A Very Binary Drama: The Conceptual Struggle for Gender's Future


  • Davina Cooper King's College London




This article explores how both the present and change are imagined and enacted in relation to gender’s conceptual future. Its jumping off point is the current British struggle over definitions of gender and sex, and how law and public policy should respond. Two contrasting conceptions have become particularly dominant within wider public discourse: gender as sex-based domination; and gender as identity diversity. The article explores the conceptual lines of friction and the part institutional arenas, particularly law reform debates, have played in shaping the dispute. In its second half, the article locates these conceptual lines in different conceptual tasks. Prefiguring, destabilising, and critiquing gender are all oriented to forging a different conceptual future for gender, but they also seem to rely on different conceptions of what gender means and involves. Arguing that concepts should be approached as invariably plural, rather than as subject to a single right definition, this article asks whether different conceptions of gender can interrelate in less antagonistic, more fruitful ways including in the development of statutory law. This article draws on utopian thinking to explore the challenge of gender’s conceptual future.

Author Biography

Davina Cooper, King's College London

Research Professor in Law & Political Theory, Dickson Poon School of Law, KCL



How to Cite

Cooper, D. (2019). A Very Binary Drama: The Conceptual Struggle for Gender’s Future. Feminists@law, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.22024/UniKent/03/fal.655