1. The [‘cognitivist’] line of argument sees biological sex as a physical trait which is not only suitable, but destined by its intrinsic ‘salience’ (in psycho-cognitive terms) to be a receptacle for classifications. Here it is postulated that human beings have a universal need to establish classifications independently of, and prior to, any social practice [footnote: see, for example, Archer and Lloyd (1985), who say gender will continue because it is a ‘practical way of classifying people’]. But these two human needs are neither justified nor proven. They are simply asserted. We are not shown why sex is more prominent than other physical traits that are equally distinguishable, but which do not give birth to classifications that are (1) dichotomous and (2) imply social roles which are not just distinct but hierarchical.

    Christine Delphy, Rethinking Sex and Gender (1993)

    Of course other distinguishable traits (for example racial traits) are used to make classifications (although often not dichotomous - twofold - ones) which imply hierarchical social roles. I can’t justify their omission here. But there’s still a point, which is that there are many distinguishable traits which aren’t used in that way, challenging what Delphy terms the ‘cognitivist’ argument.

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