How to Do Things with Gendered Words

In Luvell Anderson & Ernest Lepore (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Applied Philosophy of Language. New York: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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With increased visibility of trans people comes increased philosophical interest in gendered language. This chapter aims to look at the research on gendered language in analytic philosophy of language so far, which has focused on two concerns: (1) determining how to define gender terms like ‘man’ and ‘woman’ such that they are trans inclusive and (2) if, or to what extent, we should use gendered language at all. We argue that the literature has focused too heavily on how gendered language can harm trans people, and has not considered how trans people use gendered language to create meaning and joy for ourselves. Pulling from the literature in sociolinguistics, we look at examples of how trans people use language to make their lives better by gaining recognition, playing with gendered language, finding joy in gendered language, and taking control of definitional power, concluding that debates about gendered language need to consider not only how such language harms trans people but also how trans people use it for our own liberation.

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E. M. Hernandez
Independent Researcher


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