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What is a woman? What makes someone belong to the female of the species?
Biologically that’s easy. A woman is someone with a vagina, a cervix, a uterus, ovaries. But, for some, it’s not as simple as that.
According Trans rights activists, a woman is anyone who feels like a woman. Anyone who “identifies” as a woman. Genitals are irrelevant, it’s the person inside. If you feel like a woman, you are a woman.
So what is a woman?
If you’re going to permit anyone who “feels” like a woman to be legally classed as a woman, you must first identify what a woman feels like.
Because once you’re legally a woman you are immediately put into spaces of vulnerability for other women. You’re a sports coach alone with teenage girls in the showers. You’re a support worker with female victims of rape with PTSD. You’re taking Brownies on camping trips and sharing their tents. You’re confined to a cell with your female cell mate, having intimate checks done by female officers.
You’re entering the tiny changing room at my gym where there are no cubicles and my little girls and I are naked and alone getting changed after swimming.
Once you’re legally a woman you are entrusted with your fellow women and girls when they’re at their most vulnerable. And that is not a right that should be handed out lightly. That is something you need to respect, need to understand. It cannot simply be subjective or anyone who claims to feel like a woman can enter those spaces. We must be able to identify what a woman is if people can legally identify as one.
We separate ourselves by sex for a reason. Approximately 85000 women and girls are raped every year, with 31% of women experiencing sexual abuse in childhood. These statistics are absolutely shocking and horrific. Choosing to separate by sex is not only about comfort, as being naked and vulnerable around strange men can be uncomfortable at the best of times, even in hospital settings for instance, but it’s also a matter of safety. Not all men are out to assault and abuse, and not all trans women are out to assault and abuse, but statistically those with a penis are more likely to abuse those without a penis. So penis havers go to one space and vagina havers go to another out of both comfort and safety.
So what is a woman?
Photo credit Flash Buddy
Is it FEMININITY?
Many trans-women are drawn to traditionally “feminine” things. So, is a woman feminine by definition?
I consider myself feminine. I like pink, and glitter, and shoes. I paint my nails and wear mascara. I favour skirts over trousers and have been known to purchase scatter cushions. Feminine things appeal to me, and I am a woman.
But feminine things are not exclusive to women. There are many women who have no interest in the traditionally feminine, and there are many men who feel love it and feel far more comfortable in a pair of high heels than I do.
It is also not as simple as being a feminine or masculine woman. Most of us are on a sliding scale that moves depending on mood, circumstances, hormone fluctuations. We are not simply girly or not girly in our preferred style. Being a woman is absolutely not about whether or not you prefer feminine things.
Femininity is not a requirement of womanhood and nor is it exclusive to women. So it cannot be femininity. And belief that it is all about feminine style is incredibly reductive.
Is it BODY SHAPE?
Are breasts and hips a requirement of a woman? Is committing to breast implants for a womanly shape what makes you a woman? As someone with the hips of a teenage boy and who, until I got pregnant with my latest baby, usually wears a AA cup bra, I’d like to say no!! I am a woman but I do not have a curvy shape that one might traditionally associate with being a woman.
Feeling more comfortable with breast implants or wearing a padded bra is fine, but it cannot make you a woman or those of us with flat chests would also be discounted from the sex.
Is it SEXUALITY?
This one is obviously a big fat no. And millions of lesbians would absolutely agree with that.
Sexuality is not defined by your sex. Having a vagina does not mean you want to make love to a man, and vice versa. Women are straight, gay, bisexual and, to the fury of many trans women, a lot of it does actually depend on genitals.
I have seen lesbians receive no end of abuse on Twitter and in news articles being called bigoted and transphobic because they don’t want to have sex with trans women, after all, a woman is a woman. But if you don’t like penises then you don’t like penises and that isn’t bigotted, that’s being a lesbian. Intimate interactions with one anothers genitals is a huge part of any sexual relationship.
So no, it is not sexuality, and the way lesbian women are being treated and abused is horrific.
Wanting to have sex with men or lesbians does not automatically make you a woman.
Is it EXPERIENCES?
Ideally we would all be completely the same and our sex, colour, race would have absolutely no impact on how we experience life, but we know that isn’t true, even if it’s something we wish was. So it must be experiences that give us that feeling of womanhood.
There is no doubt in my mind that male privilege exists. It is why men are less likely to be raped, hold more senior positions in business and government, and are paid more for the same job. It is the reason men don’t have to shave their legs to be considered sexy. It is the reason why male newscasters are old next to their sexy young, female co presenters. It’s the reason women will have their labia and clitoris sliced off and their vaginas sewn shut. It is the reason women are more likely to be trafficked into forced prostitution and sexual slavoury.
If you reach adulthood living as a man, you will have been experiencing patriarchal advantages your entire life. If you reach adulthood as a woman, you’ll have been experiencing life on the other side.
It does not mean you’re unable to empathise and it doesn’t mean you won’t have had pain and sadness and abuse in your life. It just means you’ll have had a different experience, and different societal pressures.
Is it BIOLOGY?
This is the crux of it. If it is not your preferred style, if it is not your sexuality,is what makes a woman simply down to biology?
Other than interexed individuals which is a rare, women are XX chromosomes, men are XY chromosomes. Women have vaginas, men have penises. Women have ovaries, men have testicles. Women have more oestrogen, men have more testosterone.
Within those biological frames we have our brains giving us experiences, preferences, pleasures and pains. And there will be those on both sexes that are extremes towards feminine and masculine.
There should be nothing wrong with a man being feminine and a woman being masculine, and there should be no way anyone on those spectrums should be treated without respect and equality. But being automatically considered a woman?
I do not believe all people who identify as trans are a threat, but I fear the increasing push to accept anyone’s version of transgenderism is. We are being forced to accept men proclaiming themselves to be women with no real understanding of what it is to be a woman, and demanding access to our lives by reducing our entire sex to feelings when being a woman is about so much more. It’s about your life, your body, your self. It is incredibly complex and it is varied and it is full.
My belief is this. We cannot simply allow men to self identify as women and be granted access to women’s spaces. We cannot reduce an entire sex to “lady brain” when clearly there is no such thing or we’d all have it. We cannot force women to either accept that some penises are female penises and that their attached man means us no harm when walking around naked in our changing rooms or trying to bully lesbians into having sex with them.
Define what it is to be a woman.
Identify what it is to be a woman before you allow people to identify as a woman. And if someone doesn’t meet those parameters then respect existing women enough not to reduce who they are to a preference for pink or a fetish for lesbians. Because a woman is so much more.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!