What is a woman?


A woman demonstrates in Asunción, Paraguay, in a feminist march on the last International Women’s Day. | Photo: EFE/Nathalia Aguilar

According to the website, International Women’s Day, celebrated last Tuesday (8), celebrates “social achievements, economic, cultural and political rights of women” around the world. With the theme of this year’s predictable reflections – #BreaktheBias (“break with prejudice”, in free translation) –, it was proposed to imagine a “diverse, equitable and inclusive” world free from “prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination”. I have a suggestion for next year’s theme: #WhatÉUmaMulher?.

“What is a woman?” is the question Anneliese Dodds, the UK Minister for Women and Equality, failed to answer on the BBC“Woman’s Hour” on International Women’s Day. Presenter Emma Barnett gave Dodds several chances to do this as a representative of the Labor Party. But after rambling on about people who have transitioned gender and “want to be defined as women,” the best Dodds could manage was to say, “It depends on the context, for sure.”

Dodds’ confusion didn’t stop her from writing on Twitter that “The Labor Party wants to uplift women, not limit them.” them”. In response, the author of Harry Potter

, JK Rowling, wrote: “This morning you told the British public, literally, that you cannot define what a woman is. What’s the plan, elevating random things until you find one that makes noise?”.

Dodds is not the only progressive who struggles to answer the question “What is a woman?”. Earlier this year, for example, Matt Walsh of Daily Wire, appeared in an episode of “Dr. Phil” alongside two transgender activists. “Can you tell me what a woman is?” Walsh asked Ethan, who identified as a non-binary transmale (although she appeared to be a hormonally masculinized woman). “No, I can’t,” replied Ethan, “because I’m not the one who has to define it. Femininity is different for everyone.” Another activist, Addison, who identified as a non-binary (although he appeared to be a cosmetically feminized male) ), ventured: “Woman is something that is an umbrella term…” At this point, Walsh intervened: “Which describes what?” “People who identify as a woman,” said Addison. “Who identify as the what?” asked Walsh. “Like a woman,” said Addison. “What’s that?” Walsh countered. And so they went, going round and round.

Contrary to what they suggest activists, the definition of woman does not depend on a subjective sense of identity. A woman is, quite simply, an adult human female. A woman belongs to the female sex, which means she has female chromosomes, reproductive organs and gametes. Sex is observable at birth (and even earlier with ultrasound technology) and detectable long after death by DNA testing. A man can identify as a woman, put on a dress, give himself a feminine name and pronouns, take estrogen or even have his penis removed and a pseudovagina implanted – but his sex remains unchanged.

The socialization of the sexes is something different, of course. There have always been feminine men and masculine women – people who don’t quite fit into traditional sex roles. But a feminine man is no less a man than a masculine man. And a masculine woman is no less a woman than a feminine woman. Suggestions against this reinforce the same gender stereotypes that the International Women’s Day website claims to combat.

Unfortunately, this inconsistency has consequences in real life. In legislation, public policy and manuals of conduct throughout the Western world, the objective definition of sex is being replaced by the confusing fiction of gender identity. In the UK, JK Rowling was one of the few public figures to openly criticize the Scottish parliament for introducing a bill that would allow any man who claims to be a woman to have access to women-only spaces and services. (I tried to ask the Prime Minister of Scotland what a woman is in 2019 but she wouldn’t – or could not – answer.) The justification? “Trans women are women.”

Not only safety but also justice, are at stake. In sports, women and girls are being replaced by male athletes, whose gender-based advantages don’t magically disappear the moment they announce their new gender identity. Lia (formerly Will) Thomas, the UPenn men’s swimmer who is being allowed to reign supreme in the women’s competition, told Sports Illustrated: “I’m a woman, so I belong to the women’s team.” A less credulous reporter could have responded with the obvious question: “And what is a woman?”.

Those genuinely interested in celebrating women’s achievements should be able to define, at the very least, the group they are celebrating. Anyone who cannot give a direct answer to the question “What is a woman?” is more than useless for the cause of women’s rights.

Madeleine Kearns is a writer at the National Review and a visiting scholar at the Independent Women’s Forum.

© 2022 National Review. Published with permission. Original in English

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