Abstract: Who is a woman? Is black? Is disabled? I argue that answers to these questions, which concern who in fact belongs to certain social categories, can come apart from answers to questions concerning who ought to belong to these categories. This is because oppressive social structures often give rise to categories that are unjust with respect to who is a category member as well as categories that are unjust with respect to the social position of category members. Call these 'oppressive categories'. After developing an ontological framework for understanding oppressive categories, I then discuss its fruitfulness: it reveals three distinct versions of a revisionist methodology within feminist ontology (often called the 'ameliorative project'), and it helps dissolve an apparent tension between feminist movements emphasizing gender equality and those emphasizing transgender rights.
Robin Dembroff is an Assistant Professor at Yale University.