'What Is a Woman?' Answered

How should we as a society decide what is and what isn’t part of our shared reality? Because every society has a shared reality. It is inevitable. Consider something as mundane as traffic laws. In some nations, people drive on the right. In other nations, people drive on the left. Right or left doesn’t really make much difference, but what makes a difference is this: Everyone has to agree what is right and what is left! We can’t have people deciding “their truth” is that right is left or left is right. That would make our traffic laws useless. We all have to have one shared understanding, one shared reality, upon which our laws and policies can be based.

It is the same for all concepts, including the words “man” and “woman”. If we as a society are going to have laws and policies based on these concepts, then we need to have a common understanding of what these concepts actually are. No “my truth” or “your truth”, we need a shared reality.

But today, when it comes to “man” and “woman”, we clearly don’t agree on how to define the words. Two opposing definitions are in common use, one proof-based and one faith-based.

The Proof-Based Definition

The proof-based definition of “woman” is simple: A woman is an adult human female.

This definition is proof-based because it is based on a person’s biological sex, which can be determined through empirical evidence: anatomy and DNA. And because it is proof-based, we are able to know if someone actually is a woman or not, no faith required.

(As an aside, lawmakers in some states have made the horrible mistake of allowing legal “sex changes” even though it is biologically impossible to actually change your sex today. This creates the absurd situation where a person could be a biological male yet a legal female, which turns the terms “male” and “female” into legal fiction. These laws are a horrible mistake and a violation of secularism. They should be repealed where present and blocked from being enacted everywhere else. But because of their presence, note that when I say “female”, I obviously mean “biological female”.)

The Faith-Based Definition

Believers in the LGBT faith-based movement are curiously unable to provide a coherent definition of the word “woman”. On their first attempt, they typically use a circular definition where they define the word “woman” using the word “woman”. They know what it means in their head, but they can’t seem to figure out a way to express it in words. So allow me to do so on their behalf.

Here is the faith-based definition of “woman”: A woman is an adult human who self-identifies as a female.

This definition is faith-based because it is based on self-identity, which you have no way to prove or disprove. How do you know they aren’t wrong? How do you know they aren’t joking? How do you know they aren’t lying? You don’t. If you believe, you believe based on faith. With the faith-based definition of “woman”, it’s impossible for you to actually know if someone is a woman or not. (They could, for example, change their reported self-identity tomorrow.)

Notice that both definitions start with the proof-based concept of a female, which is all the proof-based definition needs: “The empirical evidence proves this person is a female? Then she’s a woman. Case closed.”

But the faith-based definition isn’t satisfied with this dependence on proof: “Proof this. Proof that. What about My Truth! What about gender identity!”

Sure, gender identity is an unmeasurable, unverifiable, unfalsifiable belief that therefore cannot be proven to even exist, but people believe it exists, so they insert a proof-bypass into the definition of “woman”, removing any requirement to actually prove someone is a female and simply allowing them to self-identify as one instead.

There Is No Dictionary God

People often hide behind definitions. “Don’t look at me. That’s just how the word is defined. I didn’t make the rules!” But there is no Dictionary God who will strike you down with a lightning bolt if you don’t use the “right” definition, and in this case, what is the “right” definition anyway? Hundreds of millions of people use the proof-based definition of “woman”. Are they wrong? Says who? There is no Dictionary God.

And so, in situations like this, where there are two competing definitions for a word in common usage, which definition we choose to use reveals a lot about ourselves. Because why else would you choose to insert a proof-bypass into the definition of “woman” unless you really believed there was an invisible concept of gender identity, something so core to the meaning of life that it should override empirical reality itself. And can you prove that? Absolutely not. The meaning of life is unprovable. Self-identity is unprovable. You are operating entirely on faith, and you are seeking to impose your faith-based beliefs onto a secular society, and that reveals a lot about you.

What Is the Secular Definition?

Now let’s return to the topic of reality. There are two competing definitions of “woman” in our society, so which definition should be used as part of our shared reality? I think this all comes down to a simple question: Do we want to live in a secular society, or do we want to live in a society that is dominated by a faith-based movement?

Because if we choose to continue to be a secular society, then that means our shared reality must be based on proof, and so the secular definition of “woman” is obvious. It is the provable one: A woman is an adult human female. In other words, in our shared reality, gender is simply a euphemism for the word “sex”, not a separate unprovable concept that overrides biological sex.

People can believe whatever faith-based beliefs they choose. I, myself, am an openly religious man and believe many things based on faith instead of empirical proof, but when it comes to the shared reality of our society, when it comes to that which our laws and policies are based on, we all must defer to what is provable. If we don’t, then we turn secularism into a lie.

Secularism or Faith-Based Tyranny

Why does any of this matter? It matters because there are people in our society today who self-identify as transgenders, and we need to know if the word “transgender” means “someone who believes their gender is different than their sex”, or if it means “someone whose gender actually is different than their sex”.

The proof, and its lack, is clear. The question is whether you will abide by the truce of secularism and defer to that proof, or will you follow the path of the tyrant and fight to impose your faith-based beliefs onto unbelievers like me.

Update 09/06/2023: Fixed typos.

Related essay:
Review: “What is a Woman?”

topic: gender identity

A Disbelief in Demigods - Front Cover    Included in the satire and essay collection "A Disbelief in Demigods".

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