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Sure. Nothing wrong with
definitions. But let's be very clear
that we're looking for a definition
or test that: • can distinguish
women from non-women, and
• successfully identifies all
women. That is, it must be 100%
accurate. It cannot leave any
women out, and cannot
accidentally identify any non-
women as women. (i.e. no false
positives and no false negatives.)
100% is a pretty stringent level of
accuracy to reach, but it
necessarily must be so: the
question essentially asks "what
are the defining qualities of
women", in which case all women
must share those qualities,
whatever they might be, literally by
definition. And conversely, no non-
woman can also share all such
qualities, or by definition, that
person would also be a woman!

And anyway, you asked the "what
is a woman" question, so you can
hardly cringe at requiring such a
high standard, right? I'm assuming
you want a reliable answer to their
question, right? Moreover, as a
less purely logical but definitely
common-sense criteria, we should
add one more thing to our test
: •it
should agree with "obvious"
cases. That is to say, if you can
point to someone who everyone
agrees is a woman (e.g. Gal Godot
or somebody), then the test
should also indicate that they're a
woman. Likewise, the test should
never identify as a woman
someone everyone agrees IS a
man. Otherwise, you permit non-
sensical tests which, for example,
might be pointlessly restrictive or
pointlessly broad, to the extent
that they are useless for any actual
purpose within society. There will
always be edge cases of people
where everyone doesn't all agree
that that person is a woman, but
that's exactly why we need this
test, right? That's exactly why the
question is being asked in the first
place. We want a test that is
definitely correct for the obvious
cases, so we can have confidence
that it's right for the edge cases

And again, you asked the question
and shouldn't object to that
requirement either, because after
all, you are asking the question in
the context of a society, and I
presume you want to be able to
apply the test in actual social
settings. Now that we know what
properties such a test should
have--gives a yes/no answer for
everyone and is never wrong
(which implicitly means it Will
agree with the obvious cases
anyway)--we can start to ask what
the test is looking for. Here, we
can work from the outside in, from
the superficial to the internal, and
see where we end up.

Perhaps the measure of a woman
is in clothing, hairstyles, and
makeup? The most obvious, most
superficial measure of all. Except,
no, that can't be right. Such a test
would identify skillful drag queens
as women, even though everyone
(including the drag queens!)
agrees that they are not women.
Fine, then. Get rid of the clothes
and go one layer deeper. Maybe
the measure of a woman is her
boobs and vagina. Except, no, that
can't be right either. What if you
have a vagina but no boobs?
Either because they're too small,
or because of breast cancer, or
because you're pre-pubescent?
And boob-growth is a continuous
process, so how do you draw the
line between what is and isn't
"enough boob" to qualify
someone as a woman?

Well, if boobs are problematic,
then what about reproductive
capability? Except, again, what if
you don't have that? There are
plenty of people who society
absolutely agrees are women
even though they're infertile.
Maybe they have really bad PCOS.
Maybe they had a hystercetomy.
Maybe their bodies never
developed a uterus in the first
place (this happens in something
like 1 out of every 10000 female
births). Ok, forget reproduction.
Maybe the measure of a woman is
the absence of a penisl Ha! What
about that? Sure. So long as yoWre
willing to say that soldiers who got
their dicks blown off when their
Humvee drove over an IED are
women, then I guess that works.
Oh, you're not willing to say that?
Yeah, neither am I. Also, that fails
the "obvious cases" criteria.

Is it hormones? Does that
determine womanhood? Well, no,
because a) hormones change
throughout life so there's no single
determinative standard you could
use for hormone levels, and b)
again sometimes medical
conditions mess with your
hormones in ways that would
make the test disagree with some
obvious cases of women. But the
chromosomes! Show me those
two X chromosomes! Well, hate to
disappoint you, but there are a lot
of genetic conditions that can
yield people who are obvious
cases of women yet don't have the
typical two-X chromosome
pattern. People who, if this was
your test, you would absolutely for
sure swear were completely
obvious women, until you looked
at their chromosomes. The most
extreme example of this is CAIS,
which yields an individual with XY
chromosomes but with the most
extreme feminization possible
because their bodies simply do
not respond at all to androgen
hormones. Like, literally the most
feminine people possible are CAIS
XY individuals. And if that's not
enough to get someone to shut up
about chromosomes, then don't
know what.

Fine, so not chromosomes. Maybe
the measure of womanhood is
something less tangible. Maybe
it's life experiences. After all,
women are socialized different
and have different experiences
growing up. Women are subject to
marginalizations that men aren't.
Perhaps this is the test we need!
(This is a frequent TERF argument,
by the way.) Except it doesn't
work, because socialization and
marginalization are very different
from one society to another.
Which means that, like with the
boobs, you can't have one
standard that correctly identifies
all women. This fails one of the
basic requirements for our test.
And, coarsely speaking, such a
test would say that women in
matriarchal societies, where
women are the politically
dominant gender, are not women.
Or that the Queen of England is
not a woman because she has too
much status and power. C'mon.

So, jeez, what the hell is left?
Everything we can possibly
some people still manage to be
obviously women while not fitting
that measurement! And, yeah.
That's the problem with human
diversity, borne of our messy
biology and equally messy nature
as soaal animals. We are so
diverse that any such measures
will inevitably fail. But there is one
thing left. One thing that doesn't
have this problem. That thing is a
woman's inner gender identity.
This one thing is different precisely
because it is not subject to
external measurement. It is only
measurable subjectively. Internally,
within the woman's own mind.
Which is exactly the conclusion
we should come to. Because the
measure of a woman--that is,
whether you should label
someone else as a woman--is not
something you can measure. It is
not somethlng externally visible,
not even if you amplify the power
of your vision with microscopes
and biochemical testing.

The measure of a woman is that
her gender identity is female. And
because gender identity is
inherently subjective, because it is
a phenomenon that emerges from
the complex operation of our
minds, because it is an essential
aspect of our deepest selves, it
can only be observed by our
selves. I, and I alone, am capable
of observing what my gender
identity truly is. You, and you alone,
are capable of observing what
your gender identity truly is.
Neither of us has any authority
whatsoever to declare what the
other's gender identity is based on
anything we can observe or even
theoretically observe. If you want
to know if someone is a woman,
the literal and logical best you can
do is to ask her, and to believe her
answer. Subjective determination
must be the the measure of a
woman, because all other tests
fail. This is all that's left. That is
why "what is a woman", is such a
profoundly pro-trans question.
Because if you actually take that
questions seriously, it forces you
down a line of reasoning which
ends at respecting everyone's
autonomy to determine and assert
what their own identity is.

Views: 51, posted on: 2022-06-15