Are Cows Adult Bovine Females?

Justin E. H. Smith in his blog:

I read with some interest Alex Byrne’s recent paper, forthcoming in Philosophical Studies, “Are Women Adult Human Females?” Of particular note to me was his discussion of the semantics of gendered terms for non-human animal species.

“Someone who wants to deny AHF [i.e., the view that women are adult human females],” Byrne writes, “needs to explain why [the] pattern of gendered animal words leaves us out.” But whether defending or denying AHF, one would also do well to explain why this pattern of gendered animal words extends only as far as it does: to sows, does, hens, and so on, but not to adult female lizards, anglerfish, or cnidarians. There is no special word for the adult females of these biological kinds, and the obvious explanation of the difference is that pigs, deer, and chickens enter into human social life in a sufficiently salient way to warrant specialised terminology.

“Cow”, one might dare say, is political at least to the extent “woman” is: it designates a special category of being, with a role that is circumscribed and dirempted by political and economic forces from what would naturally be required for its thriving, within the broader zoopolis, to speak with Will Kymlicka and Sue Donaldson, that contains all of human political reality. But there are many, many biological kinds that are not included within this zoopolis, or at least only wander through it without being as it were censused or noted in its official registers.

More here.