What is a Woman?
"To understand how any society functions you must understand the relationship between the men and the women." Angela Davis
“Take care! disciple of liberty, you have not the right to think and to wish in my place. I have, like you, an intellect and a free will, to which you are bound, by your principles, to pay sovereign respect. Now I forbid you to speak for any woman; I forbid you in the name of what you call the rights of the soul.” Jenny P. d'Hericourt
The question of womankind is difficult for me to answer. I see three principle avenues to consider: Society's decree, the Individual claiming to be or not be a woman, and my own personal viewpoint.
Looking at Society's outlook, first I have to define Society. Society is the State. The State is the Culture codified into Law. Culture is the Community Consensus. Therefore, first we have to define which Society we are discussing. For ease of discussion I will use the Society of the United States of America. In a recent bill before the U.S. Congress regarding abortion the term "woman" was defined, and the definition OK'ed, by both Houses as:
"WOMAN- The term "woman" means a female Human Being who is capable of becoming pregnant, whether or not she has reached the age of majority."
That definition is at odds with common dictionary definitions, which provide two main answers: a female Human Being, and an adult female Human Being. The word female being defined thusly: a person bearing two X chromosomes in the cell nuclei and normally having a vagina, a uterus and ovaries, and developing at puberty a relatively rounded body and enlarged breasts, and retaining a beardless face. However, since the Law is defined by Congress and not the Dictionary, I am forced to use the Congressional definition. This definition is very narrow, and excludes female Human Beings unable to become pregnant. I wonder what the legal status of this female-not-woman is?
On the other hand, various courts within the United States, whose job it is to refine the Law, have ruled on the definition of "woman," and their definition is that a person's sex is fixed at birth and legally noted by the birth attendant. The courts ignored the fact that some Human Beings are born with ambiguous sex organs, and some few are born with both male and female sex organs. But the Law is the Law. In these United States a "woman" is a Human Being born with a vagina.
However, this definition ignores those Humans born with ambiguous genitalia. The medical encyclopaedia admits that: "This [ambiguous] genitalia makes it difficult to classify the infant as male or female. The extent of the ambiguity varies. In very rare instances, the physical appearance may be fully developed as the opposite of the genetic sex. For example, a genetic male may have developed the appearance of a normal female." The medical encyclopaedia also acknowledges the following:
True hermaphrodism. A condition in which both ovarian and testicular tissue is present. The child may have parts of both male and female genitalia.
Pseudohermaphroditism. The genitalia are of one sex, but some physical characteristics of the other sex are present.
Mixed gonadal dysgenesis (MGD). An intersex condition in which there appears some male structures (gonad, testis), as well as a uterus, vagina, and fallopian tubes.
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia. This condition has several forms, but the most common form causes the genetic female to appear male. Many states test for this potentially life-threatening condition during newborn screening exams.
Chromosomal abnormalities, including Klinefelter's syndrome (XXY) and Turner's syndrome (XO).
Maternal ingestion of certain medications (particularly androgenic steroids) may make a genetic female look more male
Lack of production of specific hormones can cause the embryo to develop with a female body type regardless of genetic sex
Lack of testosterone cellular receptors. So even if the body makes the hormones needed to develop into a physical male, the body is unable to respond to those hormones, and therefore, a female body-type is the result even if the genetic sex is male.
This makes it obvious, even without going into emotional, intellectual and spiritual proclivities (“In fact, there are brains of men in heads of women, and vice versa.” Jenny P. d'Hericourt), that Society's notion of a distinct Male-Female Duality is nonsensically simplistic and patently false. Therefore, Society is ignorant of the true definition of "Woman," as well as "Gender." This also highlights that the philosophy of Dualism is false, as one of its foundational components is the dichotomy of the 2-gender paradigm. As Søren Kierkegaard said: "The crowd is untruth. There is therefore no one who has more contempt for what it is to be a Human Being than those who make it their profession to lead the crowd." [The Crowd Is Untruth]
Now, the case of the Individual claiming to be or not be a woman. First the reason behind the claim must be examined. Is the Individual seeking to gain an unfair advantage in some way? Is the Individual seeking to evade responsibility or the Law in some way? Is the Individual seeking to hide their identity for some reason? Is the Individual mentally, emotionally or spiritually handicapped? Is the Individual playing a practical joke or otherwise being deceptive? If the answers are all negative, then the individual must be sincere in the claim. Sincerity alone never equals truth, but sincerity combined with honesty answering the right questions always equals personal truth, ala Kierkegaard's subjective truth. Considering the questions above to be the right questions, and all the answers are truthfully answered, the answer must be that the Individual claiming to be or not be a woman is indeed as claimed. Again, as Søren Kierkegaard said: "The crucial thing is to find a truth that is true for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die." [Fear And Trembling]
My own personal viewpoint must initially reject both other viewpoints regardless of their seeming authenticity else I will be guilty of living in Bad Faith. Kierkegaard expresses it thusly: "So even if someone were so cowardly and base as to want to be a knight of faith on someone else's responsibility, he would never become one; for only the single individual becomes one." My judgement must come from my own heart. It can be no other way and be truth. For me, a woman is a Human who desires to be a woman, and exhibits the attributes of womanhood. To answer the question of what are the attributes of womanhood, I must go back to what I once wrote on what it is to be a man. In that essay I described what my father taught me about "being a man."
1) Don't hurt a woman
2) Don't hurt anyone weaker than me
3) Don't let anyone else hurt anyone weaker then they are
4) Help those in need
5) Accept responsibility for my actions
I also wrote that I was taught that to be a good father, a component of being a man, there were additional attributes:
1) To Love
2) To Protect
3) To Provide
4) To Teach
5) To Nurture
6) To Be There
In that essay I was also charged with finding a definition for woman, but the best I could come up with at the time was the same definition as man with perhaps the attributes rearranged in priority. But continued rumination on this thought bears evidence that there is, perhaps, an addition or two to make for woman: Creator and Peacefulness.
Within the framework of Woman resides the creative force, the reflection of all creation, the Creator embodied. The vast majority do claim her as only a co-creator, as, they say, she is lacking the principle causal agent: man (i.e. spermatozoa). That premise, however, is as flatly false as Dualism. Parthenogenesis (virgin birth) has been demonstrated as a scientific fact for mammals now, and they join all the other animal kingdoms in this ability. How long before the Human Animal is so blessed, as well? Not only can a female give birth to a healthy individual without any outside influence other than certain environmental stressors (i.e. a lack of males and population), but also, eggs from two females can be induced to combine their genomes successfully to create a completely new individual. Males are not needed for the survival of a species anymore. As Jenny P. d'Hericourt said: “Woman alone contains and develops the human germ; she is the creator and preserver of the race. It is not quite certain that the co-operation of man is necessary for the work of reproduction; this is the means chosen by Nature, but human science will succeed, we hope, in delivering woman from this insupportable subjection.” [A Woman's Philosophy of Woman]
Onward, ever onward, to Peace. It has always eluded me why women, as a whole, do not rise up and fight for their rights, their unique identity, and sacred Self as men do. Women also do not wage war. It is not that women cannot, or will not, do either of these things, as history has many examples of women activists and women warriors. Some notable fighters par excellence: Mother Jones, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Boudicca (Buddug), the Trung Sisters (Trung Trac & Trung Nhi, "All the male heroes bowed their heads in submission; Only the two sisters proudly stood up to avenge the country.") and Septima Zenobia (al-Zabba' bint Amr ibn Tharab ibn Hasan ibn 'Adhina ibn al-Samida'). But even these women have an approach not commonly seen in the male of the species: that of waging battle against all odds for the good of others instead of Alexandrian glory. As further evidence of woman's overall fighting spirit, every man surrounded safely by other men, and out of earshot of women, will expound greatly on the sharpness of a woman's tongue, among other things. But generally speaking, the way of the woman, as seen by this man, is the way of peace against all odds. Peace across centuries of warfare by men against women. Peace in the home despite the bondage of marriage. Peace in the workforce regardless of the inequity. Peace in the courtroom in spite of the injustice. Peace and love above all else. In Jenny P. d'Hericourt 's words: “In marriage, woman is a serf. In public instructions, she is sacrificed. In labor, she is made inferior. Civilly, she is a minor. Politically, she has no existence. She is the equal of man only when punishment and the payment of taxes are in question. . . . If we consider each of the sexes in their relation to human destiny, we are forced to admit that, if there was reason for the predominance of man in the necessity of hewing out this destiny, the pre-eminence of woman is ensured in the future reign of right and peace.” [A Woman's Philosophy of Woman]
I do not know where to place my last two points of Creator and Peacefulness, however. The lack of ability to give birth, to create life, can be forced upon a woman by the fortunes of Luck. Therefore, it cannot be used as a definitive criteria. Perhaps if this point is redirected as a consuming desire to give birth it can be used as a benchmark for those Humans of culturally-questionable gender. I hesitate to use the word "questionable" because it plays into the dichotomy of the 2-gender paradigm, but there is no denying that the vain ignorance of Dualism is rampant in Human culture the world over, and so the word has some small merit in this sense. On the other hand, if this criteria is used at all, then where do I place a female Human, who, in all other respects except the desire to give birth, is definitely a woman? Is the desire to be a mother necessary for a Human to be a woman? No. Therefore, this first point is pointless.
On the second point, peacefulness. Again, not all Humans who are otherwise a woman in all regards are peaceful. Without going into the same dissection used with creating life, I can already see where this argument will lead even though the vast majority of violence is committed by men. Peacefulness is not a point to hang womanhood on. I can see that I am hamstrung by the language of the dichotomy of the 2-gender paradigm that pervades our culture. What words can I use for the other genders I want to include? There are none that do the discussion justice. Without the proper words there cannot be philosophical discourse. At this stage I can only lay bare the thought that gender is not about two extremes, man and woman, but about a wide ranging spectrum of Humans of which Society is woefully ignorant. A final point on peace: very few women have conspired to hurt me in any way, but the same cannot be said of men. There is something in that besides testosterone, I just don't know what.
I must admit that I cannot definitively answer the Questions of Woman or Man. Therefore, I must say that for me the real question is why don't we consider ourselves Human first, and biologically male or female (or other) second? We identify all other animals this way. Is it simply Vanity and Bad Faith we consider ourselves fundamentally different than the animal?
I conclude that, to me, the Question of What is a Woman is irrelevant because the underlying premise of a 2-gender paradigm is false. Society considers me a man, but I cannot truthfully Answer the Question of Man to the satisfaction of Society. How then can I Answer the Question of Woman?
However, if I were asked why it is I prefer the company of Woman rather than Man, I would have to respond: for the same reason I prefer the flower of the rose over the thorn of the rose: Beauty over Blood.
Once more, Søren Kierkegaard: "Most people are subjective toward themselves and objective toward all others, frightfully objective sometimes -- but the task is precisely to be objective toward oneself and subjective toward all others."
And lastly, Jenny P. d'Hericourt: Conclusion: the two sexes therefore, when treated alike become developed alike, and are fit for the same functions, except those which concern the reproduction of the species.
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"I need no warrant for being,
and no word of sanction upon my being.
I am the warrant and the sanction."