Real sex/fake gender: a reply to Robert Willmott


  • John Hood-Williams


A series of claims relating to the sociological problematic of sex/gender are made by Robert Willmott in a critique of my article Goodbye to Sex and Gender (Hood-Williams, 1996). In his account he claims that: sociology is ‘impossible’ and feminism ‘impotent’ without the sex/gender distinction; that sex belongs to an order of real world objects that is ontologically distinctly from, and irreducible to, gender and that to oppose this view is to favour conflation; that men are ontologically distinct from women. In reply I argue that it is absurd to say that sociology, which pre-dates the sex/gender distinction by two hundred years, or feminism (also historically prior), cannot function without it; that the distinction between the real and the ideational rests on an ontology that is itself discursive and that the critique of the general distinction made between sex and gender does not necessitate conflating the objects of biological and sociological discourses; that men and women are no more ontologically distinct than people with black skins are from those with white.

The ‘real world’– an idea no longer of any use, not even a duty any longer – an idea grown useless, superfluous, consequently a refuted idea: let us abolish it! (Nietzsche)