Friday, January 21, 2022

Can modern society define what a woman is?

Last year I had a debate with someone who insisted that the term "woman" could refer to anything that a person identifying as such wanted it to mean. My objection that if the term could mean anything at all that it became meaningless fell on deaf ears. 

This debate has now gone mainstream. Matt Walsh was invited onto the Dr Phil show and he had this argument with a trans activist (starting from about 7:20):


The discussion kicked off when Matt Walsh asked the trans activist (Addison) to define the term "woman". Addison replied: "Womanhood is something that I cannot define because I myself am not [a woman]. Matt Walsh interjected: "But you used the word, so what did you mean when you said transwomen are women if you don't know what it means?" Addison: "So here's the thing, so I do not define what a woman is because I do not identify as a woman. Womanhood is an umbrella term, it includes people who...." Matt Walsh interjecting: "That describes what?" Addison: "People who identify as a woman." Matt Walsh: "Identify as what?" Addison: "As a woman." Matt Walsh: "What is that?" Addison: "To each their own. Each woman, each man, each person is going to have a different relation with their own gender identity and define it differently." Matt Walsh: "You won't even tell me what the word means though".

In my post I suggested that this inability to define a term like "womanhood" could be traced back to the metaphysics of philosophers like Thomas Hobbes who rejected realism in favour of nominalism:
You can see here the logic of nominalism (that there are only individual instances of things) and a certain type of materialism (that we are just matter in motion) in undermining a "teleology" - a view that there are proper ends to human life that are discernible through reason.
  Sohrab Ahmari had a similar take on the Matt Walsh discussion:

And what of the feminists? One made this comment:

This doesn't really help much. Yes, it defines the term "woman" with clarity as "a person with a female body". But it deliberately stops there and refuses to give any meaning to the term "womanhood". Our terf feminist wants "womanhood" to be self-defined in a similar way that the trans activists want "woman" to be self-defined.

Terfs and trans are both running with the same principle, of claiming that our sex has no real content that might influence who we are or what we do. For that reason, championing the terf position prepares the ground for adopting the trans one - it becomes very difficult to hold the line once the general principle is accepted.

Nor is the terf position persuasive even in terms of biology. If it is clear that we are biologically distinct sexes, then it is unreasonable to suggest that these biological distinctions would have no effect on personality. If men evolved more muscular bodies fit for the purposes of hunting large game and for defending the tribe in warfare, and if women's bodies are designed for the bearing and nurture of infants, then how could you possibly claim that this would have no effect at all on who we are in our personhood? 

And why should people even care about manhood and womanhood under the terms suggested by terf feminism? If it is just a matter of different bodies, with no ramifications for the human person, then who would care if they were erased as coherent categories? The categories would be merely accidental to life if what the terfs say is true.

Nor are terf feminists consistent in severing sex and personality. They are not as laid back in claiming that each man can have any kind of personality. Instead, there is a categorising of some kinds of masculine personality as "toxic" and attempts to educate men into adopting more emotional expressions of personality. In other words, there are value judgements when it comes to expressions of manhood, rather than "each man can equally define for himself in any direction he chooses". 

It is better to acknowledge some positive content to manhood and womanhood, rather than making these terms wholly based on subjective, individual preference or practice. This does not have to be overdone, to the point that they are felt to be unnecessarily restrictive or limiting. But look at what happens when a society refuses to define at all and denies any objective meaning to terms like woman or womanhood. The categories are then effectively erased and become meaningless except, as Matt Walsh aptly put it in the video, as "costumes that can be worn".


  1. I'm amazed that Matt Walsh still has a job at Daily Wire. Surely only a matter of time before Shapiro fires him.

  2. Interesting article. I happened to be reading this comment just today on reddit by a mother who notices that women are being erased by this ideology:

    Women are starting to realize that they are being cancelled.

    'I am tired of being reduced to a "person" and not a woman

    I am a liberal biological woman. I grew up a little bit of a tomboy (is that even ok to use anymore?) I practice yoga regularly. I went to college at a liberal arts school. It took time, but I now wholeheartedly embrace and celebrate being female. I like to think I'm open minded and take others feelings into account. But I am starting to feel like by taking other communities feelings into account, I am sacrificing my own.

    I recently gave birth and am part of a postpartum group ran through my yoga studio. It is a group of 6-10 mothers, all biological women, and it is centered around sharing the struggles women go through as new moms. So why are we being described as "birthing people" in these liberal/feminist leaning communities. Why on the Mommit subreddit are we "people" mucking through parenting. But on the Daddit subredding, they're Dads. The men aren't being called "sperm contributing people" so why are we ok with being called "birthing people." How many birthing people in the US aren't women? I would really like to know that number.

    Why aren't more women upset by this? Maybe for my own, I just go along with it, I don't want to ruffle any feathers... I want to still be included and thoughtful in my liberal communities. But I'm starting to feel very uncomfortable by the language and it might be the last straw for me. I love being a mom, I love that by being a woman my biological body was able to give birth and life to my son, I don't understand why I would want to use the flat, colorless language describing myself as just a birthing person.'

    1. Interesting reddit post, thank you. I have wondered what women themselves think when they are confronted with this failure to define womanhood with any meaning. For this women it is the change from "mother" to "birthing person" which is the last straw - obviously she still associates the term mother positively with her own sex and doesn't like it being flattened to the de-sexed term "birthing person".

  3. 8:08

    I would have posed the question differently. I would have asked Walsh what "trans" women are doing differently than biological women. To put it crudely, they're just pissing out of different holes.

    The problem with Walsh's argument is that it doesn't bridge the distinction that Dr Phil's guests make. Conservatives like Walsh don't believe in gender roles for women, only for men, and they can't even explain why those exist.

    If Walsh had argued that masculinity and femininity ("gender") are bound up with the biological identity of men and women, he would have helped his readers understand how and why transgenderism is being mainstreamed. For instance, if either of Dr Phil's transgender guests ever scream for help (a feminine behavior, arising from an instinct to protect offspring), it won't trigger the protective (masculine, risk-taking) instincts of men. Feminists act like these "gender roles" are something arbitrary, imposed on men and women by social convention, like society deciding on these roles by flipping a coin.

    Transgenderism isn't being mainstreamed because people don't know something. It's not gaining currency because people don't know what a "woman" is, or basic human anatomy. It has nothing to do with nominalism. These are smokescreens. It's becoming mainstream because there are no gender roles for women to follow.

    A man in an Amish community who wished to become a woman, got SRS, and returned would quickly be greeting by fellow Amish folk asking him why he wasn't married with children. Amish women don't just dress like women, they serve their biological role. Anywhere that role is honored, it acts as a barrier to men who wish to impersonate women.

    This anti-tranny stuff is a strategy to get white women to vote GOP. Walsh's concern is that transgenderism "appropriates" womanhood, but what are they appropriating? Women's sports? Changing rooms?

    Who cares?

  4. Dr. Phil: "It seems like we should keep the dialogue going and find some middle ground."
    At the end of the Dr. Phil video, the distressed father says "this is a war on gender".
    Does he mean that he is at war with the use of the term "gender", at war with the insane concept of a human "gender", or at war with the reality of it, or with it being introduced to his children in school, or does he mean that the mentally disordered couple sitting across from him are in a war on gender?
    That pretty much sums up my sense of OZ Conservative's view; a very ambiguous middle ground.
    "Gender" means "whatever anyone wants it to mean then it has no meaning."
    Liberals and conservatives talk as if humans, rather than just words, have "gender" and as if "human gender" is subjective, and as if "sex" is subjective. We keep using the term "gender" when discussing humans and we routinely qualify sex a "biological" because otherwise, (and still) they increasingly seem to "mean whatever anyone wants" them to mean.
    Scott C. refers to a person's "gender" and to a person's "biological sex" in the same way as that odd couple does. Yet, I assume that Scott C. disagrees with them. It remains an open question when they speak the same language.
    If human "gender" doesn't exist, why continue to discuss it as if it does? Unicorns can be said to exist since we can conceive of them, we have images, stuffed animals, children's books, etc. But are they real?
    Is this blog keeping the dialogue going simply to find that vague middle ground?
    If there is only male and female, why continuously qualify "sex" as "biological sex", or "anatomical sex"? That makes no sense. Sex is sex.
    Dr. Phil asks "someone feeling in a mental or emotional way that they don't identify with the sex that have been biologically created as and assigned at birth based on their genitalia, if they don't feel that way, that there's no construct that describes that, experiences that?
    Of course there is. Is has historically been deemed a mental disorder.
    The whole world seems perfectly willing to humor them. Show compassion and do what is right. Help them.
    If a man demanded that his healthy legs be amputated because they are attached to the "wrong body", do we consider his mental state a disorder or do we encourage and begin his "transition" to legless therapies?
    For all but the last few years of human history - marked pointedly in 2013 by the 5th version of the DSM (the leading professional manual of disorders), the APA's head shrinks eliminated all sexual disorders with strokes on a keyboard. They're all gone.
    The way the terms are used here, as if OZ is where the wranglers meet to discuss the unicorn roundup, is, I guess, that middle ground that Dr. Phil thinks appropriate.
    Either there are other categories of sex, "mental sex" or "emotional sex" or "psychological sex" or "spiritual sex", or there is just sex; human/animal sex. It's not "biological sex", it is just sex. Unless of course, you agree with them.
    Why set aside so much green pasture for the unicorns to graze in, unless you actually believe that they really exist? There are stallions, mares and geldings. That's it.
    Your language announces and admits one view as you increasingly provide them more space, then you dryly argue that they are unconvincing.
    You nod your head "no", while you continue to say "maybe".
    Scott C.'s fluent use of their language and terms demonstrates the cognitive dissonance seen everywhere in "conservative" spaces.
    John McWhorter is currently associate professor of linguistics at Columbia University. Just yesterday I heard him say "as a linguist, what you try to do is say exactly what you mean".
    Words have meanings.

  5. This site is one of the most eye opening insights into what is shaping the west.
    Good job.
    I would like to point out the source of liberalism is an idea there is external authority other than the self to define reality.
    This is why liberal Christians will pit their feelings against God if the two conflict.
    Liberalism and atheism are sulfates.