Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department

Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)

Reader 1

Adrienne Martin


Throughout the process of writing this thesis, I have struggled with whether or not to use the term “gender abolition.” In one sense, the term itself initially piqued my interest in the topic. I remember the first time I heard of gender abolition, I had an immediate intuitive resistance. I thought it was another manifestation of the disconnect that exists between academia and society at large. However, my feelings quickly changed when the concept was explained to me in my sophomore year philosophy seminar. My incredulousness transformed to excitement when I realized gender abolition was actually simply the full realization of gender equality. I loved how provacative the term was, and my friends skeptical reactions when I would bring the topic up in conversation. Gender abolition was also an intellectual challenge, as I had minimal exposure to gender theory prior to college. Everything I was learning was new and made me confront issues I had never questioned before.

Yet, as I began to get further along in my writing process, I again began to question the effectiveness of the term. I worried that abolition was too trendy of a term. It reminded me of the echo chamber of social media, particularly at a liberal arts school in California. I thought back to my initial feelings and conversations I had with others and started to fear that the term could distract from my argument. I worried people would either write off the topic immediately or uncritically embrace it. As someone who loves argumentation, I did not know which was worse, and upon reflection I realized I could not fault people for either of these positions. Abolition is a powerful word intimately connected with the struggle against slavery. Who wouldn’t want to be an abolitionist? At the same time, the term has deep legal connotations, so I understand why someone’s initial thought could be: and now they want to make being a man/woman illegal?!

Despite these reservations, I decided to embrace the term. I think there is a very profound duality and tension at the heart of gender abolition. In one way, it forcefully articulates the worthy and (seemingly) uncontroversial idea that men and women should be treated as equals. At the same time, the scope of abolition makes clear how deeply gender based injustice runs, and how hesitant we all are to truly accept what is morally required of us. Perhaps even more so than race, the inequalities between the genders is assumed to be a natural consequence of biology.

Overall, my thesis aims to demonstrate that the full realization of human advancement as understood from a Marxist perspective, as well as within the framework of Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom requires the abolition of gender. I argue that as long as gender endures, neither Sen nor Marx’s vision for the development of humanity has been achieved. I begin by offering my own operative definition for gender. This definition is not a normative definition laying out how I believe gender should function, but rather how gender does function within our patriarchal world. Chapter two focuses on the meaning of gender abolition. I question the legitimacy of the way we currently conceptualize biological sex, which I argue erases the existence of intersex people. I also consider the position of transgender people within my framework, and their relationship with gender abolition. The second section of this chapter draws heavily upon, and offers abolitionist readings of Cheryl Harris’s Whiteness as Property Angela Davis’s Women and Capitalism.

Having defined these two key concepts, I transition to my analysis of Marx and Sen’s theories. Looking first at Marx I argue that despite the fact that he never discusses the concept of gender explicitly, his call for the abolition of the division of labor found in The German Ideology is effectively an argument in support of the complete dismantling of gender. I also argue that the ideal of human emancipation articulated in On the Jewish Question necessitates gender abolition. I then shift to Sen’s Development as Freedom, which defines development as the removal of forms unfreedoms, one of which, I argue, is gender. I chose to focus on Marx and Sen because I think there is a significant juxtaposition between the two philosophers' overall beliefs. Most obviously, Marx held that capitalism was the source of great degradation for the human race, while Sen believes capitalism has the ability to promote freedom. I believe this strengthens my argument because whether or not the reader has faith in capitalism, it is clear that gender must be abolished to maximally advance the human condition.