What makes a woman?

I have oft wondered about the meeting of feminism and transgenderism on the issue of femininity and the female appearance.

Feminism says a woman is not defined by her clothes, and she can wear-and not wear-what she chooses. A woman can eschew dresses, skirts, makeup and do things that society says boys should do and still be a woman.

For transgenders, it does not seem to be this simple.

Transgenderism says people are not defined by their biological parts-a woman born with a penis, and without a uterus and vagina, and with high levels of testosterone is still a woman. It does however seem that in the transgender community, the dress is what ultimately makes the woman.

When a person comes out as Trans, the accepted step of action is to start dressing like the gender they identify with. Transwomen grow out their hair, put on makeup and start wearing dresses and heels. Transmen do the opposite.

So when it is said that having a vagina does not make one a woman, I wonder: “so is it makeup and dresses that make one a woman?”

What would the reaction be if a biological man came out as a woman but also wanted to continue dressing like a man, because we have said that women don’t have to wear dresses to be women? Most likely: “what’s the point of transitioning only to continue acting like a man? Can a transgender woman be a tomboy in the way biological women can be? Can a Transwoman decide to eschew dresses and wear suits, or is wanting to wear dresses and makeup a fundamental part of being a Transwoman?

Is being a woman in a Trans context therefore mostly about adopting the social beauty standards ascribed to women? Not all biological women like makeup and being feminine, so can a Transwoman also not want to be feminine or is this a moot point as the whole point of being a Transwoman is to be feminine?

If a person was born male in the biological sense, but identifies as female in the social sense, then does social appearance take prominence in what makes a woman? Is it a mistake to attempt to reconcile biological and transgender women?

Just random thoughts that swirl around aimlessly in my head.


7 thoughts on “What makes a woman?

  1. To me, the ability to create children with someone is a pretty strong indicator of feminine quality. Whether or not it is ever done, I think the status of the ability to carry young, and the choice of acting on it (or deciding not to,) is a distinctly female characteristic.

    • Gender is still very much seen from a biological viewpoint; baby with vagina is female; baby with penis is male. There is no denying however that views are beginning to change, either out of a real acceptance or simply a reluctance to be thought of as a bigot. It will be interesting to see if there will always be a distinction between biological women and trans women or if we will truly get to this gender neutral utopia where everyone is a they.

      • Unlikely. The need to reproduce is still relevant, until we attain immortality. While it is still relevant, the specific gender roles in the reproductive process will have meaning, (until we supplement it with scientific methods.) Until then…those are very clear and necessary gender distinctions.

    • There are already multiple cases of “pregnant men”; Transmen who still have their female reproductive organs. There are even Transmen who have been impregnated by their partners who are Transwomen. There is no limit to what science can achieve and It is a possibility, however faint, that it will eventually be old fashioned to think of the genders along biological lines or to even think of gender at all.

      • If they still have female reproductive organs that are fully functional, and an XX chromosome pair, I might…in my humble opinion….suggest they are a female of our species.

    • Even if these organs and chromosomes are in the body of a really masculine looking person?

      I do agree with you to some extent, but I also feel that appearance is perhaps more indicative of gender/identity; after all you cannot see what reproductive organs a person has just by looking at them. We just assume and take it for granted that a person who looks like a woman must have female parts. But there are feminine people who have male reproductive organs.

      Just rambling on now. Thank you for your comments 🙂

      • Even if those chromosome and organs are in a masculine looking body. “Masculine looking” is highly subjective and varies radically from time to time, and species to species. Appearance is highly subjective regarding masculinity/femininity. Many cultures express these traits in radically different ways. For example, it isn’t uncommon for two men to hold hands as a show of friendship in some parts of Africa, whereas that is a highly feminine characteristic in the West.

        It does not change the basic biological capability, or genotype of that person. Some people can have variations like XYY, but these are diagnosed genetic abnormalities, deviations that generally lead to health/behavioral problems.

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