Hi-Phi Nation

Hi-Phi Nation: For Women Only, Part 2

We look at the debates over trans rights in the public media and find that not all transphobia is created equal.

Gender categorization seems to pop up sporadically in the mainstream press, leading to what sociologist Laurel Westbrook and Kristen Schilt call “gender panics,” and then they disappear only to emerge again at some other time.* An analysis of gender panics shows that people fear some gender nonconformists but seem perfectly fine with others. It turns out that one thing in particular, just one thing, causes and then quells a gender panic, showing that the public has a very peculiar underlying theory of gender.


Meanwhile, the metaphysics of gender is the academic study of what gender is and who belongs in a particular gender category. In that area, the descendants of the views about gender in the ’70s stake their positions today, calling for the inclusion or exclusion of certain trans individuals in sex-segregated spaces. We look at some of these arguments and the contested assumptions that underlie them and then come back out to the real world to see how trans-inclusive women-only spaces seem to be doing in America. This is Part 2 of a two-part series about the metaphysics of gender.


Guest voices include Sandy Stone, Janice Raymond, Laurel Westbrook, Holly Lawford-Smith, and Robin Dembroff.

Slate Plus Content:

In the Slate Plus segment, Barry talks to sociologist Laurel Westbrook about justice-based arguments for female-only spaces and calls on philosopher Holly-Lawford Smith, a gender-critical feminist, to consider the success of trans-inclusive women-only spaces as reasons for inclusion more generally.

For all back episodes from Seasons 1 and 2 of Hi-Phi Nation, visit www.hiphination.org.

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Correction, May 13, 2019: This post originally attributed the term gender panics only to Laurel Westbook. She coined it along with her colleague Kristen Schilt.