Sex Eliminativism

Dr. Marina DiMarco

Joint work with Aja Watkins (


The concept of biological sex guides research, clinical practice, science funding policy, and contemporary political discourse. In many such contexts, this concept is understood to mean that sex categories such as “male” and “female” crosscut other forms of biological categorization, such as species. We argue that there is no coherent definition of biological sex that applies to all sexually reproducing organisms in a consistent or useful way, and that there are shortcomings or gaps in existing pluralist accounts of sex. Furthermore, there are serious social and epistemic costs to using “biological sex” in place of more specific alternatives. Because of this, biologists and philosophers of science should consider eliminativism about the concept of biological sex. That is, we should consider eliminating the concept of biological sex from large swaths of biological practice and philosophical theorizing.


Sex eliminativism is worth taking seriously, and it can play important roles in philosophical debate and biological practice, even for those who remain skeptical. The methodological consequences of sex eliminativism are compatible with best practices for inquiry in the biological and biomedical sciences, with inclusive approaches to the study of sex and gender, and with feminist philosophical and methodological recommendations. Taking eliminativism seriously reveals important disagreement about the work that a concept of biological sex should do, and imposes a contrastive burden on would-be rivals.