In this paper, I engage with a recent contextualist account of gender terms (particularly, “woman”) proposed by Díaz-León, E. 2016. “Woman as a Politically Significant Term: A Solution to the Puzzle.” Hypatia 31 (2): 245–58. Díaz-León’s main aim is to improve both on previous contextualist and non-contextualist views and solve a certain puzzle for feminists. Central to this task is putting forward a view that allows trans women who did not undergo gender-affirming medical procedures to use the gender terms of their choice to self-identify. My goal is to investigate Díaz-León’s proposal, point out (what I take to be) several shortcomings of the view and discuss possible replies on her part.
In this paper, I offer a solution to the Capacity/Equality Puzzle. The puzzle holds that an account of the franchise may adequately capture at most two of the following: (1) a political equality-based account of the franchise, (2) a capacity-based account of disenfranchising children, and (3) universal adult enfranchisement. To resolve the puzzle, I provide a complex liberal egalitarian justification of a moral requirement to disenfranchise children. I show that disenfranchising children is permitted by both the proper political liberal and the proper political egalitarian understandings of the relationship between cognitive capacity and the franchise. Further, I argue, disenfranchising children is required by a minimalistic, procedural principle of collective competence in political decision-making. At the same time, I show that political equality requires the enfranchisement of all adults, regardless of cognitive capacities, and that the collective competence principle does not ground adult disenfranchisement. This justifies the progressive legal trend that holds the capacity-based disenfranchisement of adults to be incompatible with liberal democratic principles.