In this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast Catharine MacKinnon talks to Nigel Warburton about the concept of Gender Crime. Philosophy Bites is made in association with the Institute of Philosophy.

United States


00:00:00I'm this is philosophy bites with me David Edmonds and may not to Watson philosophy mites is available at W. W. W. dot philosophy bites dot com firstly bites is made in association with the institute of philosophy if a man beats up a woman he can be charged with
00:00:17a crime one person has beaten up another but is it relevant to the crime here involves an attack by a member of one gender on a member of another Kevin McKinnon is one of the world's leading feminist scholars she's written extensively about **** sexual harassment and prostitution and
00:00:34it's helped reshape international rule she represented a number of Bosnian and Croatian women of the nineteen ninety's war in the former Yugoslavia and succeeded in getting forced prostitution and impregnation recognized as acts of genocide professor mackinnon holds academic positions at Harvard in Michigan but we caught up with
00:00:54her while she was visiting professor at the university of Cambridge center for gender studies Catherine McKinnon welcomes fussy points thank you so much I'm glad to be here with you and your listeners the topic we're going to focus on is gender crime could use a little bit about
00:01:11what that is it's a concept first of all that certain crimes that happen and it's particularly related to sex crimes are based on the gender of the people who commit them gender being the social meaning of sex that is masculinity and femininity not biology but sex roles and
00:01:31in acting of a hierarchy of masculine over feminine so a gender crime then is a crime that happens as part of a social system of male domination and female subordination some people lessons that might say well look women on subordinate to men why use hearing that masculine it
00:01:53somehow above feminine in this probiotic this isn't about assumptions first of all when a person is being raped the person who is raping them is in a hierarchy over them is doing something to them the other reality just to observe is that in virtually all societies the sexes
00:02:15remain socially on equal not because it's accurate that women are subordinate human beings but rather as an injustice because it isn't accurate actually it's false but it's extremely pervasive social inequality is reality economically politically in terms of religions typically and and basically all walks of life so the
00:02:39hierarchy which took about is a hierarchy of power yes that's absolutely right ends only linking up certain crimes with this notion of masculinity and femininity he says a new lines upon the wider significance of the crimes have been committed yes absolutely and it embeds them in a social
00:03:01context which they previously did not have before crimes were conceived are understood as gender based they weren't thought it was based on anything really only as crimes for example rape or buying a person in prostitution and using them for sex or sexually violating a child those acts were
00:03:21thought of as either sex crimes they have some basis in sexuality then but sexuality wasn't understood as socially based but rather as biological or they were just thought of as being crimes of violence some people are violent to other people and we need to understand that this way
00:03:37as is now recognized very strongly in the international order especially the crimes are understood as a function of social inequality between women and men that is social that has roots in society and that needs to be in can be transformed through empowerment of women through education as well
00:03:59as through real human rights initiatives and here we suddenly have the criminal law as human rights initiative which is quite a new departure in the last decade or so it's interesting you included prostitution in that list of gender crimes because prostitution isn't illegal in Britain and isn't illegal
00:04:18in some states in the US as well right ten counties in Nevada it's not that's true and that's because it's regarded as victimless because the women who are bought and sold in it are not regarded as being essentially being serially raped in other words forced either physically economically
00:04:40or through other means to have sex that they would otherwise not be having with people that they otherwise would not be having it with when one looks at armed conflicts for example there is often a huge ballooning of prostitution that happens under those circumstances and when it's in
00:04:56an armed conflict often people are more willing to see that it's forced but a concept of gender cry that understands that when everyone is in a feminine sex role being pushed into a situation that otherwise they would not have chosen that can be a gender crime prostitution belongs
00:05:17on that list what %HESITATION prostitution because some people clearly choose for themselves to be prostitutes without being forced Inocencio suggesting be very different for somebody to make a decision to supplement their income will cover the main source of income prostitution rather than be forced to do that by
00:05:34a pimp say whoa somebody aggressively pushing them into that world yeah that's a major myth about prostitution in on the whole most people who are in it RPM in one way or another going renegade is not generally allowed in terms of the way the industry is organized but
00:05:52also there's a false notion of choice imbedded in there I mean most people who are in prostitution are desperately poor don't have all the alternatives that other people have virtually all of them or sexually abused in childhood almost all of them enter as children actually which is a
00:06:10point at which one isn't able to make fully free choices and then in many places are treated badly by the state while the people who buy them namely the man who the Johns are not considered criminals but they are so it's an institution of sex inequality so are
00:06:30you saying that nobody could ever freely choose to become a prostitute I'm saying that in reality they don't ever know I'm I'm saying if there is this mythic attachment that men have in general in societies of sex inequality to the notion that selling yourselves for sex on a
00:06:47street corner is what freedom for women looks like we have this almost obsessive fantasizing of what it is choice is and she must be an example of it and I'm saying that as a matter of reality it is not accurate I was thinking of the case about usual
00:07:04who has a PhD I think it by chemistry proposed to have made a free choice to become a prostitute prepared for life this isn't a person that I know I know many hundreds of people and it produces good press to go in public to typically be paid to
00:07:22say I love that I chose that I wanted it's a much better day than doing it and often to people who are in prostitution not only dissociate to survive the experience but have many people inside of them some of whom are the ones who engage in it others
00:07:41of them live other parts of their lives and the reason is because you can't live that life in general and sustain the abuse that's involved both to get you in it and to keep you in it and keep that all in one head at the same time so
00:07:58we don't know who we're talking to when we talk to her and to get this clay it's not just women who could be prostitutes but when manta prostitutes they are taking on a feminine role in terms of the gender association yes and often they are prostituting as women
00:08:15and what I'm saying is like for example being in prison if you're raped in prison the man who raped other men in prison call the raped man girls that's what I'm talking about it is about a feminized ation of feminine role headers identifying the source of crimes as
00:08:32gender crimes give us more information than I did find them as sex crimes which is the common way to describe them in Jennison say if you understand that the sex word in the sex crime definition means that gender is involved then it doesn't add anything but as it
00:08:51happens when people say sex crime they tend to me not sex as gender nor even necessarily sex as biology but they tend to mean sex as sexuality and what this analysis is contributing is the insight that sexuality is gendered that it's socially gender that is socially organized and
00:09:13that means not only does this describe its empirical properties as they happen in the world it also makes clear that it doesn't have to be that way in other words this is an act of social domination through sexuality it is definitely sexual and sexualized it's not that it
00:09:33isn't you know this is not the this is power not six analysis this is power is sexualized here and that is part of a larger structure socially of male domination which is political really and can be changed an ideal world weather is equality between the sexes between the
00:09:52genders would rape in war be the same kind of thing if we had an ideal world I don't know why we would have war or why we would have rate far less why they would be raped in a war utopias are not my particular thing I don't do
00:10:06that I do reality my particular approach is not to begin by designing an ideal world and then construct rules on the let's pretend notion of let's pretend were there and now let's apply these rules as a means of getting there I don't think you get there that way
00:10:21you know the basic structure of liberalism think so and I think it's wrong in a real world of sex equality I think that war would not be recognizable in terms of the way we currently understand it because it's highly masculinized and ritual lysed endeavor I was wondering whether
00:10:38there is a distinct threshold over something becomes agenda crawling and not just a gender inequality the cases you describe a fairly clear cut cases of criminal activity by any description there is a clear threshold this is stupid answer okay but it's the is the answer which is of
00:10:57something is recognized as a crime it isn't a gender crime can't be gender crime at all if it isn't already a crime in some sense with prostitution at the extreme there's a sense in which people can be pushed into a relationship which they don't really want to be
00:11:10in because of family pressures or whatever that is tantamount to prostitution but might not be described in Lawrence prostitution yeah presumably you would want to say that still the gender crime and is the difficulty during a clear cut distinction between something which is just immoral and something which
00:11:28were to be considered a crime rate you can look at this also when you look at the rape law the rape law is much more focused on even fixated on the notion of physical force but typically pays much less attention to a whole set of forms of social
00:11:45force that actually coerce sexual relationships and that is something wrong with the law of rape that it doesn't recognize this and I would make the same point about this continuum of forms of pressure the concept of gender crime itself as a concept is sensitive to that but it
00:12:04doesn't make something a crime that isn't already a crime you know in the international criminal courts statute the Rome statute it basically brings together a whole set of previously recognized conventionally understood crimes as gender crimes and also at the same time for example recognizes the gender dimensions of
00:12:23crimes that hadn't been seen as gender before not only say rape but things like the child soldier prohibition children are not soldiers they cannot be made to be because they aren't yet fully capable of exercising the judgment that a real soldier exercises right but they are forced into
00:12:42arms and drugged and made to go in rate people and kill people and burn things down and bring back other children and things of that sort and one of the things that we've done at the international criminal court is to expose the gender dimensions of that crime it
00:12:58is now considered conceptually part of gender crime even though before it wasn't because we sort of mainstream to gender in it by exposing not only are there girls who are taken and raped and made to be guards and and so on and continue to be sexually violated as
00:13:13part of the child soldiers but the critical piece there was to recognize the gender violation of the boys who are taught to rape as part of what it is to be a soldier under those circumstances and that that is a violation of those children this is another illustration
00:13:30of of the way the gender crime concept exposes forms of force that may not otherwise have been seen by understanding them is based in gender if we want to get away from masculine see that is conceived as powerful and femininity is passive is there is no risk associated
00:13:51with bringing gender into the understanding of these with crimes because the use of it as a descriptor of what we're saying actually reinforces that pass something of my skin and strong feminine week I don't think so no I think lying about reality is a lot riskier than fighting
00:14:09it by calling it what it is you can't stop what you don't name you obviously be very successful in getting this concept of gender crime acknowledge point coats and pony international low what the patch cool implications without one of them is that people are being held accountable for
00:14:29these atrocities now in a way that they work before they work at all and there's a relation between calling it what it is and getting something done about it that's demonstrable from sexual harassment law forward another consequences that their linkage to %HESITATION everyday social life is much more
00:14:48readily recognized so people recognize that you are preparing people to become victims and perpetrators here when they are taught certain sex roles also I think when people become victimized both in and out of zones of conflict they recognize the connections and linkages between themselves and all the other
00:15:10people to whom this is been done it is done so they personalize it less and in some sense more recognize that their human rights are violated in a way that is supportive of their resistance philosophers often think about concepts in the way that you've done trying to understand
00:15:28the nature of reality but they don't so often change that will have you in your work in this area and others have made significant changes that we see the ideal role of a philosopher was it just your personal choice I don't prescribe how other people should live or
00:15:46work I do recommend though that beginning with reality is I think an under used methodology in philosophy and that the reason my work goes back into reality is because that's where it started I did just sort of sit around and think about this I'm engaged with the ongoing
00:16:06experiences of people including people who've been victimized but who know very well what goes on and putting their experiences into the way these events are conceived and then the way they are dressed by authoritative institutions you know has been my project and I think that violated people ought
00:16:30to be listened to more I think more people who do philosophy of any kind ought to listen to the street of where the things they think about actually happen and I think the philosophy would be better for it as well Catherine McKinnon thank you very much thank you
00:16:45so much this now philosophy bites book published by Oxford University Press for more information go to W. W. W. dot philosophy bites dot com for more information about the institute's go to W. W. W. dot philosophy dot S. A. S. dot AC dot U. K.

Transcribed by algorithms. Report Errata
Disclaimer: The podcast and artwork embedded on this page are from Edmonds and Warburton, which is the property of its owner and not affiliated with or endorsed by Listen Notes, Inc.


Thank you for helping to keep the podcast database up to date.