The Women & Equalities Select Committee has published their report “Changing the perfect picture: an inquiry into body image”. The report quotes evidence I gave to the Committee on behalf of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and adopts a number of the Council’s recommendations. You can read the report here, and the Nuffield Council’s statement here.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is launching a new project that will explore the ethical, social, and legal issues associated with the care and treatment of children and adolescents in relation to their gender identity.
Increasing numbers of young people and their families in the UK have been seeking advice and support in relation to gender identity issues in recent years. In autumn 2019, we spoke to a wide range of individuals about the challenges involved in providing care and treatment for young people in relation to their gender identity. From those meetings, it is clear that there are many areas of consensus, but there are also a number of unresolved ethical questions that deserve further consideration.
This project will look in more detail at some of those issues, including the nature of gender dysphoria, the balance of benefit and harm in treatment and non-treatment, and the ability of young people to consent to medical interventions.
Our aim is to contribute information and insight on these issues to inform and support practitioners and policy-makers, to contribute to the broader public debate, and, ultimately, to improve the well-being of gender diverse and gender incongruent children and adolescents by helping ensure they receive ethical, appropriate, and high-quality care.
During this project, we want to listen to a wide range of views – including those of young people themselves. If you are interested in being involved or would like to find out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be launching a call for evidence in the coming weeks. For more information on the project, please visit the project page
On 24 November 2020 I gave evidence to the UK Parliament All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics, and Well-Being. The APPG are running an important inquiry into non-surgical invasive cosmetic procedures, and I spoke in their session on Ethics and Mental Health.
You can read more about the Inquiry here.
On 23rd September 2020 I gave evidence to the Women & Equalities Select Committee Inquiry “Changing the Perfect Picture: an Inquiry into Body Image” on behalf of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. You can view a recording of the evidence session here, and read a transcript here.
Clare Chambers, “Sex, Money, and Luck in Sport” published in Journal of Medical Ethics Vol. 46 No. 9 (2020). You can read the paper here.
My essay Rethinking The Body was featured on BBC Radio 5 Live on the Stephen Nolan show with Rick Edwards on Saturday 27th June 2020 at 9pm. After the essay was broadcast the first hour of the show discussed body image in the context of the pandemic with me and several other guests.
You can listen to the programme here.
My essay on Rethinking The Body featured as a discussion article based on the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour discussion. You can read the article here.
My radio essay “Rethinking The Body” was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on Wednesday 24th June.
From the Woman’s Hour website:
Rethink is a series of essays and discussions across BBC Radio 4, 5 Live and the World Service that looks at how the world might change after the coronavirus pandemic. Today’s essay features the political philosopher Clare Chambers who considers how our relationship with our bodies, and our appearance has been affected by the lockdown. To discuss Jenni is joined by Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism project, Kate Lister, Lecturer in the School of Arts and Communication at Leeds Trinity University, and Shahidha Bari, Professor of Fashion Cultures and Histories at the London College of Fashion.
You can listen to the essay and discussion here.
I have recorded an essay on how we think about our bodies for Rethink – a BBC radio series that considers how the world should change after the coronavirus pandemic. You can listen to the programme and see the others in the series here.
I am honoured to be appointed as a Council Member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, an independent body that examines and advises on ethical issues that arise from developments in biomedical science and healthcare. I have previously worked with the Council as a member of the Working Party that produced the report on Cosmetic Procedures. I’m extremely pleased to be able to join the Council and play a part in shaping the overall work of the organisation. You can find a full list of Council members here.
In American Journal of Bioethics Vol. 19 (2019).
Keeping our focus exclusively on a Western context for the purposes of this article, we argue as follows: Under most conditions, cutting any person’s genitals without their informed consent is a serious violation of their right to bodily integrity. As such, it is morally impermissible unless the person is nonautonomous (incapable of consent) and the cutting is medically necessary.
This paper is authored by the Brussels Collaboration on Bodily Integrity (2019).
This work grew out of informal discussions among participants in the G3 International Experts Meeting on FGM/C in Brussels, Belgium, May 20-22, 2019, along with other scholarly collaborators. We are physicians, ethicists, nurse-midwives, public health professionals, legal scholars, political scientists, anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and feminists from Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas with interdisciplinary expertise in child genital cutting practices across a wide range of cultural contexts.
You can read the paper here.
Corresponding author: Brian D. Earp, Associate Director, Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics and Health Policy, Yale University and The Hastings Center, 2 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, CT, 06511, USA. E-mail: email@example.com
“My thought is this: a significant aspect of beauty practices is comfort and visibility. Comfort relates to discipline: discipline makes some actions and inactions seem comfortable and others effortful. Visibility relates to surveillance: some beauty practices make us seem visible or hyper-visible, others make us feel invisible. Sometimes beauty practices aim at making the practitioner visible: she wants her appearance to be noticeable. But beauty practices can also aim at invisibility: at making a person blend in rather than stand out. Both make up and its absence can have this effect, depending on the person and context involved.”
This short piece is published on the Beauty Demands blog. You can read it here.
One year since the publication of “Cosmetic Procedures: Ethical Issues” the Nuffield Council of Bioethics has published a report on the impact that publication has had so far. You can read that report here.
I was a member of the Working Party on Cosmetic Procedures who produced the original report.
You can read the paper here.
Abstract: This paper starts by investigating the idea of reasonable disagreement. It then considers Matthew Kramer’s argument that there is no neutral solution available to the disagreement over abortion. The paper argues that Kramer’s account has wider application, and identifies a neutralist dilemma. The neutralist dilemma applies when, of two policy options available to the state, one is unreasonable. It follows that the state should enact only the reasonable policy. However, in a neutralist dilemma the fact of reasonable disagreement due to the burdens of judgment means that it is not possible for the state to act at all, whether legislating or not, without deviating from neutrality. The paper develops the concept of the neutralist dilemma and then applies it to another case discussed by Kramer: infant circumcision. The paper argues that the debate over infant circumcision can be framed as a neutralist dilemma, but that the most plausible resolution of the dilemma results in an argument in favor of the legal prohibition of the practice. This is a surprising result, since most liberal states do not restrict circumcision and since prohibition of circumcision might initially appear to be non-neutral or even illiberal; however it is consistent with the tenets of neutralist liberalism.
I presented my paper “Reasonable disagreement and the neutralist dilemma: Abortion and circumcision in Matthew Kramer’s Liberalism with Excellence” at the University of Edinburgh in March 2018. You can read their account of the session on the Just World Institute blog here.
The University of Edinburgh Just World Institute blogged about my paper “Reasonable disagreement and the neutralist dilemma: Abortion and circumcision in Matthew Kramer’s Liberalism with Excellence”. You can read the blog here.
This report was written by the Working Party on Cosmetic Procedures, of which I am a member.
There has been increasing demand for invasive cosmetic procedures in the UK, prompting questions about potential risks to users and the lack of regulation and professional standards in this area. This report explores ethical issues in cosmetic procedures with a particular focus on the role and responsibilities of health and scientific professionals and others in responding to demand for invasive non-reconstructive procedures that aim to enhance or normalise appearance. It engages in detailed ethical analysis and makes recommendations affecting all parts of the sector.
You can read the report here.
I am currently writing a book titled Intact: The Unmodified Body, to be published by Allen Lane.
Intact will investigate the philosophical and political significance of leaving the body unmodified, in the context of ever-increasing practices of modification. Philosophically, it will investigate concepts such as the natural body, wholeness and purity, bodily integrity, and the body as canvas. Politically, it will engage with the political significance of modification and its refusal or prohibition, including whether there are grounds for proscribing or regulating some forms of modification in the name of protecting the unmodified body.
Intact will show that leaving one’s body unmodified is a politically significant act. The pressures to modify are so intense that having a completely unmodified body is virtually impossible. We face overwhelming pressure to change our bodies: to conceal the realities of ageing, to disguise the distinctive features of disability and disfigurement, to perfect our complexion or our waistline or our muscle tone. In this context, refusing even some practices of modification can be an act of rebellion.
At the same time, the concept of the unmodified body is extremely hard to grasp: so hard, in fact, that we might conclude that the unmodified body is a fiction. Does a defence of the unmodified body idealise the impossible? An attempt to give substance to the idea of the unmodified body produces a number of imperfect proxies. Intact discusses three such proxies: the natural body, the normal body, and the sexed body. Intact aims to find a way to defend the unmodified body without fetishizing it. Along the way, I investigate practices as diverse as reconstructive surgery, anti-ageing treatments, and bodybuilding.
I spoke on “The ethics of cosmetic surgery” at the Royal Society of Medicine event “Changing the image of cosmetic surgery: patients before profit” in October 2017. Find details here.
In this chapter I challenge the idea that an appeal to choice exonerates Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery (FGCS). My argument proceeds in five stages. First, I consider the normative role that choice plays in liberal society and philosophy. Second, I note that UK law does not treat choice as adequate for accessing FGCS. Third, I consider the relationship between choice and the concept of normality. Fourth, I consider choice in the context of cosmetic surgery generally, and analyse the distinctive features of FGCS. Fifth, I consider the policy implications of my analysis.
You can find the book here.
Feminist Political Quarterly (Vol. 3 No. 2, 2017).
The title of this paper is “Judging Women”, a phrase that can be understood in three senses. First, when is it acceptable or necessary to make judgements about what women do? Feminists may be wary of subjecting women’s choices and actions to criticism, but the paper argues that such criticism is implied by a feminist perspective on patriarchy, a perspective which is necessarily critical. Second, when can women engage in the act of judging? The paper argues that being judgmental is popularly considered a vice, but only when done by women. Feminism should insist on women’s right to judge. Third, how are we to judge who counts as a woman? The paper investigates the commonalities and contrasts between feminism and trans issues, and discusses the concepts of essentialism and transphobia. The focus throughout is on MacKinnon’s work, which offers profound, sustained, rich analysis of these questions but does not fully resolve them.
You can read the paper here.
I had a profoundly moving and informative time listening and speaking at the Genital Autonomy 14th Annual Symposium on Changing Global Perceptions: Child Protection & Bodily Autonomy. The Symposium was at Keele University on 14-16 September 2016. You can find details of the Symposium here. My talk was titled “Cultural v. Cosmetic v. Clinical Surgery: Challenging the Distinction.”
There is a general consensus in liberal theory, practice, and law that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a violation of rights and justice that should be banned. However, there is no such consensus about male circumcision or cosmetic surgery, including labiaplasty. These practices are legal in most liberal states and there is no general critique of them in mainstream liberal theory. This talk will consider the philosophical reasons in favour of distinguishing FGM from male circumcision and labiaplasty, and find them wanting. Both cosmetic and clinical surgeries are fundamentally cultural. I argue that male circumcision and cosmetic surgery should be regulated in the same way as FGM – which means, among other things, much stricter regulations on when such surgeries can be performed on children.
I am a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Cosmetic Procedures. You can find more about the project, including the other members, here.
Invasive cosmetic procedures are becoming increasingly popular and accessible in the UK, prompting questions about potential risks to users and the lack of regulation and professional standards in this area.
This project will explore ethical issues in cosmetic procedures with a particular focus on the role and responsibilities of health and scientific professionals and others in responding to demand for invasive non-reconstructive procedures that aim to enhance or normalise appearance.
In The Oxford Handbook of Classics in Contemporary Political Theory, edited by Jacob T. Levy (OUP, forthcoming).
This chapter provides a critical introduction to Judith Butler’s classic work Gender Trouble, including an analysis of the impact it has made on political theory.
The chapter is online first and you can read it here.
I’m speaking at the first of four workshops on Beauty Demands in Warwick this March. Find details of the workshop here.
I made a live appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, discussing ideas from Sex, Culture, and Justice in the context of a debate on cosmetic surgery and the concept of ‘normal’, on 31st July 2012. You can listen to the debate right here via the sound file below. The segment begins at 33m, I am on at 37m.
Edited excerpt from Sex, Culture, and Justice published by UK Feminista as their first Thinkpiece on “Cosmetic Surgery, Culture, and Choice”. Find it here.
(Penn State University Press, 2008)
Autonomy is fundamental to liberalism. But autonomous individuals often choose to do things that harm themselves or undermine their equality. In particular, women often choose to participate in practices of sexual inequality-cosmetic surgery, gendered patterns of work and childcare, makeup, restrictive clothing, or the sexual subordination required by membership in certain religious groups. In this book, Clare Chambers argues that this predicament poses a fundamental challenge to many existing liberal and multicultural theories that dominate contemporary political philosophy. Chambers argues that a theory of justice cannot ignore the influence of culture and the role it plays in shaping choices. If cultures shape choices, it is problematic to use those choices as the measure of the justice of the culture. Drawing upon feminist critiques of gender inequality and poststructuralist theories of social construction, she argues that we should accept some of the multicultural claims about the importance of culture in shaping our actions and identities, but that we should reach the opposite normative conclusion to that of multiculturalists and many liberals. Rather than using the idea of social construction to justify cultural respect or protection, we should use it to ground a critical stance toward cultural norms. The book presents radical proposals for state action to promote sexual and cultural justice.
“[A]n interesting, important, wide-ranging and well-argued book that contains a controversial proposal that will, no doubt, be widely debated.”
—Times Higher Education
“[A]n important book. … Very few first-rate analytical thinkers … engage with social theorists: Chambers is a notable exception, and if only for that reason, her contribution should serve as a model for any endeavour of this kind. … Moreover, its strength lies not merely in the author’s mastery of two disparate intellectual traditions, but also in its cogent and provocative defence of a number of proposals.“
“[E]xtremely successful. … Testament to her scholarly rigour, Chambers skilfully avoids alienating either side of the academic divide [between analytical and continental philosophy]; achieving her stated aim, she undermines the foundations upon which such divides are rooted. … This opportune and tightly argued work reveals the extent to which equality and justice cannot be guaranteed by a political liberalism which venerates autonomy to the exclusion of other important values. Setting itself apart from other work in its field, this book forms, albeit on its own terms, part of the solution.”
“Chambers’ work makes a highly valuable contribution to contemporary philosophical debates. … Chambers’ work represents a great advance in attempting to forge a path between two positions which are so often considered to be diametrically opposed. The project … is a vital one. … [T]he value of the theoretical contribution, both to liberal and feminist philosophy, is indisputable.”
“Her interwoven arguments … are complex, meticulous and inventive. … [T]here is real potential here for this book to alter mainstream liberal thinking.”
“An incisive, well-written book with a sustained, original argument.”
—Ruth Abbey, University of Notre Dame
“The book contributes significantly to the literature of liberalism, autonomy, and feminism.”
—Ann Cudd, University of Kansas
“Chambers’ refreshing approach has the potential to expand the scope of conventional liberal theory by showing how liberals can (and should) directly meet the challenge of postmodern approaches and by demonstrating that feminist contributions are the well from which most innovations in liberalism are drawn.”
—Avigail Eisenberg, University of Victoria