Yet another Citizens’ Assembly has been established, this time to discuss the issue of gender equality. It began in Dublin, on Saturday, and will run once a month for six months. But I wonder if the Assembly, which is focussing mainly on female equality, can even tell us what a woman is?
For example, does it believe a person must be biologically female in order to be classed as a female, or is it based on self-definition, that is, on what you think you are? It will surely be the latter, because that is the law of the land.
Since womanhood will be based on self-definition, then the concept has no objective meaning. The same goes for men. Anyone gets to call themselves a ‘man’, and once again objective facts like your actual physical body have nothing to do with it.
What leads someone to declare they are a ‘woman’ when biology is discarded as a qualifier? It is because they ‘feel’ like a woman? But what does this mean? It can’t mean because they are interested in typically ‘female’ things like (say) working with people, because that would be ‘sexist’.
According to much feminist theory, nothing is distinctively male or female because typically ‘male’ or ‘female’ pursuits and interests are ‘socially constructed’, that is, to do with the way we are raised.
So, if our bodies don’t make us male or female, and our interests don’t make us male or female, then what does?
If you can’t say what a woman is, then you can’t even begin to answer the question, ‘what do women want’? Do they want to work in typically male occupations (like construction) in the same numbers as men? Do they want to work as many paid hours as men? Or do they want to spend more time at home? Who is to say, when the Assembly can’t even say what a woman is? That rather leaves the whole thing in the air, surely?