(OT, but I’ve written it all now.)
I think there’s plenty to discuss, actually, and MiMo put his finger exactly on the salient issue, which is fundamentally language-related, meaning that LEO should be the perfect place for it: how do you define the word ‘woman’? How do you define the word ‘man’? I take it many people here think these words not only should, but inarguably do, refer to gender identity rather than biological sex. Fine. (Or let’s say it’s fine, for argument’s sake.)
But defining ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in this way does not render biological sex irrelevant. Biological sex forms the basis of experiences and functions shared, or potentially shared, by one half of humanity – menstruation, breasts, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause. And other experiences shared, or potentially shared, by the other half – the voice change, facial hair, erections, ejaculation, impotence. In certain parts of the world, it results in clear sex-based oppression – abortion of female foetuses, female genital mutilation, breast ironing, forced marriage. In most places, tiny children are socialised differently depending on their biological sex, before they have developed any understanding of ‘gender’.
That being the case, we need words referring to the biological sexes, so that we can talk about these experiences, campaign for the associated needs, and fight the associated injustices. If ‘man’ and ‘woman’ no longer fit the bill, can we come up with other words instead?
Or are we so progressive and evolved that we no longer need such words? According to some, human biological sex is now understood to be so complex that dividing people into two categories is fundamentally reductionist. Early humans may have categorised people in this way, in what was presumably one of the very first distinctions drawn when human language first emerged, but that was because they had a primitive understanding of the world. According to this line of thinking, if we do need to refer to sex-related anatomical differences, we can resort to paraphrases or compound words (‘people who menstruate’, ‘uterus-havers’, ‘biologically female’ (if we’re lucky)).
But Is moving away from clear language to refer to biological sex really a sign of progress, or is it actually the opposite? Isn’t it, in fact, a form of science denialism? Did early humans really divide people into two categories because they lacked the more sophisticated understanding of the world we have today? Or was it because, like it or not, humans are obviously and undeniably a sexually dimorphic species? Changing the language we use to refer to males and females not only makes it more difficult to talk about our basic biological functions; it implies that they are somehow shameful and taboo. Where have we heard that before?
In other words, am I allowed a single word that refers to the half of the human race with whom I believe I share fundamental aspects of my biology, and which excludes the other half? If not, why not?