Webinar series

A series featuring academics presenting their work on sex and gender and providing a forum for robust and respectful discussion and debate. All are online, open to all and recorded.

Register via Eventbrite

Watch earlier webinars online here and here.

Our webinar series will resume in the academic year 2023/24


Past webinars

Psychology and the origins of gender identity
Dr Laura McGrath
13th June 2023

Watch the webinar here

Gender has become a highly contested and deeply politicised concept, used widely in law, policy and everyday life. So ubiquitous today, gender as a separate term from ‘sex’ is a relatively recent formulation, which has its origins in US psychology in the mid twentieth century. Pivotal in the wider adoption of gender as a distinct term was John Money’s concept of ‘gender role’, developed in the 1950s as a clinical tool for working with patients diagnosed with differences of sex development (DSD). In this talk I look back at Money’s concept of ‘gender role’, examining its original function in this clinical context. I analyse the relationship between ‘gender role’ and patriarchal ideas about sex, arguing that ultimately ‘gender role’ acted to bolster patriarchal sex categories. Later uses of the term ‘gender’ are also analysed, in terms of how successfully gender has been transformed beyond this conservative function.


Hitching gender identity wagons to sexual orientation stars
Professor Holly Lawford-Smith
16th May 2023

Watch the webinar here

In the last few years, many countries have introduced (or are proposing to introduce) legislation on ‘conversion therapy’, prohibiting attempts to change or suppress sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This legislation covers ‘aversion therapy’, a form of torture that has already been criminalized in most progressive countries, and ‘talk therapy’, involving things like counselling, psychoanalysis, and prayer. Puzzlingly, when an evidence base is pointed at to justify claims that such attempts are ineffective and harmful, the evidence is almost exclusively about sexual orientation, and not gender identity. So why have the two been paired in conversion therapy legislation?

I consider the scientific basis for the claim that gender identity is innate in the same way that (it is believed that) sexual orientation is, and, if there’s time, some philosophical and political arguments for the pairing. I argue that both the evidence base and the arguments are insufficient to justify the pairing. The implication is that conversion therapy legislation should be about sexual orientation alone, and activists for lesbian, gay and bisexual rights should be vigilant about academic and political work that simply rolls the two together.


Gender wars in academia
Dr. Laura Favaro
14th March 2023

Watch the webinar here

After a brief introduction to the overall research programme on the ‘gender wars’ in academia, drawing on the data a case will be made for the usefulness of the term ‘genderism’ to capture a particular orientation in the dispute, which currently dominates Gender Studies. The presentation will then turn to findings from 50 interviews conducted with academics, in particular pertaining to general patterns by participant theoretical-political perspective, namely genderist, feminist, as well as ‘middle’ positioned participants. Special attention will be paid to the ‘no debate’ tactic in genderism, which suffuses the whole research. Findings will be critically considered in relation to the ‘neoliberal university’, alongside broader contextual elements including social media cultures and a patriarchal backlash.


Who is a woman? Sex, gender and policy making. 
Professor Cordelia Fine and Professor Daphna Joel
Tuesday 7th February 2023

Heated debates are taking place over the question: Who is a woman? Many of these are over inclusion criteria for policies that seek to promote equality, safety and/or privacy for girls and women by excluding boys and men. Science cannot resolve these debates, but its concepts and data can offer useful insights and information for policy makers who have to make principled and workable policy decisions about inclusion criteria. To assist policy makers in this difficult task, we begin by reviewing three key concepts that are often misunderstood and conflated: sex, gender, and gender identity. We then review key issues that policy makers should consider: the purpose(s) of the specific policy and whether it relates to sex, gender, and/or gender identity, and the distributions of benefits and costs for all stakeholders. As these considerations sometimes point to a conflict of interests, we end with some suggestions for how such conflicts might be ameliorated. Although we do not offer solutions to these difficult policy decisions, we hope that this article will help reduce misunderstandings, and facilitate open discussion and good decision making in this contentious policy context.


Early career perspectives on sex, gender and feminism
Rose Rickford, Charlotte Edun & Amy Mowle

Watch the webinar here

Tuesday 7th June 2022

For our final seminar of this inaugural series, we are delighted to welcome three early career researchers to share their work.

Rose Rickford , PhD candidate at York University, UK: Social constructionism, ontology and sex-denial

  • Social constructionist epistemology, as presented in the highly cited work of Kenneth Gergen, assumes an arbitrary relationship between concepts and the material world. I argue that this influential methodological framework gives license to social scientists to make unsubstantiated truth claims and to divorce concepts (e.g. sex) from their referents. I use post-structuralist ontology to critique social constructionist epistemology, arguing that the latter relies on the same idea/matter dualism as the positivistic position it purports to remedy.

Charlotte Edun, MRes student at York University, UK: Framing the maternal body: Neo-liberalism, dualism and sexed difference

  • A consideration of the underlying factors that perpetuate the persistent tensions between the stated tenets of maternal choice and control and the uncertain role and value of the birth plan.

Amy Mowle, Research officer at Victoria University, Australia: The Limitations of Networked Feminism: A Critical Look at Reddit’s r/TwoXChromosomes

  • This presentation draws on recent doctoral research to argue that many of the ‘feminist’ perspectives that emerge from and/or are reproduced by online communities such as Reddit’s r/TwoXChromosomes are deeply entangled with elements of neoliberal rationality, including individualism, competition and consumerism. What results is the absolution of power structures that perpetuate the subordination of women, and the outright rejection of those feminists who dare to critique them.”


Professor Mary Leng

Watch the webinar here

Tuesday 24th May 2022

How could it be credible to claim that gender critical discourse is being silenced? After all, many of those who hold gender critical views, such as Suzanne Moore, J. K. Rowling, and Kathleen Stock, publicly continue to speak their mind, and the mainstream media, in at least some corners, provide ample platforms for them to do so. Of course, neither Moore, Rowling, or Stock have actually claimed to have been silenced: insofar as they have spoken of silencing it’s to state defiantly that they won’t be silenced, or to highlight the silencing of others, who have privately reached out thanking them for voicing concerns that they themselves feel unable, in the present climate, to express. Nevertheless, Professor Leng will argue that the application of the ideas of Rae Langton and Jennifer Hornsby concerning the nature of silencing can be used to argue that, despite their protestations to the contrary, there is an important sense in which the gender critical views of even those with large platforms are genuinely silenced by the persistent and vocal framing of their views as 'dogwhistles'.

Professor Leng has been at the Philosophy Department of the University of York since 2012 where she is Director of Research 

Detransition and gender medicine
Dr. Lisa Littman 

Watch the webinar here

Tuesday 17th May 2022

Dr Littman is a physician and researcher, and is currently the President of the Institute for Comprehensive Gender Dysphoria Research (ICGDR). She previously held academic positions at Brown University School of Public Health and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Her 2018 paper on 'rapid onset gender dysphoria' described the emergent phenomenon of teenagers identifying as transgender without childhood dysphoria.

The seminar will focus on her most recent paper, which is one of the first surveys completed with people who have detransitioned. 


Safe Spaces or psychological safety?
Simon Fanshawe OBE

Watch the webinar here

Tuesday 28th April 2022

Simon Fanshawe OBE is a diversity consultant, broadcaster and author. He is the co-founder of Diversity by Design which supports organisations to truly diversify their senior people. His latest book “The Power of Difference – where the complexities of diversity and inclusion meet practical solutions” was published in December 2021.

Diversity by Design is currently running a significant trial of Recruiting for Difference (RfD) – a process developed to design out the bias in hiring and promotion - with a significant number of corporate, public sector and HE clients.

Simon is currently on the Board of Powerful Women and is Chairman of Hexagon Housing Association. He was Chairman of Sussex University 2007-13, a non-exec director of Housing & Care 21, a Governor of the Museum of London and on the Board of Brighton Dome & Festival. He was a co-founder of Stonewall and of the Kaleidoscope Trust.

He was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to Higher Education and made an Honorary Doctor of the University of Sussex for services to diversity and human rights. 

Sex, gender identity and sport
Cathy Devine

Watch the webinar here

Tuesday 29th March 2022

Sex matters in sport because the human rights and inclusion of females in sport depend on fair eligibility criteria which acknowledge human sexual dimorphism.’

Cathy Devine is an Independent Researcher and former Senior Lecturer in Sport and Physical Activity at the University of Cumbria for 23 years. Her academic specialism is in sport policy and she is an erstwhile Secretary of the British Philosophy of Sport Association. She has previously worked for the UK’s National Coaching Foundation (now UK Coaching) for 5 years, with responsibility for developing women coaches; and the UK’s National Federation of Women’s Institutes as Head of Sport for 3 years. Cathy was a Member of the Organising Committee for the first International Women and Sport Conference in the UK in Brighton in 1994, organised by the British Sports Council and supported by the British Olympic Association and the International Olympic Committee.


Sex, Gender, and Sport after Tokyo 
Dr. Emma Hilton and Dr. Jon Pike

Watch the webinar here

Tuesday 12th October 2021

The Tokyo Olympics in July and August foregrounded issues of sex and gender Identity. Controversy over the inclusion of a trans woman, Laurel Hubbard, in the Women’s Super-Heavyweight division led to the announcement by the IOC that its own rules governing trans participation were ‘not fit for purpose’. At the same time, athletes with male DSDs, who were banned from the 400 – 1500 distances, competed with great success in the 200m. Whilst it is important to separate out questions of gender identity from questions of DSDs, both these events have led to some disarray in the field of sports regulation, and both sets of rules are likely to change.

What is going on? What ought the rules to look like? What are the prospects for fair competition in women’s sport?

  • Dr. Emma Hilton is in the Biology Department at the University of Manchester. She is co-author of the pathbreaking paper that led to a rethink on questions of transgender inclusion: Hilton, E. N. and Lundberg, T. R. (2021) 'Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage', Sports Med, 51(2), pp. 199-214.

  • Dr. Jon Pike is in the Philosophy Department at the Open University, and has acted as a consultant to WADA, the IOC and World Rugby: Pike, J. (2020) 'Safety, fairness, and inclusion: transgender athletes and the essence of Rugby', Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, pp. 1-14.