My Review of Abigail Favale’s Genesis of Gender at Current

My Review of Abigail Favale’s Genesis of Gender at Current March 29, 2023

The Genesis of Gender by Abigail Favale articulates a version of sexual difference egalitarianism. This is a project I deeply believe in. It’s also one of the most controversial books I’ve read lately. So when Current asked me to review it, I was in. Here is a taste:

More authors should emulate Abigail Favale’s approach to writing philosophy. The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory is a philosophy of sex, and sex is always interesting. But a certain type of philosophizing about it can do its darnedest to challenge that truism. Another type of philosophizing about it can just make us cringe. Favale avoids the latter pitfall by treating the topics of sexuality, the body, and gender identity with the exact level of specificity needed for her argument and no more. Her ability to avoid the former pitfall is why this book really shines: Favale takes the reader alongside as she narrates her journey of philosophical discovery in a way that reads like a story. She holds a PhD in literature, so she knows how to write. The book is compelling from the start.

Favale’s approach adds the human element that can too often go missing from theoretical expositions of sensitive topics. In conversation with both contemporary gender theorists and Catholic theologians, she seeks to articulate a meaning for our sexed human existence. Sex and gender are central to many people’s sense of personhood, but landmines abound. Favale models how to cross this field with as much care as possible while still actually getting somewhere: She clearly states her views and how she came to them, while also acknowledging where she has felt tension along the way.

Crucially, Favale narrates conversations she has had with people who disagree with her. She lets them tell their stories and make their case. She notes where she can’t entirely answer them. By listening in on these conversations, readers grasp the real-world implications of debates over the meaning of sex and gender identity, regardless of where we land. As she tells her story, Favale does not allow us to forget that the conclusions we reach affect real people—and that the ways we talk about people affect them.

Read the rest of the review.

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