reproductive rights, rather than “women.” How is “women” less inclusive, or less harmful, or whatever? I’m genuinely curious. (Again, if you do respond, I likely won’t see it for a few days.)

  26. Richard

    I’m no fan of Manne or the whole “pregnant people” terminology, but I partially agree with venividigrizzly. Gorin says:

    > What work, on Manne’s view, is ‘woman’ or ‘girl’ doing in the context of reproductive rights that “impregnable” and “non-impregnable” wouldn’t do? If inclusion is of such paramount importance, then distinguishing between fertile women and girls, on the one hand, and impregnables, on the other, is less inclusive than simply carving the world into two classes: impregnables and non-impregnables. We can, when discussing reproductive rights, increase inclusiveness without losing any accuracy in the process by doing away with ‘women’ and ‘girls’ entirely, since on Manne’s view ‘women’ and ‘girls’ are conceptually independent of the question of abortion rights—being a woman or a girl is neither necessary nor sufficient for being able to get pregnant.

    I don’t think this is a fair representation of Manne’s substack article. She specifically says that abortion bans are “misogynistic”, but she also thinks they restrict the reproductive rights of people who aren’t women. So she has plenty of room to talk about different groups in different contexts. When discussing the motivations and causes of abortion bans, she might say they are driven by oppressive attitudes towards women. When discussing who has lost the right to get an abortion, she might emphasize “impregnable people.” As Gorin pointed out, there’s even room to discuss how abortion bans can affect infertile women *as women.* For example, I have little doubt that the same states prosecuting women for miscarriages will find crazy reasons to accuse infertile women of terminating pregnancies that never existed.

    To reiterate: I don’t agree with Manne or the “pregnant people” terminology. I agree with Dan that it’s politically stupid. I’m not defending any of that. I just disagree with Gorin’s claim that “the logic of the move toward ‘people with uteruses’ and similar does not allow ‘women’ and ‘girls.’”

    On a separate point: one of the infuriating things about these woke language games it that it all amounts to little more than bullying. As Miroslav Imbrisevic mentioned above, it’s far too easy to imagine woke people decrying terms like “impregnable people” (not to mention “uterus-havers”, “front hole”, “cotton ceiling”, etc.) as sexist, gross, and dehumanizing IF those terms had been used by the “wrong people.”

    For example, here ( is a 2014 buzzfeed article complaining that calling women “females” is “dehumanizing” because “…when you refer to a woman as a female, you’re ignoring the fact that she is a female human. It reduces a woman to her reproductive parts and abilities.” Why is “impregnable” not treated similarly, but is instead considered “inclusive” and “precise”? You know why – because it came from one of the “good people.”

    Or consider the treatment of gender critical feminists. When they argue there are circumstances where it makes sense to organize around sex rather than gender identity, they are villified and run out of town. But when Manne argues there are circumstances where it makes sense to group people according to biological functions (people who can gen pregnant) rather than gender identity, it’s magically OK!

    So I actually think Gorin gives Manne too much credit by trying to follow the logic of her arguments to their conclusions. There aren’t genuine logical arguments to be had here. It’s just tribalism.

  27. venividigrizzly


    The “logic” of the terms does not allow the use of “woman” or “girl”? The depersonalization of this is very convenient, seeing as it can play the role of the person you make up, get mad at, and then guilt by association to actual people who are not this person and do not ascribe to these beliefs. You were sitting at dinner and tried to think about your wife and daughter as people who can get pregnant and got angry at the apparent reductionism. Someone responded very down-to-earth, uh, no, you can consider them your wife and daughter, or woman and girl, I would too. (You can even consider them fellow gastronomes, pleasant conversationalists, whatever.) And you’re trying talk this person out of that and associate them with some tulpa.

    Roe obviously applies to trans-men even though they weren’t remotely considered at the time. (This is a defining issue of the rights that the court will be stripping away.) But you’re asking about a legal context, about who is deserving of what rights, despite the literal terminology or the strict intentions of people at the time. We’re talking about you sitting at a dinner table getting mad at an imposition no one put on you. Some impersonal force is reducing your wife and daughter to their reproductive capacities apparently. And then you get all confused when, in an accusatory manner, you single out trans people, a contentious issue, over abortion, a contentious issue, and insist on reducing them to their reproductive capacities, and haven’t a clue why that might upset them. You are Mister Fantastic reaching for anything but a genuine defense of women.

  28. venividigrizzly


    “1. If you think that the abortion catastrophe we just experienced calls for referring to women as ‘impregnables’, you are either batshit crazy or too stupid to count your toes.”

    Literally no one came to this conclusion. Gender critical people decided to dunk on trans people after this ruling, a total, cruel, divisive non-sequitur. Moti could’ve focused on women and chose this culture war nonsense.

    “2. If you think this is a good idea politically; that it will strengthen the pro choice coalition, you are a fool and should be kept far away from politics if the Democrats are to have a chance of winning.”

    You are literally and needlessly inflaming an issue divisive to your coalition that you are obviously incapable of resolving by persuasion. You have no standing to stomp your feet about coalition building.

  29. You think I’m destroying the coalition. I think you are. We aren’t going to convince each other. Let’s drop it. There are plenty of others to talk with.

  30. venividigrizzly

    Rule one of politics: divide the opposition and unite your coalition. You are routinely doing the opposite.

  31. Moti Gorin

    I didn’t say “the logic of the terms.” I’m referring to the logic underlying the move in terminology from “women” to “impregnable” or “people with a uterus” etc. In any case, can you please explain how “women” and “girls” are exclusive in the context of reproductive rights, when in that context these words clearly include transmen. The failure to include trans and non-binary people is the purported moral crime here, so I’d like to understand it.

  32. Still going, eh? Sort of like gum on the bottom of one’s shoe.

    What about “let’s drop it” are you failing to understand?

  33. venividigrizzly

    Like Manne on this issue, in most contexts I’d just talk of women. But if I was talking to or about a trans-man I would talk about a person who can give birth, respecting the sense ambiguity between sex and gender. I wouldn’t insist on calling them a woman because I don’t buy into the gender critical line that we have to constantly insist upon and underline and police the connection between the word “woman” and people’s reproductive capacities because that’s precisely the kind of reductionism you claim to decry.

    You can’t believe that it’s an indignity to think of women as people who can give birth. That’s obviously how we’re thinking of them when we discuss abortion. I won’t stop underlining that you’re mad at the notion that you’re obligated to think of your wife and daughter not as wife and daughter or woman and girl, but people who give birth, even in everyday circumstances that have nothing to do with that capacity. This is a complete fiction. You think there is an inevitable slippery slope from Manne’s discourse, which denies this, and the dystopia where you’re unable to put spoon to mouth because you’re brainwashed into only thinking about your family’s reproductive organs. It’s absurd. You’re trying to make a ton of philosophical hay over tweet everyone would dunk on (that hasn’t happened and likely never will). It’s appropriate this all started with a bad tweet because this whole discussion is totally Twitter-brained.

  34. Moti Gorin

    From below: “I won’t stop underlining that you’re mad at the notion that you’re obligated to think of your wife and daughter not as wife and daughter or woman and girl, but people who give birth, even in everyday circumstances that have nothing to do with that capacity.” I never said this. I was referring to conceiving of my wife and daughter as “impregnables” in the context of reproductive rights, when I think of how forced abortion laws apply to them.

    You still haven’t explained how “women” excludes transmen, nonbinary, etc., since no one denies they were included under Roe. But that’s ok, I’m used to it. As I said, bluster and accusations of bigotry but little else.

  35. I suspect that a lot of what comes under being “inclusive” and “kind” only exists in the imagination of people like Manne. They make it up. Do transmen want to be reminded that they have female bodies and are capable of getting pregnant? Isn’t their dysphoria the reason why they transitioned? Manne lives off this nonsense, others then use it for virtue signalling. Hegel comes to mind: “My colleagues live off philosophy, rather than for philosophy. [The alliteration gets lost in translation: “…von der Philosophie und nicht für die Philosophie”]

  36. venividigrizzly

    I’m not ever using the term “impregnable” because it’s just awkward and silly. I told you pretty explicitly why I’d use “person who can get pregnant” with respect to a trans man. I’m not on board with insisting on “woman” as a bludgeon for reducing people to their reproductive capacities, the fulcrum of this whole argument. You’re mad at no one reducing your wife to her reproductive capacities and insist the only way to avoid this non-event is to reduce trans-men to their reproductive capacities. It’s absurd. I haven’t called you a bigot, but I won’t ignore what you’re obviously doing, which is needless, weird, and mean to trans people. You apparently consider them a liability and an annoyance and are exploiting a tragedy to segue into needling them and those that support them. We can fret about labels all we want, but I think it sucks.

  37. Terranbiped

    I’m presently sitting in a vehicle while my significant impregnable other drives. Out of necessity I will be a bit terse in response to your learned, lengthy and detailed exposition to what I think is Manne’s nonsense.

    In a nutshell, I contend that where you dropped the ball in response to Manne’s semantically woke reasoning is that you state, and I think rightfully so, that only female persons can get pregnant. Oh no, tsk, tsk naughty boy … trans men with uteruses, haven’t you heard, are not female persons – they are boys, men and to insinuate they are anything other than male bodies with uteruses is just not acceptable to their sensibilities and social requirements. We can’t quibble here!

    Of course this begs the obvious question why would an assigned female at birth who vehemently disavows any connection of femaleness to who “he” really is, who’s male and non female in supposedly every conceivable way and takes severe umbrage at the mere suggestion to the contrary, want to be impregnated, gestate, give birth via a cesarean (no acknowledgement of a god forbid, vagina and possibly breastfeed an infant with hairy breasts.

    Are we supposed to make sense of this new category of existence and upturn the general meaning of words to accommodate a chimeric minority of people who can’t make up their minds as to who and what they are? I don’t think so. It would only breed as much confusion as the pronoun “they”. Languages fight against uneconomic and imprecise verbiage, especially on subjects of everyday import. I’d wager impregnable person will never catch on by public consent.

    With all due respect professor, in my opinion you are too kind and have spent too much of your generous time trying to placate and reason with those only interested in kowtowing to the demands of the uncompromisable.

  38. Rollo Burgess

    I idly stumbled upon the original post and thought it interesting; then I read the comments. Some weird stuff here. To be clear: I am not from the USA and am by US political standards very liberal (i.e. I’m a centre right European), but this crazy nonsense is just fuel for the hard right. Women (subject to qualifications xyz) can pregnant; there are some men who are more confortable being socialised as if they were women, that’s great and everyone should be kind to them… but frankly it’s a fringe issue.

  39. venividigrizzly

    I dunno, Terranbiped. I think this just goes to show what happens when we treat people as objects of conceptual analysis instead of subjects existing in empirical reality. Trans people have as diverse relationships with their sex as we do. It’s not like the trans-man has created a list of all things female and then feels obliged to mark off each and every item. They also aren’t trying to solve some conceptual puzzle and achieve peak coherence. They’re just muddling their way through life, and would ideally like to just be left alone.

  40. Terranbiped

    Absolutely no problem with what you espouse. It’s my way of thinking too, except I think that obviates the gist of professor Gorin’s critique. It’s not the live and let live trans folk, I assume not in the vocal minority, that want compelled recognition as being impregnable.

    Everyone is entitled to human rights and for all I care someone can claim to be a potted plant but, that doesn’t mean I should have to water them. I’ll leave that to the obliging Kate.

  41. Terranbiped

    […] upset acknowledgment of trans people.”

    Here’s where you go off the cliff. Rein in, amigo.

  42. venividigrizzly

    Sorry, Terran. I don’t see why. I don’t see how insisting on a usage of “women” that reduces them to their reproductive capacities, ostensibly his main beef in defense of cis-women here, turns OK when wielded at trans-men. Likewise, I don’t consider the knee-jerk pitting of cis-women against trans people as necessary, smart, or all that cool. That’s just me. I don’t consider that acknowledgement. In the wake of Dobbs, maybe rally your energy into helping women in tangible, not noodling conceptual, ways. Maybe leave trans people alone.

  43. Peter

    Who takes Manne seriously? Next stop for her is a book about fatphobia and how detrimental it is for women! If you read her stuff you know it is coming!

    Maybe I am a cold human being, but I prefer tight arguments over real issues instead of the never-ending complaining about first world problems by upper-middle class children. But things are bound to get worse with the Mannes at the helm. They are receptive to performative wailing of other narcissists. There ought to be a mandatory two years of caring for elderly people (washing them, feeding them, all the really nasty stuff) in an urban area before graduating with a PhD. And you are not allowed to advertise these two years in your cv, otherwise your PhD gets retroactively revoked. There must be some way to bring reality and real problems back to the humanities.

    Would be interesting if you could interview Tomas Bogardus, he has some nice papers about pronouns and gender/sex. And he is very polite, despite him being a Catholic is steers away from any snark and insinuating of motives.

  44. Grad Student

    To my mind, a truly bad article is one I go into agreeing with and come out doubting my original position. That is this article. It was so poorly argued it made me wonder if Manne was right after all!

    I find Manne’s overemphasis on semantics silly and counterproductive. It’s largely a waste of time and energy. But so is whatever this is! Other commenters already pointed out how Gorin simply fails to establish that Manne is commited to dispensing with the terms “women” and “girls.” This just reeks of someone trying to be too clever while having an axe to grind. It would have been enough to just say that arguing the semantics is a distraction from what is important.

  45. Sorry you didn’t like it. Obviously, many of us disagree.

  46. I like Tomas, though I disagree with him on an awful lot, and I don’t love some of the channels he chooses to be a guest on [including the execrable “Capturing Christianity.”] But I already think we do enough on this subject already.

    You are right of course, and what is most striking is the juvenile quality, not just of trans activism itself, but of its myriad “allies.” They think and act and talk like overexcitable kids jockeying for social position in a junior high school cafeteria and thereby not only humiliate themselves but degrade whatever institution or activity they are involved with.

  47. You are absolutely right.

  48. philipach

    “although Manne is correct that nothing she’s ever written commits me to conceiving of my wife and daughter as “impregnables,” nothing she’s written suggests that I have any reason not to do so”
    Oh noes!
    I has never written anything that tells you that you has a reason not to so to do so to! Does that mean that I’m as bad as Kate Manne?
    This is utter gibberish. I don’t know if you have an actual argument later in the piece, but if you want to make your arguments like this in public, you’ll need to resolve this problem. There is zero value in criticising someone for something they didn’t say. Honestly, you’re an academic: presumably you’ve been through peer review before. Can you get away with that nonsense?
    I see lower down you suggest that people who can’t become pregnant can be affected by bad reproductive health policy, too. This is true. It doesn’t alter the fact that the only people who use abortion services are by definition those people who can become pregnant. We have words we can use for that group of people if we need to. If you don’t need to use those words… don’t use them! Here, I’ll heroically lift myself out of the Kate Manne category: Prof Motrin, I hereby write that you have a reason not to use the word “impregnables.” The reason is: if you don’t need to refer to the group of people who can become pregnant, you don’t need to use that word.
    Did you actually need me or Manne to say that? Seems like a bizarre requirement. But if you really needed it, there it is!

  49. Boy did this one really draw out the kooks and whackadoodles. Then again, anything on this subject usually does, which is unsurprising.

  50. Terranbiped

    I’m always suspicious of those on the left, where I usually habitate, who like Manne, build their ideological platform/soapbox about abortion and women’s rights on the notion of suppression by the ubiquitous patriarchy that wants to keep women barefoot, pregnant and chained to the kitchen stove and disingenuously omit the actual reason held by the vast majority of pro life proponents that the fetus, sentient or not is not to be “murdered” without exigent extraordinary circumstances.

    So from scratch, Manne poisons her essay on changing the lexicon to be more inclusive when she sees the world in such a biased way that misleads and raises hackles.

    In any case, what difference the common parlance of identifying male or female as long as legal nomenclature is comprehensive and inclusive. The idea of introducing a trans man as not Mr so and so, but as Impregnable so and so is patently ridiculous whereas wording a bill with the “impregnable” designator makes perfect sense in the present zeitgeist.

    Mr Grizzly rightfully complains that a semantic molehill is being elevated into a mountain. Ironically he is so caught up in his own unchecked attack on Moti’s *supposed* thoughts, motivations and perspective that he himself has formed a pile that towers over the aforementioned Tower of Babble.

  51. BishopShapiro

    I can’t tell the old misogyny and the new misogyny apart, myself.

  52. […] your reading enjoyment, a comment by philospher Daniel Kaufman in reply to a comment on a guest post at his blog Electric […]

  53. venividigrizzly


    I’m not really sure what you’re talking about. No one is saying we should replace “Mr” or “Ms” with “impregnable”. My last response to you laid out my objection as succinctly as I can. No towers necessary. Enough spin-doctoring.

  54. Miroslav Satan

    “3. Telling your elders and betters that they should heed you or be “held accountable” will only earn you the following: contempt; mockery; and dismissal. Ditto with calling them ‘phobes and ‘ists of every variety.”

    Right back at ya, Democrat.

  55. > They think and act and talk like overexcitable kids jockeying for social position in a junior high school cafeteria

    Maybe that’s because that’s who they are.

  56. “These days, being called “transphobic” is like being called “anti-Semitic” by the Israeli right”
    Not bad, except for the assumption that there’s an Israeli left. But absent the post-Zionists, there isn’t.
    The Israeli right at least is honest: The corollary to a Jewish state for a Jewish people is a German state for a German one. which is why Israel is allied to the European right.

    “They might be anti-Semites, but they’re on our side”

    On the issue itself it’s simpler to state that biological females are being assaulted by biological males who are angry that their advances are rebuffed, and the the leadership of gay rights organizations in the UK are siding with the biological males

    —When asked to comment on this pattern of coercion and assault, Stonewall’s CEO compared same-sex attraction to racism. “Nobody should ever be pressured into dating, or pressured into dating people they aren’t attracted to,” Nancy Kelley told the BBC. “But if you find that when dating, you are writing off entire groups of people, like people of color, fat people, disabled people or trans people, then it’s worth considering how societal prejudices may have shaped your attractions.”—

    Of course no one is stating publicly that biological males who refuse sex with biological females are guilty of bigotry.
    And this gets to be for lack of a better word, perverse.

    —48. I find this reduction of sexual orientation to genitalia – what’s more, genitalia from birth – puzzling. Is anyone innately attracted to penises or vaginas? Or are we first attracted to ways of being in the world, including bodily ways, which we later learn to associate with certain specific parts of the body?

    49. Consider the gay men who express delighted disgust at vaginas. Consider the idea of the ‘Platinum Star Gay’, the gay man who, birthed via a caesarean, never even made bodily contact with his mother’s vagina. Is this the expression of an innate, and thus permissible revulsion – or a learned and suspect misogyny?—

    Amia Srinivasan “The Right to Sex”

  57. Ludovic

    Impregnate, hence impregnable (a word with dueling but equally correct definitions). In Puerto Rico the rural and less educated people say (obviously in Spanish): esta preñada* (she’s knocked up). But the clearer form “pregnable” I believe has no such inelegant or indeed offensive connotations in English.

    *(cf: Latin pregnabilis)

  58. Terranbiped

    Very funny, all of it. To think a male’s penis will act as the incriminating lie detector to attest to his true desire and latent or hidden social prejudices.

    What’s fascinating is the innate attraction to men by gays born blind. What visual cues are they supposedly getting?

  59. Terranbiped

    You’ve taken a well meaning treatise on the advisability of changing certain linguistic forms to be better at inclusiveness on a complex psychosocial issue that is at loggerheads with 200,000 years of biological realism. And all you have presented is a full frontal attack on the poor Herr Professor by putting words in his mouth and diabolical intent in his brain and then spit out the invective. – transphobic. The Achilles Heel he’s trying desperately to avoid and defend himself against.

    When you cut away all the shit flinging semantics and rhetoric and actually stop and listen to each other you’ll realize, like me, that there isn’t a trans hair difference between you.

    You both want to be trans inclusive.
    You both eschew the descriptor impregnable for common parlance
    You both wouldn’t consider “women” holistically by reproductive organs or genitalia.
    And here I’m not exactly sure whether ( and I’m not going to reread the article) the salient question of – what is a woman. – or man is addressed by the professor but, I fully agree with you that it is not anchored by any biological imperative that science has yet discovered. Are there structural or micro changes in the brain that permeates the self in some or only some garden variety mental “disorder” gender disphoria? Does it even matter? All people should be treated with respect and accommodated within the capability of an egalitarian and pluralistic society.

    I think the professor might agree even if you two want to keep beating each other over the head with definitions.

    Best I could do with a cellphone and an impatient wife who is no longer pregnable.

  60. Moti Gorin

    Venividigrizzly, you say what I’m doing is “needless, weird, and mean.” I think the changes you advocate for are needless, weird, and mean. And as I said in the essay, if there’s unkindness on my side, there’s unkindness on yours, too, and the question is how to navigate the tradeoffs. That you are so capable of seeing the unkindness of my side without seeing it on yours is, I think, telling. Many, many women are uncomfortable with the changes under discussion, not only the linguistic ones but the many legal and policy changes, too, and yet acknowledging this is considered mean, bigoted, or whatever. I genuinely cannot understand why the concerns of one group are treated as if they are trumping in all cases, especially given the paucity of moral argument and the shakiness of the metaphysics underpinning it all. We are supposed to accept, without argument, that gender identity–which no one can define beyond saying it’s some sort of feeling–is of greater metaphysical and ethical importance in all cases than sex is, and to just go along with the changes that such a view entails? And if we don’t, we are genocidal bigots? I find this needless, weird, and, yes, mean.

  61. But…but…but…you’re such a MEANIE!

  62. venividigrizzly

    Uh, I’ve never called you genocidal, my guy. You are incredibly sensitive to criticisms I have not leveled at you. Has someone else on Twitter maligned you? Join the club. Log off. Get a thicker skin. Be a “man”.

    You have decided to hinge this on whether said language is “inclusive” or not. Let’s put it this way. Can we imagine how this would be alienating to trans people? Well imagine you’re a trans-man and you have a conflicted relationship to your sex. And then someone comes along and says you should be OK with people vigorously insisting on pinning a usage of “woman” on you that reduces you to your reproductive capacities, something that even you consider offensive to cis-women. And this voiced in the context of a movement aimed at curbing trans rights. And this in a gratuitous, Twitter-beef argument about reproduction after the biggest roll-back in women’s rights in decades, set in a way to pit women against trans-men over an argument you admit no one has actually made. Again, weird. If you want to take this as me calling you a bigot or transphobe, I can’t stop you obviously. Let your Mel Gibson complex run wild, seek every torture you must.

    As for discussing trade-offs between trans people and women, I don’t have any issue with discussing them. I just think the gender critical crowd doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. Between women and trans-men, do you have something beyond an identity argument, one I doubt you’d countenance in any other circumstance? The main focus is pitting women against trans-women based off misandrist arguments, which isn’t even the subject of your essay anyway. What are the big flash-points in this civil rights struggle? Bathrooms, prisons, and sports. There simply isn’t some rampant problem of trans-women assaulting women in bathrooms. It’s a pathetic controversy. Let people poop where they want. And there’s literally no way to enforce it without needlessly harming trans and gender-nonconforming people even when they’re following your stupid rules. In prisons, people should be placed based on their known histories and risks above all else. Just tossing trans-women in with men has not proved a good policy, as they have a much higher rate of sexual assault than the general prison population (a trade-off your crowd just ignores). If we can have separate housing for them, then sure, go ahead, whatever. Interestingly, GC folks are very, very concerned about this tiny, tiny cohort and have little to nothing to say about the issue of male guards in women’s prisons, a much bigger issue for women’s safety if we’re ostensibly concerned about men taking advantage of women. As for sports, I don’t have many fixed positions. I don’t really care when it comes to kids sports. The trans kids who just give their trophy to the child who cries over it seem more grown-up than all of you. And if we didn’t whip up panics over trans girls taking puberty blockers, that would allow more of them to pursue their personal autonomy without the physical advantages your lot tear your hair out over. The ones who go on them are by and large happier for it. The rate of people who regret having kids is several times higher than those who transition, but we are not creating crises over it.

    As for the “shakiness of the metaphysics”, I really couldn’t care less. Metaphysics simply look shaky to me. And most of the time, these arguments aren’t even underpinned by a metaphysics. They are hugely underdetermined. If you want to go play with your metaphysics blocks, by all means. I’d rather make room for my fellow humans to just live their lives.

  63. venividigrizzly

    Take a breath.

  64. Moti Gorin


    Your last longer post displays a shocking ignorance of the issues of pediatric gender medicine and a lot of other things, too. But I don’t want to get into those things here. For now, I’ll just note how odd it is that you think referring to transmen as “women” reduces them to biological function while you don’t think referring to them as “impregnables” or “people who are capable of pregnancy” or whatever does not. I find this impossible to believe.

  65. Moti, you have the patience of a saint.

  66. Moti Gorin

    Sorry, should say “while you don’t think referring to them as “impregnables” or “people who are capable of pregnancy” or whatever does.”

  67. venividigrizzly


    I’ve read and listened plenty on the trans children debate. I think the GC club is steeped in misinformation. We simply disagree on this.

    As for the supposed contradiction, no. I think it’s clear you’re trying to foist “women” on them in an ideological argument that strenuously reduces the class to its reproductive capacities and chides trans-men for having any contrary notion of themselves. I already said I wouldn’t use the word “impregnables”. It’s about as silly as your whole argument. I’m fine with referring to trans-men as “people who can get pregnant” because that’s a basic description and they’re on board with it. It’s just describing one aspect of their persons, and again not weaponizing the word “woman” in a way meant to reduce them to their reproductive capacities. You are a “philosopher who makes silly arguments”. You are surely many other things.

  68. Terranbiped

    LOL! YES! (As Joan Rivers would emphatically exclaim.) It appears I have wasted enough.

    A shame. I virtually always agree with your replies and mostly do on this topic. Well, go eat your berries and salmon. Fall will be here before you know it.

  69. Terranbiped

    Breathless in Seattle.

  70. Moti Gorin

    I know you are fine with calling transmen “people who can get pregnant.” But that isn’t the issue. The issue is whether we ought to adopt that language for everyone in the context of abortion. So you favor calling everyone in that context “people who can get pregnant” and I don’t. That’s where we started. But you also said that “women” reduces transmen to their reproductive role, and I can’t see how “people who can get pregnant” is any better on this score (it seems much worse, in fact).

  71. venividigrizzly

    Sorry, Terran. I don’t think you are bad people and I wish you well, but I won’t suppress my disagreement.

  72. venividigrizzly

    Sorry, Moti, but I disagree. That is that. But you’ve told me in our conversations that “woman” is not a simple empirical description but a word laden with a lot of ideological content that fucks with trans people, and I side with them in this respect. Dan has radicalized me on this.

    That said, I assume you are good husband and father because all of this bullshit we are arguing over is people chasing waterfalls. I wish the best for you and yours, as I wish the best for trans people just figuring themselves out. I’d like you doing to same. You are not dumb. You are not hateful. But you have fallen into an ideology that needlessly fucks with a people and

    That said, the Elvis movie was great. Just wanted you to know. I typically don’t like on-the-nose music movies but this was The Elvis movie. Just wanted you to know,

  73. venividigrizzly


    I don’t think you are some horrible person. I think you are just a dude. I assume you are a good dad and husband. I don’t like you playing into a reactionary

  74. I have very litte to say that hasn’t been said, but I must add my voice to the others that are really confused by this article. I agree that not only does the article argue against something it admitts the opponent never wrote (but that the author imagines she could write)… I also think the points that article makes are faulty because they get wrong how language actually works in the world of speakers (who aren’t philosophers.

    Moti writes in th comments: “My point, as I explained, is that the reasons Manne gives for using “impregnables” rather than solely “women” and “girls” speak in favor of using “impregnables” solely when referring to anyone who can get pregnant, including women and girls. I think Manne just hasn’t taken her argument to its logical conclusion.”

    This will sound strange to philosophers, but I think that virtually any linguist will tell you that language’s progression isn’t generally dicated by logic. We don’t create definitions by logic, don’t figure out how words’ meanings should change with a changing world based on logic, etc. The way we do it is to respond collectively to changing needs of speakers and the world and figure out via a non-logical evolutionary process what changes are good enough to get that new job done without sacrificing the virtues of the old way of talking.

    (A popullar linguistics book, I know, but Talk on the Wild Side by Lane Green will give some insight:

    So, to my mind, venividigrizzly is absolutely right when he responds with: “I think this just goes to show what happens when we treat people as objects of conceptual analysis instead of subjects existing in empirical reality.”

    Whata we have here is a situation where a word that had a very cler and settled meaning in decades past (woman, man) has – at least in the eyes of some – changed its meaning just enough that where it would have been used in some situatations to uncontroversially give info on whether the person identified produces small gametes, it might not be able to do so as unproblematically as before. So, we think up some other word or phrase that will do a better job IN THAT CASE (but not necessarily in all cases) where we’d have previously used the word “woman.” I don’t get the big deal, and Moti’s imagination about what Manne might say and what logic demands doesn’t convine me.

    Here’s a scene: Imagine that US had a military draft and that only men were eligible. Now, imagine we found some reason to include SOME women as draft eligible, maybe because we realize that SOME women have attributes we’d on’ly atributed to men. Now, imagine there is a law affecting those who are eligible for the draft, and the law – or court ruling on the law – refers to “men” as a stand-in for “draft-eligible.” In that situation, two things are patently obvious to me that don’t seem obvious to Moti: (a) given the expansion of the draft to men and SOME women, “draft eligible” would be a better term to use in legislation and case law then “men” to refer to people who are draft eligible; and (b) nothing in that requires me to think of my son at all times as not a son, but a person who is draft eligible, because the change would only – and clearly – apply to this one case only.

  75. How would you explain the distance between those of us who understand it perfectly well and those who are confused?

  76. “All I can do is report that I feel I am doing something sexist and degrading when I conceive of my wife and daughter, or any other woman or girl, as “impregnable people” rather than as a woman and a girl.”

    This is another curious bit – one of the main points – of the article. I think this point is flawed for two reasons.

    First, when we talk about girls and women IN THE CONTEXT OF ABORTION, we are sort of impicitly doing so because we assume they are pregnable, right? Otherwise, why call this issue in particular a women’s issue more than a men’s issue? Becauase in this case, we are reducing women to their pregnability status in the same way that when we talk of testicular cancer as a men’s issue, we are reducing men to people with balls. So, if the concern is that ‘pregnable” reduces women to a particular function, we are doing that anyway even when we associate abortion as a woman’s issue: the only difference is we aren’t doing it overtly.

    Second, if Moti really has a fear that someday, “pregnable” will somehow negate referring to females as “women,” I’d ask him to reflect on how we readily distinguish women from men in our daily lives even when we have no knowledge of whether that given person there is pregnable. What I’m saying is that in the real world, no one who enocunters someone they classify and call a woman (or man) does so with any actual knowledge about their chromosomes, capabillity for gamete production, or junk. We do so for reaosns largely to do with gender presentation, and maybe cues about how they refer to themselves or others refer to them, etc. I have no reason to think that will change if we – in the case or the abortion debate – replace “womem” with “pregnable people.” There is no likelihood that doing that will eventually lead via a slippery slope to some social norm where we can’t’ call anyone a man or women without knowing whether they are pregnable.

  77. Moti Gorin

    kevinck, sometimes someone will argue for some claim on the basis of reasons x, y, or z. Then another person will come along and point out that those reasons justify some other claim that the first person never made, or that those reasons entail some other claim. That’s what I tried to do in my piece. It’s something we do a lot in philosophy, and outside philosophy as well. It’s not fair to construe this kind of discursive exchange as “arguing against something one’s opponent never wrote.” Perhaps I got it wrong, but if I did, it’s because I’ve mischaracterized Manne’s rationale for advancing the claims she’s advanced, or because I’ve made some mistake in how I’ve characterized what her claims entail. I still think I got things right, but I concede I could have put things more clearly. This is not an academic article. I spent a few hours on it, not days or weeks or months.

    You say that I’ve misunderstood how language evolves, how the meanings of words can change. I’m not a linguist, but my sense is that when language evolves, it usually does so organically, not via fiat. Sometimes it’s via fiat, as when we need a new word for a new thing (e.g., “supercomputer”). And sometimes, words are banished from use because their use is exclusively or mainly to degrade. Racial slurs are like this, and even there there are sometimes contexts where we don’t give up the word entirely, because the costs of doing so outweigh the benefits, or because the context is such that everyone understands there to be no animus (e.g., the NAACP is the “National Association for the Advancement of Colored People”).

    As far as I can tell, when it comes to “women,” the recent proposed changes are not organic, they aren’t in response to some new thing in the world that needs a name, and they aren’t due to those words being slurs. I still don’t know how “women” is supposed to be exclusive in the abortion context. If you have any ideas here, feel free to share.

    As for your draft example, suppose we went with “draft eligible” and jettisoned all instances of “men” or “man” in the relevant regulations, laws, whatever. How would people know if they were eligible for the draft? In other words, I’m reading the document and I’m wondering if I’m “draft eligible.” Do you think there’s any similar confusion at all about what “women,” “mothers,” and “girl” refer to in the context of reproductive rights?

    You write: “First, when we talk about girls and women IN THE CONTEXT OF ABORTION, we are sort of impicitly doing so because we assume they are pregnable, right? Otherwise, why call this issue in particular a women’s issue more than a men’s issue?”

    That’s exactly right. When we talk about abortion as a women’s issue, we do so because we know that “women” in the abortion context means “adult human female” and we know that only females can get pregnant. But now we are being told that abortion is not a women’s issue, because transmen are men, and therefore men can get pregnant, and besides, many women cannot get pregnant, and sometimes this is because they are male, i.e., they are transwomen. And what follows form this, of course, is that those of us who believe that abortion is a women’s issue need to be “corrected.”

  78. As far as I can tell, when it comes to “women,” the recent proposed changes are not organic, they aren’t in response to some new thing in the world that needs a name, and they aren’t due to those words being slurs. I still don’t know how “women” is supposed to be exclusive in the abortion context. If you have any ideas here, feel free to share.

    = = = = =

    This, this, and this.

  79. Kevin,

    “What I’m saying is that in the real world, no one who encounters someone they classify and call a woman (or man) does so with any actual knowledge about their chromosomes, capability for gamete production, or junk. We do so for reasons largely to do with gender presentation”

    I think you’re underestimating how sophisticated real people in the real world are. They know the difference between gender presentation and biological sex. Assuming that they don’t, and that they classify people as men or women based on gender presentation, is assuming that they’re dumb – which they aren’t.

    “There is no likelihood that doing that will eventually lead via a slippery slope to some social norm where we can’t’ call anyone a man or women without knowing whether they are pregnable”

    Again, I feel you’re underestimating those real people in the real world. If I understand it correctly, Manne thinks women are a subset of the set of “impregnable” people. But in the real world, real people aren’t confused like Manne apparently is. They know that it’s the other way around: impregnable people are a subset of the set of women. Asking them to accept Manne’s definition is, indeed, asking them to jump on the slippery slope and expecting them to glide downwards happily.

  80. Trans people rarely “pass” and are easily identifiable. No chromosomal test necessary. I have no idea what KCK is going on about here.

    I also think he very selectively read Moti’s piece. He seems to just ignore large swathes of it. He also never read the Manne piece that it is about. He and I have talked about this, privately.

  81. Terranbiped

    Sounds like you articulated and summed up the problem, along with Dan’s subsequent question, in your last paragraph. That is where those activists and their allies like Grizzly have planted their flag as to what accounts for sensitive inclusiveness.

    As far as the issue of abortion is concerned, I have no problems assigning these myriad of people with or by no fault of their own, should have uteruses if having declared themselves female.

    As I mentioned elsewhere, there is no need for compelled speech in the public sphere but legal issues must include the proper terminology that designates who will come under the auspices of abortion laws and in a more broad sense be sensitive to all those who ascribe or have ascribed to be female at some point in their journey. This is a legitimate cry for female equality in all social contexts. Whenever this is achieved there will no longer be a need for such confusing and complicated identity politics.

    So, you either accept the plight of these marginal human beings and make some allowances in sexual group assignment and all that entails in the social realm or you don’t and by doing so potentially hurt these people as being not quite what they claim to be with every fiber of their being.

  82. Terranbiped

    I wouldn’t respect you if you did. Like feuding families, the longer the disagreement the shorter the memory of the original gripe but, the fightin’ keeps on a goin’, Pa.

    I hope this foray into trans inclusivity end better than the King on the throne. Hunka, hunka, burning love.

  83. Moti,

    I’m sure you are right hat language change rarely if ever changes by fiat. But another way it doesn’t change – the way I was referrring to – is by the dint of logic that you mentioin both in your piece and the first paragraph of your comment:

    “sometimes someone will argue for some claim on the basis of reasons x, y, or z. Then another person will come along and point out that those reasons justify some other claim that the first person never made, or that those reasons entail some other claim.”

    Dan is right that I never read Manne’s piece, but my sense is that she is referring to a linguistic change she thinks should happen in regards to the issue of abortion and not necessarily in all cases outside of that where we refer to women. (In fact, she SAYS as much in the tweet you posted, where she points out that despite everything she wrote in her peice, she freely uses the terms “girls” and “women” in other contexts.)

    So, philosophers might deliberate on a proposed change of language in the way you write above, the way they discuss a lot of things. But that’s not how anyone outside of a philosophy classroom would talk about whether to change the way we talk about x in a particuklar domain.

    “As for your draft example, suppose we went with “draft eligible” and jettisoned all instances of “men” or “man” in the relevant regulations, laws, whatever. How would people know if they were eligible for the draft?”

    They’d look at the policy and see if the criteria it lays out applies to them. The same way we would do it if an abortion statute referred to ‘pregnable people.’ You don’t need a word like “woman” for that.

    “But now we are being told that abortion is not a women’s issue, because transmen are men, and therefore men can get pregnant, and besides, many women cannot get pregnant, and sometimes this is because they are male, i.e., they are transwomen. And what follows form this, of course, is that those of us who believe that abortion is a women’s issue need to be “corrected.””

    We use a word (x) as a proxy for some set of criteria. Then it is pointed out to us that as a proxy, the word is sloppy because a number of x’s don’t fit the criteria and a number of y’s that fit the criteria aren’t coverd by the term x. The question is how many of these we need to make a swtich to another term – one that is readily available – that is more specific and binds closer to the criteria than the previous word. I do’nt have an answer to this question, and different folks will have different tolerance for linguistic change in this case. But at very least, it does seem a more legitimate problem than I think you are depicting.

  84. Not saying people are stupid at all. Just saying that we are so hung up on getting at the necessary and sufficient conditions for sex/gender identification that we are radically missing how we do it in the real world. We estimate based on appearance. It may be that the sufficient condition for ‘woman’ is that a person be equipped to produce small gametes. But when I identify the colleague down the hall as a ‘woman,’ it’s not because I have any knowledge of her bodily equipment. It is because she looks to me as a woman, and everyone refers to her as one. No deeper reason.

    Asf for the point in your p2, I somewhat agree. Manne is probaly making more of this thing than will ever gain any traction outside of an elite crowd. Doesn’t mean she is wrong to propose it per se, but it does mean that you could do the same job saying ‘woman” with an implied aseterisk that acnknowledges that not all women are pregnable and some people we can refer to as men are pregnable. Some trans people wouldn’t like that second solution – surely Manne wouldn”t – but I suspect that in the real world, that’s the one with more probable success for wide adoption.

  85. We use a word (x) as a proxy for some set of criteria.

    – – – – –

    I’m afraid this is incorrect. A major subject in the philosophy of language last century.

  86. Most terms in natural language have no nec/suff conditions. Again this was a substantial issue in the philosophy of language in the last century.

  87. I’m not making the statement categorically, Dan. Reword what I wrote to say something like “In some instances, we can a word (x) as a proxy for…” What I mean here is that in a case like this one, we are using the word “woman” to refer to “someone who can get pregnant.”

  88. Moti Gorin

    Thanks for your comment. At this point, I don’t think I can add anything that I haven’t already said in the piece and the comments here.

  89. venividigrizzly

    Let it be said that within an argument hinged on logical consequences your interlocutors don’t acknowledge, you are totally ignoring all the other judgments Alito claims are not on the table (though are intimately tied to Roe’s judgment, and they are likely to attack). This is the most substantive way sense in which people are suggesting logical consequences they deny, not the way Manne says “women”. Probably worth more attention than this tiny sliver of humanity. Except those are judged on the actual, legal opinions, not philosophers really confident in the logical consequence they foist on other people because they think they should ague it because it stacks up with beefs with wokeism. Instead you feel like chasing after hypothetical arguments your coalition are not even making in service of dragging trans people into a debate they are an incredibly small portion of and are clearly on your side in service of pro-choice arguments. You’ve decided this culture war can be substantively addressed by this other culture war (not a great bet) based on targeting a very small, aggressively targeted community that bother you. Which will not help women, no matter how you define them. There is literally know way that this helps women or trans people. This is only a net negative. Your logic games are for nothing.

  90. This comment – which I endorse – reminds me of something a law scholar friend told me after reading the piece. (They prefer to remain anonymous.)

    They said that one of the first things they learned in law school was that terms (like ‘causality’) are defined differently in different domains of law, and that while philosophers might judge the merits of terms or argumenents by their ability to be used with logical consistency across domains, lawyers and jurists simply tend not to think that way. The meaining of terms or the law governing particular domains evolve in response to localized needs of individual cases without much or any regard to what they would logically imply within other settings/domains. The idea is that if some inconsistency emerges that needs to be ironed out, cross that bridge when you get to it, not when you first anticipate it after playing with logical implications.

    I supsect that the way language works in the world resembles how this report of law works much more than how philosophy works.

  91. Moti Gorin

    I don’t disagree. And in fact this is part of my argument. When “women” is used in reproductive rights contexts, everyone knows what it means. Everyone knows that Roe covered transmen, nonbinary, etc., because everyone knows that “women” refers to adult human females. And in addition to the philosophical confusion this move exhibits, it’s just a stupid mistake, strategically, to impose gender identity-based definitions, which are understood by a small minority of people–those steeped in contemporary gender studies literature or those very online people who adopt these terms with zero academic or theoretical familiarity–and endorsed by even fewer people. Your lawyer friend has a disagreement with the those who want to take outlier, ill-defined meanings, grounded in disciplines with virtually no argumentative standards, and transfer them into contexts where they are unneeded and counterproductive.

  92. Moti Gorin

    venividigrizzly, we’ve already established, early on, that you think my priorities are wrong.

    In my view, the best way to respond to people doing stuff that I find irrelevant or uninteresting or whatever is to ignore it.

  93. Right on, again. Your patience is inspiring.

  94. Terranbiped

    Yes, everyone knows but I think the point that grizzly keeps harping on is that using the term “women” is a linguistic affront to trans men and the other categories that don’t identify as women but can still get pregnant.

    Politically and socially, I agree with your assessment that this intransigence has little practicality in pushing for abortion rights and can even be counterproductive by confusing the issue and turning many voters off, all in the cause of placating a minority of a minority.

  95. venividigrizzly


    I’m not criticizing you for being boring, guy. I’m criticizing the essay for being gratuitous, inaccurate, and at best unhelpful for pro-choice and trans causes. You’re pretty adamant about tacking trans-men with a use of “woman” that reduces them to their sex and their reproductive status, and for some reason, this insistence seems to drag with it a whole host of judgments on other issues that consistently weigh against trans people. Is it a wonder they might doubt the harmlessness here? And this in the service of guarding against a hypothetical imposition. It’s reactionary-lite shadow-boxing.

  96. venividigrizzly

    I think you’re turned all upside down. This all started with Moti’s tweet asking why he can’t refer to women, the answer to which is, uh, you can.You can even refer to them as such when discussing abortion, as I and everyone else does in most contexts. It’s just polite to refer to trans-men as people who can get pregnant because they can have a conflicted relationship with their sex. That’s the gist. If you and Moti think it’s bad to drag them into conversations about abortion, then maybe don’t do it.

  97. They’re not just wrong. You’re a “reactionary” now.

  98. Moti Gorin

    At least it’s the “lite” version.

    And I still fail to see how “women” reduces transmen to their reproductive status more than “people who can get pregnant” does. It seems painfully obvious that it’s the other way around. Nor do I see how it reduces them to their sex, since the word “woman” includes the concept of a person/human and the concept of an adult, and not solely a concept of female sex.

    Anyway, lots of repetition at this point.

  99. Terranbiped

    You couldn’t be more precise, concise, plain spoken and correct.

    Somehow I think your simple message got lost in translation. The risk of discussion with quibbling philosophers.

  100. Repetition and an endless pile of stupid at this point. Fortunately comments will close soon.

  101. Lol. Boy are you easy to roll.

  102. venividigrizzly


    You say that either both options are unkind or neither are, and clearly think “people who give birth” is unkind, going on to say we have to deal with the trade-offs between unkindnesses. So what’s unkind about calling trans-men “women”? The “nothing to see here” routine isn’t credible. “I’m not just referring to them as female. I’m referring to them as adult and human too!” Cracker jack reasoning, prof. You, like Daniel, want to privilege a use of “woman” as a reproductive class, and are depicting people who would just rather not as enemies of women. And all because of an argument that is yet to come, a blind beast slouching towards Bethlehem awaiting to be born…that, uh, really looks like a yappy little dog. When we reach this “inevitability” and a person demands this of someone on Twitter (oh my), prepare for laughs and shrugs, not the mass erasure of women.

  103. Moti Gorin

    Venivigrizzly, the reason it might be unkind to refer to transmen as “women” is because they reject that label, and imposing labels on people when they reject those labels can be unkind. Some of these transmen also experience dysphoria, which might be exacerbated when they are referred to as women. I get all that.

    But it’s also unkind to refer to women as “birthing persons” or “menstruators” or “people capable of pregnancy”–at least this is what many women report. The reasons why women would reject these labels should be pretty obvious.

    So there are tradeoffs, as I’ve said. I can’t tell if you agree with this or not. It’s an important point. If you agree, then you and I are on the same page on one of the most fundamental issues that divide gender critical feminists and trans activists.

  104. Terranbiped

    Not really, Dan. I’m strictly judging his last statement as a stand alone and not dredging up the contentious formers. I figured it was an agreeable way for everyone to end on. Silly me.

  105. venividigrizzly

    I mean, I obviously reject the idea that there is some serious trade-off here. In context of abortion, I can refer to women as women and trans-men as people who can give birth. A pretty simple policy, I’m afraid.

  106. Moti Gorin

    Venividigrizzly, so just to ge clear, you deny what many women report about the use of “pregnant people” “menstruators” “birthing parent” etc? That is, you simply reject the notion that these terms are alienating or demeaning or unkind? Or you agree with them and therefore would insist that we preserve “women” but tack on “and other people who can give birth” or something similar? Because if you go the latter route we don’t have much of a disagreement.

  107. venividigrizzly

    I’ve said from the get-go, and several times now, I’m happy to retain the word “women”. I get that many women find language like “menstruators” alienating, while I still don’t have much sympathy with the ideological extremes gender critical types often push this. Vis-a-vis abortion, these folks want to be called “women”? Swell. Vis-a-vis abortion, those folks want to be called “people who can give birth”? Swell. These groups have common cause in what’s going to be a wrenching fight ahead.

  108. Moti Gorin

    Ok. So, presumably you would oppose measures that would replace “women” with, exclusively, “people capable of pregnancy” or similar. I’m thinking of legal language, medical language, etc.

  109. venividigrizzly

    In technical language? Honestly don’t have an opinion.

  110. Moti Gorin

    That’s a bit surprising. Well, think about it. It’s often what’s at issue in these debates about sex and gender language, and it’s certainly what I’ve had in mind throughout.

  111. Terranbiped

    This all could have been hashed out in 5 minutes.

  112. venividigrizzly

    You’ve mentioned the legal context sometimes, but the initial context and most of the conversation has worded in everyday contexts, which makes sense enough since that’s what we mainly deal with and care about. I don’t think the legal sidebars made much difference. I don’t adhere to strict originalism, so I don’t think people’s rights should be decided by the “strict” denotation as interpreted by some randos well after the fact. Roe applied to trans-men. If legislators apply more fine-tuned wording to protect trans-men in future, I find it unfortunate we have to do that, but assholes will try to game the system. We must recognize we are in bad times.

  113. On the issue of whether there are trade-offs with either term we use here, this is where I side with Moti. I think it is obvious that the very reason we are even having this discusssion – and why Manne felt she needed to write her piece – is that different groups are finding their interests clashing a bit. Many women want to retain the idea we’ve had for 50+ years that abortion is primarily a women’s issue, and some transs people find that to ignore their interest in the issue. So, any solution to that problem that favors one side or other will – rightly or wrongly – be felt by the other group to disaffect them. And we can tell that latter group why they are wrong to feel as they do, but in the end, they get to appraise their own interests and are likely to hear our “you’re wrong that your interests are being discounted” response as a gaslight.

    Trade-off. So, the question to me is not whether there is a trade-off here, but what trade-off is worth making. I thnk that is precisely what we are arguing about.

  114. As a more general response to the question of whether any solution carries a trade-off:

    One thing I think people need to grapple more with and don’t is that different groups – even different arguably marginalized and oppressed ones – can have interests that are at odds with each other. And for some time now, that’s what I’ve seen with cis and trans women when the issue is someting like how do demaracate who gets to compete in women’s sports. Each side wants to argue that its position is the correct one that entails no real trade-off, and I am left wondering whether that is a dishonest answer or just one that lacks circumspection. It seems obvious to me that these two groups may sometimes have the same interests and sometimes have interests at odds with each other, and in that latter case, solutions will often be trade-off ones.

    So, yeah, that’s what I see here too.

  115. Moti’s question here is one of the most pertinent ones to discusiosn of this issue as far as I’m concerned: “So, presumably you would oppose measures that would replace “women” with, exclusively, “people capable of pregnancy” or similar. I’m thinking of legal language, medical language, etc.”

    I would oppose such measures depending on the context. I defended Manne’s position (against Moti’s) because even before reading it, I assumed that her defense of “impregnable” was highly domain specific to discussion of abortion. ON THAT ISSUE, I can’t see how “impregnable person” isn’t more accurate a term than “woman.” ESPECIALLY when crafting legislation and other legal documents.

    But, yeah, “woman” stil does a lot of important jobs that “impregable person” doesn’t do, and I’d not want to see it replaced in those myriad other cotexts. (Now that I have read Manne’s piece, I can reaily confirm my suspicion that neither does/did she.)

  116. Moti Gorin

    Kevin, you are conflating two things. There is a content domain, eg abortion, and there is a medium domain, eg. media, legal documents, etc. My view is that in the content domain of abortion and the medium domain of law, official documents, discussions of official policy, medical journals, official statements by organizations, etc, it is bad to replace “women.” I don’t care what people call themselves at home or whatever.

  117. I think we should be resistant to redefining words for more general reasons:

    1) It cuts us off from past knowledge. If you have read older works even older works written in English often they use the same word but it means something different to them. And when the words mean something different to them you no longer can understand what the author is trying to convey. This change can just sort of happen over time but to intentionally try to change the meaning of a word just seems immediately counter productive to our common goal of learning.

    2) It causes needless confusion in present.

    3) Often people try to hijack the gravitas that a word has due to its traditional meaning and use it in a way that no longer should retain that gravitas. I’m not sure that applies to this debate here, but an example of this would be the word “truth.” For whatever reason people want their beliefs to correspond with reality. Because people have this desire the “truth” is important. But if when you say something is “true” you mean something different, then you are likely inappropriately stealing the gravitas or good will that the term “truth” has built up over time and applying it to a meaning that never earned that respect. Other situations includes meta-ethics deals with notion of what we mean when we say something is “moral” or “evil” and depending on whether you are a relativist or realist the gravity of these labels may change. Also I have heard various definitions of the word “fact” and “proof” etc.

  118. Friendly criticism

    The problem with Mati’s essay was its failure to address the issue in a common-sense way. You can’t show this “ridiculous crap” for what it is – ridiculous crap – when you use the intellectualized style of argumentation and rhetoric that Mati adopts. As for argumentation, his main argument seems to be a kind of reductio-ad-absurdism, concerning itself with logical implications of Manne’s premises that Manne herself does not explicitly draw. When you rely on such philosophical ju-jitsu, you distract the reader’s attention from the more important fact that what Manne and her ilk are saying is absurd on its face. As for rhetoric, he opens by requiring a sympathetic reader to accept his premise that the Luddites were “correct” about textile production (I get your point, but, c’mon), and then he tries to assert moral authority over the zealots by talking about what it “feels” like when he “tr[ies] to conceive” of his wife and daughter as women—nobody other than a philosophy academic ever bases an argument about manners & morals on what it “feels” like when he “tries to conceive.” Most non-academics recognize intuitively that the “pregnant people” language is ridiculous and somewhat offensive to women. This should be an easy victory for team sanity. But when you make the argument the way Mati does, you open yourself up to the kind of response you got from venvidigrizzly, and you make it easier for them to make it seem like their responses to you are fair and sensible.

  119. Terranbiped

    With all due respect, I thought we got passed this understanding of what is appropriate and necessary. It is exactly in the domains of legal, scientific and medical that detailed inclusiveness must be stipulated or risk omitting certain individuals. For instance, you can’t bring a trans man to trial and refer to him as a woman. At home, who cares what he is called.

  120. “You say that I’ve misunderstood how language evolves, how the meanings of words can change. I’m not a linguist, but my sense is that when language evolves, it usually does so organically, not via fiat.”

    I’m not a linguist but I would also assume the changes normally happen organically. But I also think these changes often happen to support certain agendas. We see people trying to change the definition of “racism”. Instead of saying certain people are just using the term inappropriately those people just insist that dictionary change the traditional meaning. Again this is because the word “racism” has a gavitas that people want to wield against others who disagree with them. So instead of developing a new term they just keep insisting on incorrectly using racism even though they know what they are describing doesn’t fit that definition. Once they win that battle of definition they can then claim everyone that disagrees with them supports “racism.”

    The court recently broadened word “sex” to prevent discrimination not just of people of different sexes – men and women – as the court admitted was intended by the legislature. But now discrimination based on “sex” also includes “discrimination” based on intentional behavior/conduct. This is a substantial departure from discrimination based on immutable traits. So now if a certain person does not want to hire someone based on certain conduct that person engages in they are violating the civil rights act. And again this has a certain gravitas which can cudgel people into compliance with an agenda without having to use reason.

    If you look at the traditional Greek word for faith – psistis you will not see any requirement that the belief be blind or without reason.

    Yet certain Christians and atheists have tried to use certain interpretations in scripture and outside of scripture to change what psistis means to suit their agendas.

    I have a logic text book from the 70s that gives a definition and explanation of the fallacy of “argument from ignorance” which is quite a bit different than what you might find in recent logic books – even from the same author in a later edition!

  121. Josh

    This isn’t true, in my experience. I’ve met clockable trans people and non-clockable trans people. I’d stipulate that those who think trans people rarely pass are under-counting the trans people who they met but didn’t clock.

  122. Well, our experiences differ then. 🤷‍♂️