Answer: NOT an adult human female
The sculpture in the above image is located in Bolotnaya Square, Moscow (south of St Basils and looking out towards the British ambassador’s residence). Would 21st century London ever allow such a sculpture? Note amongst the sculptures of the 13 vices a depiction of pseudoscience, propaganda and indifference.
What is a Woman?
Spoiler alert. I have not seen Matt Walsh’s documentary “What is a Woman”. But I have seen select clips, along with the finale answer to the conundrum, an answer taken up by the conservative right the world over (and many on the sexually traditionalist left as well). The prevailing answer is “Adult Human Female”, this the title of another 2022 documentary. Unfortunately, while the powers that be were wrapping up the first successful experiment in hard power authoritarian technocracy (i.e. covid), both the right and left were distracted with gaze alternating between their genitalia and their own naval. They remain distracted and distracting us still by “woke”. Oh well. Priorities.
What amuses, or bemuses, is that this definition is taken to be adequate. It isn’t, or at least it isn’t to me. The great value of Walsh’s expose lay in just how conceptually barren the trans lobby is. Instead of considering the question and having an answer at the ready, pro trans activists are caught like a deer in the headlights, the difference being that deer are smarter than transactivist intellectuals. Usually, the answer is some fumbling at a biology that isn’t there, essentially bluffing when they say there is a boy’s brain trapped in a girl’s body. They are hoping that the listener will believe they know “the science”. Truth is there isn’t a pro trans science this side of the human mouse divide. Furthermore, the philosophy required to properly interpret “the science” as applied to identity is not so easily grasped.
More often the answer is a variant on “a woman is one who identifies as being a woman”. How can we dignify that with a response? I could identify with being a tortoise or a Swiss retiree. All the identification in the world won’t get me to my 200th birthday (like some tortoise), let alone to a Swiss passport and pension. I’m a middle-aged Australian male human. If there are any trans-liberationists in the Swiss embassy, I’m happy take a call.
Rather than place the blame for trans-hysteria at the feet of the “cultural Marxist” or “postmodern” boogyman of the neocon right, I place the blame for all this nonsense at consumerism, liberalism and home-grown self-psychology and American philosophical pragmatism.
Can I create myself and be the discover of my own creation? Can I become anything I want? Can I pick and mix identity like a consumer good, oblivious to the insight I am consuming and being consumed from items of language I did not place on the shelf? Is the truth whatever works? Works towards what? Towards political ends! Whose ends? And you cannot tell me anything I take to be true is untrue. My truth is my truth. Your truth is your truth. You go girl. Every American child can one day become president. Blah Blah Blah. The problem is reality gets in the way of a good “manifestation”.
Let’s parse out what I think is weak in the adult human female definition. For much more comprehensive management of the trans issue (focused on trans in vulnerable children) please see my 2019 article.
We can take a legalistic approach here and look to quasi arbitrary years since birth. But when we look at age, what we have in mind a coordinate in the now, what is the number of years I have, a number indicative of what?
We could conceptualize adulthood as synonymous with assumed maturity, this too the static measure of the now referring to a number as its proxy. Or perhaps we could look to performance on psychometric testing, comprehension, and situational judgment testing. The degree to which these maps onto the number of years a person has is statistical and heuristic. Some persons with the number 15 years on their ID are mature. More maturity is likely amongst those with a measure of 17yrs on their ID. And then once the measure 18 yrs is recorded, maturity is assumed. This is not in virtue of being mature, but in virtue of history and conventions long forgotten. What was adult in times long past is child now. Who knows about the future. What an adult is, is a philosophical and legal problem for sure. But for 99.9% of the world, it’s a number on an identification document. But still the philosophical problem lingers, rendering Walsh’s definition problematic. Apart from the question of mature 15-year-olds and immature 25 year olds, there’s more esoteric thought experiments still.
We can imagine a biological clone of a woman plopping out of a clone machine, much like the Blade Runner 2049. The creature “born” yesterday is cognitively an adult, able navigate the world and functionally perform as an adult, perhaps none the wiser as they are manufactured with manufactured (or stolen) memories.
This does not tell us if the object is human or woman. Even if we are to answer on one question, the answer to the other does not follow. Is she a one-day old woman? As a one day old, can she consent to sex or would it be statuary sexual abuse of an infant. Back in the real world of numbers on identification documents, we all think we know an adult when we see one. That’s not good enough to answer the gender question.
A woman is human and cannot be non-human (sow, cow, hen, vixen etc). This is irrelevant in answering the trans-gender question. The best we can say is the creature in front of me is homo sapiens sapiens. The human claiming to be trans cannot claim to be trans cat, dog etc. So what? Man today, woman tomorrow, both, neither, something else. Every one of the several dozen flags of the trans bunting are all human.
Here we arrive at the real bone of contention. What is it to be female so that womanhood is possible, and how can the descriptor female be meaningfully related to the being a woman?
Unfortunately, many on the trans critical socially conservative side of the argument have fallen for three traps.
The first trap is having taken on the language of their own enemy. As I explained in the longer 2019 article (link vide supra), gender always was traditionally the stuff of language studies, not philosophy of language or identity.
I wrote of gender as
something used in the world of language and linguistics and alien to human life. For example, in Spain and Italy one lives in a “casa” (female) and in Germany “Haus” (neutral). In France “la maison” is female. In Russian the “dom” (transliterated from the Cyrillic) is male. In English an inanimate object such as a house is almost always gender neutral, though it is common to think of particular objects or classes of animal in terms of gender. One may hear for example of a ship as “setting sail on her maiden voyage”. In Spanish a bridge “Puente” is male whilst a German bridge “brucke” is female. Though I heard once that German literature tends to quasi anthropomorphize and describe a bridge in female terms (e.g. as gracefully extended) and Spanish literature often describes a bridge in terms of masculine strength to carry, no one seriously considers either a bridge or a house as a sexual being.
Put another way, a woman is not female. A woman is a woman. A man is not male. A man is a man. Humans do not have gender. They have a sexual identity that is a given and described in much more austere language. The moment trans activists allowed for man and woman AND male and female, they set up a combinatorial range designed to split sexual identity from reality. They corrupted you into a language game.
The second trap into which trans critical conservatives fall is bending the knee to “the science”, as if to imply womanhood and manhood was a provisional hypothesis down through the millennia until circa 1905 when sex chromosomes were “discovered”. Ahh now we know we were on the right track they say, as man is an adult human with an XY complement and woman an adult human XX. Are these shallow wellsprings the deepest into which so called conservatives can tap?
Take the exceedingly rare case of complete androgen insensitivity. As I write in the 2019 article…
so called “male” hormones might be normally produced, yet receiving tissues are unable to recognize the lion’s share of them. These XY babies have normal external female genitalia, whilst lacking internal female anatomy such as the uterus, ovaries etc. This will remain unnoticed until years later when as females they are assessed for infertility and amenorrhea in adolescence or adulthood. Then the undescended testes will also be discovered on imaging and the discussion had if to remove them as they carry an increased risk of cancer. Often these women and all her loved ones will likely pass through all the formative years identifying as female and none the wiser of what sex chromosome complement, she carries. Does the existence of these women challenge the view that sex is binary? Not at all. This extreme represents no more than about a couple dozen adult females in a city with a population of a million persons. Many a paediatrician, endocrinologist or gynaecologist can go a whole career without encountering such a patient. These are women and for multiple reasons it is reasonable to consider them women. For starters it is a hypothesis of considerable strength that the brain was just as under-virilised as was the anlage to the genitalia. This is to be predicted with a very high level of inference based on the knowledge of the cellular biology involved. It does not depend on the identification of a sex determinative multicellular region of the brain. Then there is the fact that in the external female genitalia there is indeed an objective biological referent to the individual being female, a referent that was present at birth and which the community recognized as an objective marker of being female. This was not something “assigned” so much as simply observed ipso facto to be the case. All assumptions and practices within the life of the girl resolved around this fact from the day of her birth onwards. Further, there is the fact that when the diagnosis is made in the adult or late adolescent the past cannot be changed, and the past has fully determined the present without human ideological intervention. But the past was not socially engineered. Both nature and nurture worked as harmoniously as was possible together towards a common end. Now we have an adult identifying as female and who, if challenged, could mount a strong argument as to why this is the case and why the community ought to share in acknowledging her self-identification. And so these exceptionally rare cases do not challenge the binary view of sex. They are the extremely rare occasion when a woman can be XY…
Identity is informed by biology, without this being the be all and end all of the story.
The third trap is a post enlightenment one of thinking there is an argument to be had to arrive at truths, this at odds with the human longing to apprehend the givenness of the world. Walsh et al do not quite fall into this as its clear theirs is knowledge first looking for a definition second. The “adult human female” definition preachs top the converted and the language game Walsh already plays. The better defense of their definition of woman is to deny the need even to define her. If we must define…
So, what is a woman?
What the Walshian definition of a woman lacks – and certainly lacking in the trans-loon definition of a woman – is one simple yet crucial fact.
And that fact is – each and every woman – in order to be each or any woman – she needs to first have been a girl.
A woman is not a zoological concept. Nor is a woman always the carrier an XX chromosome set. Nor is a woman the output of a psychometric test. Nor is she a number on a time co-ordinate system with age itself the only referent. Nor is she a social construct or a product of warped self-psychology and the narcistic exceptionalism of the American consumer.
No. A woman is a place in a character arc. She is a point on a true story that can only be written and read a single way and whose plot is constrained from the first to be a character of a certain kind. Though she has individual character and personality, she is a subject and object of graduation from having passed through every one of several developmental stages of girlhood. And she is tied down or buoyed up by several ropes of being, just as is the case with man who was once a boy or the tree which was once a seed of a certain kind. There is the meeting of biology with social recognition by parents and the village. She is not “assigned” the status girl so much as declared to be as a function of reality. The sun has risen and so has she. Telos! Τέλος!
As I’ve argued before in my 2019 piece; can a notionally natal girl (i.e. biological girl) say she is a boy today, a girl the next and a boy the week after? No. Only the most fringe lunatic of the transactivist community suggest sexuality is so plastic. Even transactivists want to make something of a statement of what the child is and forever will be. Everyone’s soul longs for telos, this despite the rest of the world wanting to destroy it.
Girlhood and womanhood are bound up in a character arc that is, in a hypertime reference frame, already written and fated from the first. The girl who says she is a boy trapped in a girl’s body cannot know this warped identification is truth. To fully know this the “she who would be he” would need to know something of the manhood this XX child’s telos is allegedly directed towards. The child cannot know this. They cannot reach outside themselves into the beingness of adulthood of either sex, let alone step outside themselves into a knowledge of their future selves in general. They are, after all, children.
Such an argument cannot be turned on its head to argue that anti trans parents need also must suffer their cis gender children offer up an impossible proof. That is to say, we do not ask the girl who thinks she is a girl to know anything of the woman she shall become. She and her parents need not prove anything. Anti trans parents simply accept and assert the sheer weight of reality falling upon both child and parent alike. If a cruel fate does not pluck the life from her, she will be a woman. And that is that. The immutable truths are
- A girl is to become a woman who must have first been a girl. A woman is this story.
- A boy is to become a man who must have first been a boy. A man is this story.
This is one reason why the trans hysterics need to “go after the kids”. It is to cut the candle at the quick and obliterate identity as early as possible.
This is why progressive libertarians are wrong draw the line at the consenting adult having the “liberty” to change, to decide, to know and to self-create. They too are the victim of malignant liberalism, making war against telos in their idolization of the harm principle.
It is always too late to change for the simple reason the question carries an answer that is forever out of our hands. This is a place where the conservative right is correct. Returning to libertarianism, it needs to either bets all in with its ideology at stake or must fold its hand into something more systematic. Hardcore libertarians would say that only clear and present physical harms against adults and physical/psychological or adjacent harms against children are to be outlawed. Not so. Instead, I suggest we are sailing closer to the reef of a rocky question. Is it the case that entertaining certain moral depravities even on a philosophical level amongst adults is a moral stain on the world? Is the libertarians and neo liberal tendency to be open to discuss, to empathize and play devil’s advocate is a danger in itself?. The corners need be known before they can be safely cut or be cut at all. The moral centre must be balanced before playing devil’s advocate, only ever in full knowledge of who’s side one is on, be it angels or devils. How else to adjudicate in matters, for example, of biological men’s entry into women’s sports?
Remaining true to reality and making the most libertarian accommodation possible, I suggested the furthest one can go is as follows…
Confess the immutable limitations of the child as a one who can know themselves and reality. This is not an epistemic problem. It is not just in virtue of their immaturity. These are much more deeply rooted. Even adults cannot overcome them.
Prosecute adults who would assert the child be affirmed a different “gender” or support in any way the transitional process. This would be inclusive of social, chemical and anatomical mutilation. There are a great many modes of immoral human relations. Childhood sexual abuse can be erotic, emotional, manipulative, pure self-ego driven, sexually performative AND diagnostic, pharmacological and surgical. We need expand child abuse to the capture the technocratic age. Its obvious that they come after your kids through adults.
Allow adults to safely live as if they are what they are not, this without any legal obligation other adults to play along and without children being deliberately and systemically exposed to the display for purposes of ideological subversion.
On the above you might agree. Question is whether men and women have the proverbial balls to fight for it.
This article first appeared on Robert’s Substack here.