Conférence de Madeleine Pape, Unil
Feminists have long been divided over the question of whether to trouble essentialist notions of binary female/male difference or to hold onto these as the basis for claiming a special place for women in society. Contemporary debates about trans inclusion have not only renewed this fundamental tension within feminism: in various countries, they have elevated it as a defining focus of feminist engagement with the state, in the process creating a new public role for feminist mobilization along with new experts, allies, and adversaries. In this presentation, I develop the concept of biofeminism: a variety of feminist mobilization that seeks to mobilize scientific knowledge and expertise in order to embed binary (female/male) sex categories and a biological notion of womanhood into policy. I will discuss how biofeminism is not a new phenomenon, nor one limited to transphobic agendas, but rather one that has long been reflected in certain feminist narratives about the relationship between "sex," "difference," and equality. To illustrate this, I will compare two expressions of biofeminist mobilization: first, in response to trans rights and inclusion in the US and UK, particularly in the context of sport; and second, in the domain of US biomedicine in recent decades, which has seen sex differences research become a central pillar of the women’s health research agenda. I will conclude with reflections on the implications for building a counter mobilization that supports alternative narratives of sex, gender, and womanhood.