A good analysis, even with the Wittgenstein

LonerBox addresses the “What is a woman?” question, and I pretty much agree with him — it’s a bad question, asked in bad faith, and the answer is more complex than a conservative would be willing to accept. Of particular interest is the section starting at about 19:45, where he talks about what “an increasing number of biologists” advocate, that sex is biological, but expressed at different levels, and that brain sex is just as, or more, important than gonad sex or hormonal sex or chromosomal sex or all those other important biological aspects.

I can at least say that this biologist agrees with him, although I can think of a few others that are a bit batty on the subject.


  1. Owlmirror says

    @PZ: Maybe this could use a signal boost?

    Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance


    Office for Civil Rights, Department of Education.


    Notice of proposed rulemaking.


    The U.S. Department of Education (Department) proposes to amend the regulations implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX). The purpose of the proposed regulations is to better align the Title IX regulatory requirements with Title IX’s nondiscrimination mandate, and to clarify the scope and application of Title IX and the obligation of all schools, including elementary schools, secondary schools, postsecondary institutions, and other recipients that receive Federal financial assistance from the Department (referred to below as recipients or schools) to provide an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including through responding to incidents of sex discrimination. The Department recognizes that schools vary in size, student populations, and administrative structure. The proposed regulations would enable all schools to meet their obligations to comply fully with Title IX while providing them appropriate discretion and flexibility to account for these variations.


    Comments must be received on or before September 12, 2022.

    There are a lot of comments already, and last I checked, a lot of them were from homophobes/transphobes. Some preacher or pundit got it spreading among the right wing. There’s a lot of boilerplate copy-and-paste.

    But hopefully, good comments will be considered more than lots of repetitive comments.

    As it says on the page, everything is meant to be made public, so don’t put anything there you wouldn’t want the world to know.


  2. unclefrogy says

    as I read this (I did not listen to the vid) i was reminded of “My Fair Lady” specifically the professor’s song where he goes on about that very question. Very entertaining it is as well. I based on the Shaw play the satirical point was most of what we think of as how people behave and who they are is completely superficial
    The show could be cast in a very different way today and the point would still be the same. Shaw might even approve
    There is so much that is just appearances and convention anything even slightly outside the expected norm still is seen as some kind of threat to what people have decided what reality and life is with barely looking further then what they want it to be.

  3. enkidu says

    I thought the Wittgenstein was the best part.
    Seriously though, I thought this was an excellent exposition of the issue. The only problem I had was with the media, I find videos distracting (same with podcasts), or rather I am easily distracted watching/listening to them. I would much rather read a book or an essay. I will have to watch it several times before it sinks in.
    I’m nearly past my use by date, I know.

  4. StevoR says

    Think I’ve mentioned before but when it comes to this & thinking philosophers maybe we should be like Nelson Goodman who instead of asking “what is art” asked “when is art” and ask when is a woman rather than what is a woman?

    One source : http://aestheticstoday.blogspot.com/2014/11/when-is-art-goodman-vs-danto-and.html#:~:text=For%20Goodman%2C%20something%20is%20art,important%20of%20these%20is%20exemplification.)

    NB. Apologies if this point is already made in the OP’s clip. Haven’t yet had time to view it.

    @Ray Ceeya : Why the cringe from the title? Not a Wittgenstein fan?

  5. Sphinx of Black Quartz says

    It is most certainly asked in bad faith. Matt Walsh’s crockumentary includes an interview with an actual gender studies professor, who answers the question in detail… and the film edits the answer into a bunch of muzzy cross-faded cuts over video of Matt sitting and looking bored. Matt then continues to insist nobody can answer the question that was just answered.

  6. Ada Christine says

    i know for a fact that i’m not a man despite my assigned gender at birth. what i’m less certain about is whether that makes me a woman. i call myself a woman, and thinking of myself in terms of being a woman is more congruent with how i feel in gender terms. a lot of the time, though, i just feel like it’s not something i can know on a fundamental level. maybe “woman” is just eaiser to say and easier for cishets to digest than “nonbinary transfeminine person.” or maybe it’s the fact that i don’t feel like i’ll ever sufficiently “pass” or “blend” or whatever term for the concept of a socially opaque gender performance one is more comfortable with. i don’t know. i’m not having a very good time. i’m doing the things that a trans woman would do and they help me feel better, but it feels like it’s never going to be enough for me. i feel like i’m never going to be enough of a woman for me.

    these fuckheads that want to make it impossible for trans people to even attempt to find a path on which they can maybe one day exist comfortably make me sick. and they make me scared. and they speak to that part of me that doubts, that doesn’t know peace or comfort. they make it shout “you’re a pervert with a diseased mind! you’re mutilating your body because it makes you feel better? who the fuck does that?!”

    i know that was a lot of word vomit about my gender dysphoria mental state. but it’s how i’m feeling and how all this affects me. i’m not having a good time.

  7. Silentbob says


    Hormone and chromosome research, attempts to develop new means of human reproduction (life created in, or considerably supported by, the scientist’s laboratory), work with transsexuals, and studies of formation of gender identity in children provide basic information which challenges the notion that there are two discrete biological sexes. That information threatens to transform the traditional biology of sex difference into the radical biology of sex similarity. That is not to say that there is one sex, but that there are many. The evidence which is germane here is simple. The words “male” and “female, ” “man” and “woman, ” are used only because as yet there are no others.

    Actual radical feminist (not pseudofeminist reactionary conservative larping as a feminist, aka TERF) Andrea Dworkin, “Woman Hating”, 1974.


  8. Ada Christine says

    @Silentbob #9

    Every transsexual, white, black, man,
    woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency as a transsexual.”

    dang she was right and is still right 40 years later.

  9. says

    In our book, we write about when musicians are evaluated an opaque screen is placed between them and the judges to prevent bias based on sex, ethnicity, etc. I stipulate that there is WAY TOO MUCH focus on sex/gender and not enough on quality of intellect and ethics. My organization doesn’t care if you are male, female, trans, martian or whatever. We do care about your honesty, caring, integrity, etc.

  10. Bruce says

    “What is a woman?”
    The correct answer is: who wants to know?
    That is, it’s nobody’s business what anyone else’s gender identity is unless YOU sincerely want to date that specific person. And even then, your relationship with your beloved needs to have advanced to a certain point before this is relevant or appropriate.
    If the questioner, say, sets up a specific romantic date on say Tinder with a person who’s look they like, I think gender identities do not have to be revealed yet. Only if they mutually agree they want to take it to a higher and physical level does the question become relevant. That is, the questioner must first admit they are physically attracted to the other person before hinting they want more gender knowledge. First, they should share pronouns. If they can’t handle that, further questions are irrelevant.

  11. says

    Three things…

    First, is anyone in the “TERF”/”gender-critical”/whatever crowd asking “What is a man?”

    And second, I think we should recall the definition offered in another FTB post on this question: “A woman is a person who our society typically associates with the female sex.”

    Which does sound rather circular — but for all practical purposes, it’s the definition we’ve all been working with, ever since we first heard words like “boy” and “girl” as little kids.

    And third, did y’all notice how the dictionary definition of “woman” shown in the screen-grab in LonerBox’s video began with “1a?” Right there we have an admission that even dictionaries admit there’s more than one commonly-used definition for that word.

  12. dangerousbeans says

    @Raging Bee
    The problem is if they define “man” as well then it becomes clear that a lot of people don’t fit into their definitions, and they have to either admit that their definitions aren’t much use, or confess to their genocidal goals. The whole focus on women is to play on misogyny and because women are the marked caste in the system they are working from.