Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein
Artillery Row

What does it mean to be a woman?

Trans activists purporting to be women in the “wrong” body are incapable of understanding our day-to-day lives

What does it mean to be a woman? Is womanhood mere biology, or does it equate to something deeper? Should “woman” be inclusive, or is it a fact that is intrinsically exclusive? Could it be a psychological feeling, or is it offensive to suggest so? Who gets to set the terms and conditions?

Thanks to Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull and her “woman, noun, adult human female” campaign, we have clearly uncovered that the dictionary definition of our sex is enough to make a whole host of misogynists stomp in collective tantrum (or, mantrum rather). Politicians squirm and suffer from temporary paralysation when asked: “what is wrong with that statement?” We are told the conversation is “hot” and “toxic” whilst others protest that our sex is a human right for others to adopt, the very same people who spend a significant portion of time bemoaning the obscenity of cultural appropriation. 

Their male privilege takes precedence

As women, we may not be a minority but we are oppressed. Advances can be made in the workplace and through various types of legislation but when all is said and done, our lives are marred by violence whether it be mentally, physically or sexually. Thankfully, not all women experience sexual assault (although a startling number do). Yet all women are acutely aware of the danger and will therefore plan their lives accordingly, weighing up risk like Jason Bourne at a motorway service-station diner. This is because we know that if a man wanted to exert power over us, we would be powerless to stop him due to our innate physical difference. Trans activists who purport to be women in the “wrong” body are incapable of understanding our fear and how risk management is a major component of our day-to-day lives. Whilst they may “feel” like a woman, their male privilege takes precedence. Their inability to empathise with our need for sex-based protections reveals a shocking sense of indifference for the very people they claim to be.

What does it mean to be a woman for me personally? It is certainly more than a dictionary definition and what’s between my legs. It means a short and very small window of innocence: as little girls, we believe in magic and fairy tales. If some of us are lucky enough, we may even be called princesses. But all the while we are exposed to the most horrific imagery. On a trip to the shop to buy sweets, one glance at the newspapers and glossy magazines reveals a tirade of visual violence: practically anorexic women in bikinis, breasts in amongst serious news and close-up humiliating shots of female stars papped as they dared to shop barefaced. If our eyes venture far enough upwards to the top shelf, we are exposed to porn. We grow up knowing that our female elders are objects, and we wait to become one too it is a depressing right of passage. 

If all women and girls are objectified by the male-gaze, then men and boys live in a world in which they’re empowered by it. Whilst many males do not seek to harm the opposite sex, they indeed grow up within an environment that protects their interests and builds a society with their sex in mind. Women dress sexually because the system teaches them that male validation is important. When a man wolf-whistles in our direction, some women may feel flattered but on a deeper level what they really feel is reassured. It is a constant battle refraining from seeking this reassurance after years of cultural conditioning that only women worthy of attention are those who are conventionally attractive. 

Are women now defined by their accessories?

This week WPUK met to discuss the ongoing horror of incarceration for women in this country, and it was met with a handful of abusive trans activists. This needless harassment aimed at apparent fellow women didn’t shock me, but I found the content of their insults interesting: “call Weight-Watchers”, “we’re attracting your boyfriends”, “you’ve got a flat arse” and “buy a weave”. The perpetrator chose these words because they fall in the patriarchal line of attack. 

We are beaten with unattainable standards and our internal scar is insecurity. A woman is more malleable when she is self-conscious. The trans woman in question had a tiny mini-skirt on, whilst some of her “comrades” used makeup to prove womanhood. Whilst I am not opposed to playing around with fashion and cosmetics, it does suggest that our sex is increasingly being reduced to a harmful stereotype. Are women now defined by their accessories? Do corporations decide our sex for us based on regressive ideas? The very fact that some trans women aren’t able to ask themselves this question leads me to believe that their observed sex at birth and in turn the society that grants them entitlement will always keep them out of the loop.

Trans women are trans women, and it is erroneous to suggest otherwise. This isn’t about being mean, exclusionary or unkind; it is merely a fact, both in a scientific sense and socially. If we allow anyone to state they are a woman, we begin to view our sex as a concept rather than a reality. Those suffering from gender dysphoria should be given all the help possible to live a content and free life but all the while, we simply must begin to take women’s sex seriously and question what it means. If we don’t, we are blind to our oppression.

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