What is a Woman?

Matt Walsh is asking this question in his new book and movie and getting a variety of answers it seems. Being a data driven science type guy, I like to start answering questions like this with observations. What observations can we make about women (and men) besides the obvious physical differences? Well if I had to characterize women vs. men over the whole scope of what we call history — the past 6000 years or so — I’d probably characterize women (contrasted with men) as generally … more nurturing, more empathetic, more emotional, more discerning, less creative / more maintaining … and men (contrasted with women) as generally … less nurturing more conquering / destroying, less empathetic, less emotional, less discerning, more creative / less maintaining. To summarize … I would say that Woman = Discerner / Revealer / Nurturer … Man = Maker / Conqueror / Destroyer. Of course these are generalities and there are definitely areas of overlap. Also, there will be debate as to WHY these differences exist. Some say it’s social conditioning and some say it’s more biological. What say you?

156 thoughts on “What is a Woman?

  1. Flint:

    I admit I kind of admire my nephew Ed Lein, who is one of the world’s foremost authorities on brain structure. He works for the Allen Institute in Seattle, and was just named head of a $173 million grant for further brain studies. Beyond this, I admit I can’t really understand much of what he tries to explain to me.

    Impressive! I’ll bet you have some fascinating conversations at family gatherings, even if some of what he says is hard to understand.

  2. keiths: Dead bodies sometimes move on their own, showing that life isn’t strictly necessary for self-generated movement…

    ?

  3. keiths: . I don’t know enough about the results to say either way; thus my statement of uncertainty.

    Indeed. I feel the same.

  4. keiths: EEG and fMRI are of great value, but I don’t see why you’d think that this undercuts the importance of mapping the static structure of the brain. In fact, fMRI is one of the tools used as part of the mapping efforts!

    Undercuts? I am making the point that cognition, consciousness, awareness, thinking is a process that does not limit itself to mapped areas of the cortex. Thought processes, observed via fMRI and EEG combined show waves of activity that suggest the process is much more subtle than certain mapped regions being stimulated.

  5. keiths,

    “On their own” was what I was querying. An effect of decomposition doesn’t really match with “on their own”.

  6. Alan,

    You’ve been trying to support your claim that mapping the static structure of the brain “will not lead to much in the way of insight.”

    First you linked to an article on neuroplasticity, which does not support your claim. Then you cited the use of fMRI and EEG in neuroscience, which also does not support your claim. Now you make the following odd statement:

    I am making the point that cognition, consciousness, awareness, thinking is a process that does not limit itself to mapped areas of the cortex. Thought processes, observed via fMRI and EEG combined show waves of activity that suggest the process is much more subtle than certain mapped regions being stimulated.

    You seem to be arguing against a position that no one has espoused, and in any case, your comment still doesn’t support your claim about mapping not leading to much in the way of insight. Do you still believe that claim, and if so, why?

  7. Alan,

    “On their own” was what I was querying. An effect of decomposition doesn’t really match with “on their own”.

    If you took “on their own” to mean “of their own volition”, then I can see why you found my statement confusing, but I was simply providing a counterexample to Charlie’s statement that dead bodies “can only move through action from without.”

  8. keiths,

    Nothing confusing about it. Cadavers move under the effects of decomposition. I don’t think “on their own” is a fair description.

  9. keiths: You’ve been trying to support your claim that mapping the static structure of the brain “will not lead to much in the way of insight.”

    Not really. I’m interested in how thinking as a first-person experience cashes out in terms of brain activity. Lizzie referred to the most recent studies using simultaneous fMRI and EEG elsewhere. She may pitch in at some point (I hope so as it is her field) but in the mean time, I’ll have a look for it.

    One thing I’m fairly sure of, computer analogies can be misleading.

  10. Alan:

    Cadavers move under the effects of decomposition. I don’t think “on their own” is a fair description.

    Living bodies move under the effects of action potential propagation and myosin/actin activation. Would you argue that they therefore don’t move on their own?

    Movement in both cases occurs in the absence of an external impetus and is due to processes occurring within the body. “On their own” is an appropriate descriptor.

  11. keiths:

    You’ve been trying to support your claim that mapping the static structure of the brain “will not lead to much in the way of insight.”

    Alan:

    Not really.

    You haven’t really been doing what you’ve clearly been doing? OK, sure.

    Anyway, it seems you’ve finally given up on defending that indefensible claim. That’s good.

  12. Alan:

    One thing I’m fairly sure of, computer analogies can be misleading.

    It’s true, they can be. They can also be spot on, as is the case here. An accurate wiring diagram is of enormous value to an engineer who is trying to reverse engineer a complex chip, and it’s of enormous value to a neuroscientist who is trying to reverse engineer the complex human brain. Accurate wiring diagrams can lead to tremendous insights in both cases.

    No need to take my word for it. Neuroscientists — the folks who do this stuff day in, day out — know the value of this connectivity information, which is why they pour so much in the way of time, resources, and effort into obtaining it. Flint’s nephew is in charge of one of those efforts, to the tune of $173 million:

    The Allen Institute is leading a new global collaboration to map the approximately 200 billion cells in the human brain according to type and function. The large-scale project is thought to be the brain equivalent of the Human Genome Project, a massive global undertaking that took 13 years to complete.

    It’s a shame, really. If they would only listen to you, Alan, they could save that $173 million instead of wasting it on a program that in your judgment “will not lead to much in the way of insight.”

    Years from now, they will be shedding tears of regret. “$173 million down the tubes, with little to show for it,” they’ll say. “We should have listened to Alan Fox.”

  13. keiths:
    Flint:

    Impressive! I’ll bet you have some fascinating conversations at family gatherings, even if some of what he says is hard to understand.

    Fascinating but infrequent. He’s based in Seattle, I’m in Alabama, and his parents (my sister and her husband) live in Indiana. Not to mention he’s on the road, everywhere in the world, more than he’s home. I guess that kind of work is incredibly demanding, AND he has two kids to raise. With this new project, he needs 30 hour days! I confess I never wanted a job that took such dedication.

  14. Incidentally, a couple years ago I told Ed about Lizzie’s depiction of thinking as a lot of neurons firing being essentially votes, and the most votes “wins” in terms of a behavior or an understanding of something. Ed disagreed, and told me that neuroscientists simply do not know enough about complex molecular-level processes to make such a claim. Lots of different kinds of neurons, lots of differently-purposed molecules, lots of crosstalk across both generalized and specialized areas, and more. Kind of a vast sea of both known and unknown unknowns.

    Of course, I don’t think I understood what Lizzie was trying to say very well either. Too bad I can’t get the two of them together (though if their specialties are similar enough, that might happen in the normal course of affairs…)

  15. keiths: It isn’t disrespectful when trans people say that their bodies don’t match their gender. A trans man isn’t saying that women’s bodies are bad; he’s just saying that he doesn’t belong in a woman’s body.

    The issue is that the person is not happy with own body. Let’s say you are a good scientist and you detect no pathology with the body, but the trans person just won’t stop whining. What will you do? Let them have what they wish, right?

    This is the disrespect I am talking about. In biology and psychology (or medical disciplines of these at least), there is a concept of pathology, or used to be. If there is no pathology, there is no real reason to prescribe hormones or drugs or surgeries. If there is a pathology, it is either bodily or psychological. If it is not bodily, then it is psychological. The trans thing is entirely in the mind.

    keiths: Oh, wow, there are so many important lessons in this for our children: That we should respect everyone’s rights, even if they’re not like us. That people deserve to have their rights recognized and protected, even if they belong to groups that you, Erik, consider too small to matter

    Children learn surface-level things first. On the surface, the lesson is: When you whine a lot, you’ll be given what you are whining about. Whether what you are whining about is or is not a right is the stuff of grownups.

  16. Erik:

    The issue is that the person is not happy with own body. Let’s say you are a good scientist and you detect no pathology with the body, but the trans person just won’t stop whining.

    Imagine that you’re in a terrible accident and you undergo the operation I described in my thought experiment. You now have the body of a woman. People regard you as a woman. They treat you as a woman. You experience the indignities of sexism. You menstruate monthly and endure cramps. Your new body is particularly attractive, and men often make passes at you. Some men feel entitled to catcall you and grope you. Going out alone at night frightens you.

    You are frustrated by all of this and confide in a friend. Your friend says “Stop whining. You’re a woman, with a woman’s body. It’s a perfectly healthy, attractive body, with no pathology. You’re lucky to have it. You’ll get used to it. Suck it up and stop complaining.” Do you respond “You’re right. I’m a woman. Everything is as it should be. It’s ridiculous of me to whine, and it’s disrespectful of my body”? Do you start flirting with men and sleeping with them, since you are now a woman?

    A guy like you, Erik — especially a guy like you — would be absolutely miserable in that situation.

    Now suppose that a male body becomes available. It’s a robust, healthy body, and it bears a striking resemblance to the body you used to occupy. No one else is waiting for a donor body, so you won’t be depriving anyone of one. There’s little to no risk associated with the operation. The hospital offers to perform the operation for free, because this is a teaching hospital and your case offers a great opportunity for med students to observe and learn.

    They approach you with a proposal to do the operation. Do you respond “What? Are you kidding? I’m a woman. I don’t want a man’s body. I don’t belong in a man’s body. How can you even suggest this? It’s so disrespectful!”

    Be honest, Erik. Would you really turn down a risk-free, cost-free opportunity to get back into a man’s body — one that is strikingly similar to the one you used to possess? I have a very hard time believing that you would decline.

    Offering that body to you is a decent and compassionate act. It gives you a chance to get back into a body that matches your perceived gender. What a relief that would be.

    The parallels between your predicament and that of a trans person should be obvious. Many trans people long for the kind of relief you would feel, in my thought experiment, by moving back into a body that matched your perceived gender. People who have undergone various types of gender affirmation therapy report high levels of satisfaction. Regret is rare. Here’s an excerpt from a meta-analysis of studies measuring the rates of regret among people who undergo gender affirmation surgery:

    A total of 27 studies, pooling 7928 transgender patients who underwent any type of GAS, were included. The pooled prevalence of regret after GAS was 1% (95% CI <1%–2%).

    You vehemently insist that trans people should be denied the relief of having a body that more closely matches their perceived gender. I’ve asked before, and will ask again: where does compassion fit into your moral system? Doesn’t it have a place?

  17. Erik:

    Children learn surface-level things first. On the surface, the lesson is: When you whine a lot, you’ll be given what you are whining about.

    A 5-year-old girl loses her leg in an accident. She longs for a prosthetic, so she keeps asking her parents for one, over and over. Do you advise them “Don’t give in to the little brat. If you do, you’ll just be teaching her that if she whines a lot, she’ll be given whatever she’s whining about”?

  18. Poor keiths. If these points are still over your head, too bad. They cannot be dumbed down any further.

    First, it matters whether there is a real issue to whine about or it is just whining for the sake of whining. If the kid is just whining, it is your duty not to give in. But if there is a good reason for the kid to whine, you must help.

    In neither case is it the kid’s duty to understand the difference – the kid is just a kid. It is your duty to understand the difference and convey it to the kid by means of a consistently dutiful behaviour. From this discussion it is clear that you are not up to the duty.

    Second, if it needs hormone therapy, surgery, or some other medical fix, then we are talking about a pathology. It is not a good idea to demand the normalisation of pathologies.

  19. Erik:
    Second, if it needs hormone therapy, surgery, or some other medical fix, then we are talking about a pathology. It is not a good idea to demand the normalisation of pathologies.

    You are begging the question here. What, exactly, counts as a pathology? How do you tell the difference between a pathological condition and a non-pathological condition?

    Related questions might be: is the condition curable? Is it contagious? Is there anything that can be done to ameliorate a non-curable condition? Is it a condition that needs to be fixed?

    A great many people suffer from conditions that require hormone therapy, surgery or constant attention. Are we really “normalizing”, say, diabetes, by equipping diabetics with insulin pumps? If so, is it a good idea to deny them access to insulin? How about people who require crutches or wheelchairs due to birth defects? Should we deny them prosthetics or other assistance for fear we are “normalizing” their handicaps?

    As far as I can tell, you have taken it upon yourself to deem certain abnormalities as being improper to address – that those with such abnormalities should be made to suffer because YOU don’t think such issues should be addressed. Seems to me the problem doesn’t lie with those having such problems, but with you for demanding they be ignored.

    There are dozens of nations where homosexuality is a crime. Do you agree with this?

  20. Current news: FIFA president Gianni Infantino says the following, “Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker.”

    The grownups here can tell that he is lying with blatant hypocrisy. Ask yourselves how you are able to detect it.

    Flint: Are we really “normalizing”, say, diabetes, by equipping diabetics with insulin pumps?

    We are recognising it as an illness, so we are not normalizing it. If you do not deny that diabetes is an illness, then there is some deliberate reason why you are pursuing the wrong tracks in your post.

  21. Erik: First, it matters whether there is a real issue to whine about or it is just whining for the sake of whining. If the kid is just whining, it is your duty not to give in. But if there is a good reason for the kid to whine, you must help.

    In neither case is it the kid’s duty to understand the difference – the kid is just a kid. It is your duty to understand the difference and convey it to the kid by means of a consistently dutiful behaviour. From this discussion it is clear that you are not up to the duty.

    Rarely, if ever, have I observed such impressive self-pwnage.
    For someone who rabbitted on interminably about the importance of being informed,

    In biology and psychology (or medical disciplines of these at least), there is a concept of pathology, or used to be. If there is no pathology, there is no real reason to prescribe hormones or drugs or surgeries. If there is a pathology, it is either bodily or psychological. If it is not bodily, then it is psychological. The trans thing is entirely in the mind.

    you really aren’t informed at all. You appear deeply ignorant of even basic biology. Your output here seems to consist of (poorly understood) Fox News talking points. It’s not a good look.
    Interestingly, the one area where I was somewhat sympathetic to what I’ll call “anti-trans” lobbying was in the field of competitive sports. Until I heard from a friend of my daughter’s, a highly competitive female athlete, that is: she is very supportive of trans athletes and has no issue whatsoever competing against them.
    If she doesn’t mind, what basis do I have to complain? What basis do YOU have, Erik? This is not a rhetorical question, Erik. In what way, precisely, do trans people infringe on your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness?

  22. Erik,

    Funny that you speak so disparagingly of whining when that is exactly what you are doing with respect to LGBTQ people and LGBTQ rights. You’ve pinned your hopes on the very lesson you want us to shield our children from: “When you whine a lot, you’ll be given what you are whining about.”

  23. Erik,

    I asked some questions above regarding how you would respond if the events described in my thought experiment were to befall you. You have conspicuously avoided those questions, as you did when I posed similar questions earlier in the thread. Why is that? If your position is truly a principled one, you should be able to answer without hesitation along the lines I suggested:

    Do you respond “You’re right. I’m a woman. Everything is as it should be. It’s ridiculous of me to whine, and it’s disrespectful of my body”? Do you start flirting with men and sleeping with them, since you are now a woman?

    And:

    They approach you with a proposal to do the operation. Do you respond “What? Are you kidding? I’m a woman. I don’t want a man’s body. I don’t belong in a man’s body. How can you even suggest this? It’s so disrespectful!”

    It’s a real dilemma. If you answer according to your supposed principles, you won’t be believable. You, of all people, aren’t the kind of man who could meekly assume the life of a woman without complaint. But if you admit that you would seize the opportunity to transition back into a male body, then you are admitting to being a hypocrite: when a trans person suffers from a mismatch between body and perceived gender, they need to suck it up and stop complaining; when you suffer from such a mismatch, well, that’s a real problem that needs to be addressed.

    The true underlying principle seems to be “Erik should get what Erik wants. Erik doesn’t like LGBTQ people and doesn’t want them to be treated respectfully and compassionately. Therefore we shouldn’t treat them that way. Erik doesn’t think trans people should be entitled to modify their bodies to bring them more in line with their perceived gender. Therefore we shouldn’t permit this. But if Erik happens to find himself as a man in a woman’s body, well, he’s entitled to change that. Erik should get what Erik wants.”

  24. Erik:

    First, it matters whether there is a real issue to whine about or it is just whining for the sake of whining.

    So people experiencing the pain of gender dysphoria are “just whining for the sake of whining”? They aren’t people who are suffering and would like to ease that suffering — they’re just looking for excuses to whine for the sake of whining? You say the stupidest things, Erik.

    If the kid is just whining, it is your duty not to give in. But if there is a good reason for the kid to whine, you must help.

    I see. So you’re actually fine with imparting the lesson you warned against when you wrote:

    Children learn surface-level things first. On the surface, the lesson is: When you whine a lot, you’ll be given what you are whining about.

    You’re not actually objecting to that lesson. You think it’s fine to reward whining “if there is a good reason for the kid to whine”, meaning that their reason for whining is something that you, Erik, personally approve of. A young girl complains of being an amputee? Get that kid a leg. A young trans woman asks for gender-affirming therapy? Screw her. That isn’t something Erik approves of, so she’s just whining for the sake of whining. Some suffering people deserve our compassion, and others don’t. Who decides? Erik, of course. Erik should get what Erik wants, and he will whine if he doesn’t.

  25. Erik:

    Second, if it needs hormone therapy, surgery, or some other medical fix, then we are talking about a pathology. It is not a good idea to demand the normalisation of pathologies.

    As Flint points out, some diabetics require hormone therapy. Are we “normalizing” diabetes by providing those folks with insulin?

    We are recognising it as an illness, so we are not normalizing it.

    Gender dysphoria is a recognized illness too — it’s listed as a disorder in the DSM-5-TR. ( Important note: Being trans is not a disorder.Gender dysphoria is. Only clinically significant distress caused by gender/body incongruence qualifies as gender dysphoria.)

    Decent people believe that we should ameliorate the suffering of those with the disorder known as “diabetes” AND of those with the disorder known as “gender dysphoria”. You allow that diabetics deserve such help, but you insist that it’s OK — indeed, mandatory — to perpetuate the suffering of those with gender dysphoria by denying them treatment.

    Doesn’t compassion fit into your moral system, Erik? Couldn’t you cram it in somehow, or better still, jettison the bigotry and install compassion in its place?

  26. I wonder how many people truly believe that Samuel Alito and cohorts are actually and consistently “finding” the tenets of their religious beliefs subtly hidden in the Constitution (and hidden so cleverly that those of other faiths and/or political ideologies can’t see them). But Erik seems to be operating on the “Alito principle”, arbitrarily (and capriciously) deciding what’s a pathology, what’s a disorder, and what is normal more on religious grounds than on political grounds. And certainly not on factual grounds.

    Alas, he’s like almost all of us in that way — But for fate (and McConnell) the Court would surely never have discovered these things (except possibly for Merrick Garland, who might still be struggling to come to a decision). And the facts STILL wouldn’t be dispositive, just ask Fox News.

  27. Elizabeth
    Ignored on November 2, 2022 at 6:17 pm said:
    petrushka: That’s kind of what I have in mind by accepting behavior whether it is culturally stereotypical or not. What I find troublesome is the binary thinking implied by the word trans.

    Personally, I am non-conforming in so many ways that have nothing to do with sex or gender. Have been since early childhood. I don’t “understand” trans people, but I understand feeling alone and outside. What I don’t want is to be someone else, even if it made life easier.

    Thanks for this petrushka!

    The important step-change in my understanding of transgender identity was realising that it is not about conforming to a gender stereotype, role, or expression. Like you, I’ve always been a gender non-conformist, and when I first met a transgender woman I found it disconcerting that she seemed to want to “conform” to the very straitjacket I was struggling to escape! Ideologically, it seemed to me that if transgender identity is something to do with being forced into the “wrong” gender stereotypes, then the answer is to get rid of the stereotypes, not “change sex”. There seemed to be something fundamentally anti-feminist about the entire concept – and indeed there is a vociferous “feminist” segment of anti-transgender opinion: “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists” (TERFs) or, as they seem to prefer, “Gender Critical” feminists (GCs).

    But I got it quite wrong. Sure, trans people do often express their gender identity by adopting the cultural signifiers (e.g. dress, hair) of the “other” gender, because those signifiers are how we read the gender of others and how, in turn we are read. And some do enjoy pursuits that are “stereotypical” of the other gender. But many do not. Just as many tomboys (I guess I was one) are not transgender, conversely many trans women are also “tomboys” and many trans men enjoy styles and activities that are “stereotypically” associated with girls or women.

    It turns out (and I think this is the best way to think of it – as an emerging discovery about human self-concept) that transgender identity is about something much deeper and intuitive about the nature of the self than role preferences or self-expression. It really is about identity, and there’s even emerging evidence about what might be its developmental biological basis.

    My daughter was not a stereotypical girl OR boy – she was into trucks, dinosaurs, and construction toys (as was I as a child), but also soft toys, language and poetry (again, as was I). She did not say she was a girl but frequently expressed how “unfair” it was that “you can’t choose”. She was fascinated with the idea of reincarnation – the idea that who you “are” is dissociated with the physical embodiment you end up with.

    But it was only later that either of us had the language to figure out what was going on.

    I copied this post of Lizzie’s over from the “Extermination” thread because it seems more appropriate here because it seems that Lizzie is — in this post — really getting to the heart of what SHE believes “is a woman” (or man) … i.e. “identity”.

    I’ve always liked short summaries and I’ve bolded above what I think is Lizzie’s summary …

    If I can “summarize her summary” I would say that she (now) rejects “cultural signifiers” and “pursuits / hobbies” as indicators of manhood / womanhood. Manhood / womanhood is more about “self identity” … I suppose.

    Anyway, this leaves me confused.

    I’m going to attempt to explain why *I* feel “manly” … I feel “manly” — in part — because I am strongly attracted to “womanly” characteristics — the classic “hourglass figure” that some women have, soft skin, fine facial features, long hair, sexy voice — when I see a woman like this, physical changes literally occur in my body! I immediately want to meet this woman, talk to her, kiss her, jump in bed with her, etc. Why? Well because she’s “a perfect woman” and I cannot any more explain this than I can explain why a hummingbird seems “beautiful” to me, but an opossum seems “ugly”.

    Note that there are other behaviors in myself that I also deem “manly” … strong, tough, waffle-compartment brain, not naturally empathetic, etc. but I admit that these characteristics can be possessed by women as well — so are they truly “manly” characteristics?

    Now let me jump back to the “womanly” characteristics … I have observed girlfriends of mine who ALSO admire the “womanly” characteristics I listed above … for example, I’m particularly fond of “perfect asses” in women … one of my buddies says my favorites are too wide for him … he likes a narrower ass … but I’ve shared pics here and there with girlfriends who want to see the type ass I admire and sometimes when I do, the response is “OMG what a nice ass!” and one gf even said something like “OMG I wanna lick it!” Hmm … as for me, yeah, licking it would be fun, but what would be even more fun — for me — would be if she got on the bed on her knees, dropped her panties and invited me to … well … you get the idea.

    Now one could ask … would the gf that said “OMG I wanna lick it” want to do the same thing I want to do if this “perfect ass woman” got on the bed on her knees? Well I dunno. How would she even do it if she wanted to? With a strap on? Hmm …

    I’m sure I’m asking more questions here than I’m answering … but … (butt? haha) …

    Now we could also talk about what I DO NOT like … for example, you could get the most perfect “man” specimen you like (a Chippendale’s guy for example) and if he got on the bed and dropped his undies and invited me to play … I would NOT be interested, not even a little bit.

    Why is that?

  28. Steve:

    First off, only the trinity is immaterial; the uncreated creator.I am not sure who advised you that soul is immaterial.

    What material is it made of?

    Day-dreaming, talking to yourself, executing queries and out of body experiences are all evidence of the presence of a separate self.

    Does this separate self have a gender ?

  29. HM guy

    Why is that?

    Possibilities might be endless. But one thing seems true ,since you admit no choice in the source of your attraction , it may just a twist of fate that manly ,to you , is not a Chippendale.

  30. HMGuy:

    Anyway, this leaves me confused.

    I’ll bet that happens fairly often.

    I’m going to attempt to explain why *I* feel “manly” … I feel “manly” — in part — because I am strongly attracted to “womanly” characteristics — the classic “hourglass figure” that some women have, soft skin, fine facial features, long hair, sexy voice — when I see a woman like this, physical changes literally occur in my body! I immediately want to meet this woman, talk to her, kiss her, jump in bed with her, etc.

    Most men feel an attraction to beautiful women. What is your point?

    Note that there are other behaviors in myself that I also deem “manly” … strong, tough, waffle-compartment brain, not naturally empathetic, etc. but I admit that these characteristics can be possessed by women as well — so are they truly “manly” characteristics?

    Are there any personality characteristics seen in men or women that you think are completely absent in people of the other sex? What point are you trying to make here?

    Now let me jump back to the “womanly” characteristics … I have observed girlfriends of mine who ALSO admire the “womanly” characteristics I listed above …

    I suspect you haven’t spent much time around women. It’s common for women to admire the “womanly characteristics” of other women, including in a completely non-sexual way. I sincerely hope that your appreciation of beautiful women isn’t limited to your sexual response to them.

    …for example, I’m particularly fond of “perfect asses” in women … one of my buddies says my favorites are too wide for him … he likes a narrower ass … but I’ve shared pics here and there with girlfriends who want to see the type ass I admire and sometimes when I do, the response is “OMG what a nice ass!”

    See above.

    …and one gf even said something like “OMG I wanna lick it!” Hmm …

    Many women feel sexually attracted to other women. What on earth is your point?

    …as for me, yeah, licking it would be fun, but what would be even more fun — for me — would be if she got on the bed on her knees, dropped her panties and invited me to … well … you get the idea.

    OK, so women with nice asses make you horny. What is your frikkin’ point?

    Now one could ask … would the gf that said “OMG I wanna lick it” want to do the same thing I want to do if this “perfect ass woman” got on the bed on her knees? Well I dunno. How would she even do it if she wanted to? With a strap on? Hmm …

    Assuming you’re referring to penetration, there are more ways to penetrate than by inserting your penis into someone. If you’re referring specifically to penile penetration, then no, your ex-girlfriend could not do that (assuming she doesn’t have a penis). So penile penetration requires a penis. What could be more obvious, and what point are you trying to make, exactly?

    Now we could also talk about what I DO NOT like … for example, you could get the most perfect “man” specimen you like (a Chippendale’s guy for example) and if he got on the bed and dropped his undies and invited me to play … I would NOT be interested, not even a little bit.

    OK, so you’re not sexually attracted to men (assuming you’re not in the closet). Your point?

    Why is that?

    My guess is that it’s a combination of biology and social conditioning, an example of the latter being the societal approval of sex between men and adolescent boys in ancient Greece. But to borrow your capitalization habit, WHAT POINT ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE?

    You’ve listed some of the traits that make you feel manly. Are you asking us to validate your manhood? Are you suggesting that men in whom those traits are less pronounced are not really men? Do you think that listing some male-associated and female-associated traits somehow answers the question “What is a woman”?

    If none of the above, then what is your point?

  31. HMGuy,

    Both you and Erik have avoided the many questions I’ve raised about how you would respond after undergoing the operation I described in my thought experiment. The only response I’ve seen from you is that post-operation, you would consider yourself neither a man nor a woman but a “hybrid”.

    I encourage you to answer my other questions, and I will restate them here if you’d like. In the meantime, here are a few questions in response to your “hybrid” comment: Do you see your belief about being “a hybrid” as distinct from regarding yourself as “a man in a woman’s body”? If so, how do they differ, and what principles underlie the distinction you are drawing? If not, how does your situation differ, in principle, from that of a trans person who considers himself a man in a woman’s body?

  32. MY POINT — keiths — IS THAT I’M TRYING TO UNDERSTAND LIZZIE’S POINT HERE …

    It turns out (and I think this is the best way to think of it – as an emerging discovery about human self-concept) that transgender identity is about something much deeper and intuitive about the nature of the self than role preferences or self-expression. It really is about identity, and there’s even emerging evidence about what might be its developmental biological basis.

    but so far I am unable to understand her (her? why is Lizzie a “her”?) so I attempted to explain — in part — the nature of MY OWN “manliness” and a woman’s “womanliness” (to me). My hope is that if I can “Know Thyself” — i.e. unpack what causes ME to feel “manly” and admire certain “womanly” characteristics, maybe I will begin to understand what Lizzie is saying.

  33. Let me try to clarify further by sharing my own experience … I recently met a woman online and I really like her more than many others I’ve met. But wait. Why do I say I met a “woman”? Well because her pictures reveal “womanly” curves — hips, breasts, etc — she has long hair and fine facial features that usually go along with being a woman (in my experience). We’ve done a bit of sex play and she has very nice breasts, much larger and rounder and more shapely than any man’s I’ve ever seen. She has recorded voice messages and her voice seems very “womanly” and “sexy” to me. She has invited me to her city to visit her and if I go, I suspect we will share a bed and I will discover that she has a vagina. OK? So to ME … all these PHYSICAL things combine to distinguish her as a “woman”.

    Now my point in starting this thread was to float the idea that there are also NON-PHYSICAL characteristics that women have which ALSO distinguish them from men.

  34. HMGuy

    The title of this OP, which you wrote, is “What is a Woman?”. I am trying to assist you in answering that question by offering a thought experiment along with some questions that are highly relevant to gender identity. You have avoided those questions, for reasons that I suspect will be obvious to our readers.

    If you are genuinely interested in answering your OP’s question, why not answer mine?

  35. HMGuy:

    Why do I say I met a “woman”? Well because her pictures reveal “womanly” curves — hips, breasts, etc — she has long hair and fine facial features that usually go along with being a woman (in my experience).

    To infer that a person with those characteristics is a woman is a reasonable inference, though not always correct. What isn’t reasonable is to conclude that all women must possess those characteristics. They clearly don’t. Given that, I don’t see how your list helps to answer your OP’s question. You haven’t provided criteria by which we can determine whether a given person is a woman. You’ve merely listed traits that some women possess.

    So to ME … all these PHYSICAL things combine to distinguish her as a “woman”.

    It’s true that people with those traits tend to be women. But again, there are women who lack them. You therefore haven’t answered the question “What is a woman?”. Instead, you’ve answered the question “If a person possesses these traits, are they likely to be a woman?”.

    Now my point in starting this thread was to float the idea that there are also NON-PHYSICAL characteristics that women have which ALSO distinguish them from men.

    Earlier in the comments, I made the case that there are significant personality differences on average between men and women. The evidence for that is quite strong.

    Problem is, the undeniable personality differences between the average man and the average woman don’t give us criteria for determining whether a particular person is a woman, since some women will deviate markedly from the average.

  36. Earlier in the comments, I made the case that there are significant personality differences on average between men and women. The evidence for that is quite strong.

    Good. I agree. I floated this idea in the OP and I wanted to see if people here agree. So good. Glad you do.

  37. HMGuy,

    Good. Now that we’ve established that point of agreement, let’s move on to my thought experiment.

    You’ve said that after undergoing the operation, you would consider yourself neither a man or a woman, but rather a “hybrid”. Do you see your belief about being a hybrid as distinct from regarding yourself as “a man in a woman’s body”? If so, how do they differ, and what principles underlie the distinction you are drawing? If not, how does your situation differ, in principle, from that of a trans person who considers himself a man in a woman’s body?

  38. keiths:
    HMGuy,

    Good. Now that we’ve established that point of agreement, let’s move on to my thought experiment.

    You’ve said that after undergoing the operation, you would consider yourself neither a man or a woman, but rather a “hybrid”. Do you see your belief about being a hybrid as distinct from regarding yourself as “a man in a woman’s body”? If so, how do they differ, and what principles underlie the distinction you are drawing? If not, how does your situation differ, in principle, from that of a trans person who considers himself a man in a woman’s body?

    Never thought about it before TBH. But then, empathy has never been my strong suit. The best way for me to answer your question would probably be for me to imagine MYSELF having a woman’s body — stuff I’ve described above and won’t repeat for squeamish people like Damitall — yet still being turned on by the items I also listed above — which, again, I won’t repeat out of consideration for snowflakes like Damitall. If this were my situation, one thing I would be frustrated about would be that “I don’t have a penis, dammit!!” (dammitall haha) … “how am I gonna fulfill my urges with this hot babe that’s beckoning me to take her?” And I would be stumped and probably frustrated.

  39. HMGuy:

    The best way for me to answer your question would probably be for me to imagine MYSELF having a woman’s body…

    That’s how I see it too. You would still be HMGuy, but in a woman’s body (see my earlier comment about Miguel and Wanda). You currently regard yourself — HMGuy — as a man. After the operation, would you consider yourself to be a man in a woman’s body? If not, what would you be, and what are the principles upon which you base your distinction?

    …yet still being turned on by the items I also listed above…

    I think that’s a safe assumption. Your brain wouldn’t change overnight, so you’d still be attracted by the “womanly characteristics” that appealed to you before the operation, at least in the short run. Would that make you a lesbian, given that your body is female? Or would you still be a heterosexual?

    If this were my situation, one thing I would be frustrated about would be that “I don’t have a penis, dammit!!” (dammitall haha) … “how am I gonna fulfill my urges with this hot babe that’s beckoning me to take her?” And I would be stumped and probably frustrated.

    So you’d be dissatisfied with your female body and desirous of a male body with a penis that you could stick into the many “hot babes” who “beckon” you to take them.

    A man trapped in a woman’s body, wishing he had a man’s body. Does that ring a bell?

  40. HMGuy,

    Please don’t skip over my questions. They’re aimed at helping you think more carefully about gender identity, which, after all, is the point of your OP. Here they are again:

    After the operation, would you consider yourself to be a man in a woman’s body? If not, what would you be, and what are the principles upon which you base your distinction?

    And:

    Your brain wouldn’t change overnight, so you’d still be attracted by the “womanly characteristics” that appealed to you before the operation, at least in the short run. Would that make you a lesbian, given that your body is female? Or would you still be a heterosexual?

  41. “Operation” … if I underwent an operation to make my body look female, I would probably consider myself a hybrid, unless I started having “womanly” feelings … for example, getting turned on by Chippendale dudes, liking it when men open the door for me, etc. If my feelings / emotions / mental processes changed to more or less match my physical changes, then of course I would consider myself a woman, not a hybrid.

  42. The labels “lesbian heterosexual etc” don’t matter much to me. What matters is the actual reality of what’s going on with my body and emotions and thought processes.

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