What Is a Woman?
Though our culture is confused, we don’t have to be in doubt. You can know the truth and not be pressured into adopting modern reinventions. God has made the definition of a woman clear through both special revelation (Scripture) and general revelation (creation). He made her. He made him too. Male and female he created them.
The year 2022 signaled the start of a surprising controversy over how to answer the question “What is a woman?” It’s surprising because until the last few seconds of human history, the answer was never in question. With the rise of the “trans women are women” mantra, many people seem to be in doubt.
In March of 2022, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson refused to define a woman when asked. Her response: “I’m not a biologist.” Does that presume only biologists know the answer? Many educated scientists squirm when pressed to define a woman because if their answer is “an adult human female,” that disqualifies biological men who “identify” as women. Being politically incorrect, that answer would jeopardize their reputation and possibly end their careers.
Numerous definitions for “woman” have surfaced over the last few years. I’ve noticed that these definitions fall into one of three categories: They’re either circular, absurd, or accurate.
First, some definitions of a woman are circular.
This mistake occurs when someone attempts to define a word but then uses the word they’re trying to define in the definition. For example, defining nuclear power as “energy derived from a nuclear source” is circular because the word you’re trying to explain, “nuclear,” is used in the definition. Transgender advocates often make the same mistake when they define a woman. They claim, “A woman is anyone who identifies as a woman.” That definition is circular. After all, what is that thing—a “woman”—that the person is identifying as? They need to avoid the term “woman” in their definition if they want to provide a meaningful explanation.
Second, some definitions of a woman are absurd.
Cambridge Dictionary has recently amended its definition of a woman: “An adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth.” Notice they’ve replaced “woman” with “female.” Though this averts a circular definition, it creates a new problem. “Female” is a reference to biology—a person who has XX chromosomes and reproductive organs that make bearing children possible. What does it mean for a man, who has XY chromosomes, to identify as a person who possesses ovaries, a uterus, and breasts when he doesn’t? It’s absurd.
This is similar to when 69-year-old Dutch TV personality Emile Ratelband decided to identify as a 49-year-old and demanded the courts change his legal age. It’s absurd. No amount of sincerity, hormones, or surgical intervention can make him younger. He can make cosmetic changes to his body that make him look younger, but he’ll never become younger. That’s because age is a biological reality that can’t be changed. In the same way, a person’s sex is a biological reality that can’t be changed. A man can make cosmetic changes to his body to make him look like a woman, but he’ll never become a woman.
The other problem with Cambridge’s new definition is that a woman can now be someone who had a “different sex at birth.” What sex might that be? Male. That means a woman can now be defined as someone who was the opposite of a woman—a man. This is absurd because it makes the word “woman” meaningless when someone who is the opposite sex can be a woman. It’s like saying parallel can be defined as perpendicular lines. Such confused definitions reduce the meaning of words to absurdity.
Third, some definitions of a woman are accurate.
Prior to the last few seconds of human history, defining a woman was uncontroversial. People accepted the dictionary definition: an adult human female. They recognized that women have XX chromosomes, while men have XY chromosomes. Though this definition is accurate, it has some liabilities.