My recent column concerning confusion over the question, “What is a woman?” elicited a public challenge for me to offer some definitions of “woman” that would evoke a rousing applause.
In response, I first turned to the American Heritage Dictionary, finding a primary description that, while fitting, might not inspire a standing ovation. Truth can seem mundane at times. Nevertheless, here it is: “Woman: An adult female human.”
This begs the question: Are we making things too complicated?
Though I’d begun my research prior to Matt Walsh’s recent Daily Wire documentary, “What is a Woman?,” I found it affirming that, after Walsh’s cross-continental search to answer the same question, he, too, landed at this most basic definition, provided by his wife right before she handed him a pickle jar to open.
In the film, the people of the African Maasai tribe, which received Walsh as a visitor, chuckled at the question, responding that a woman is “one who can deliver,” as in babies; i.e., one with a womb.
Though I realize there’s more to being a woman than bearing children, motherhood is indeed a significant aspect of womanhood. Whether through having our own children, or being a spiritual mother to others, we females are indelibly tied to nurturing other humans.
In family life, women are the heart and soul of the home. Women cannot be fathers, and men cannot be mothers. Again, in reality, it’s quite simple.
The Judeo-Christian faith asserts this truth. In Genesis 2:20-23, we find Adam, the first man, with no fitting helpmate. God causes Adam to fall into a deep sleep, and from his rib, creates another being, complementary to but different from a man, though equally dignified.
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” Adam exclaims. “She shall be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of man.”
St. Edith Stein believed our femaleness or maleness reaches soul level. “A woman’s soul is fashioned to be a shelter in which other souls may unfold,” she said, noting that woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal and whole,” adding, “To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning.”
In his “Letter to Woman,” St. John Paul II said women have a natural propensity to “see persons with their hearts…independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them.”
Both believed, rightly, that women have a transformative value in society through their unique gifts.
Women are a magnificent creation, not replicable as the body of a man. Science reveals that our hormones and brains function differently; the cells of females have XX chromosomes, hardwiring femininity in the genes. Years after our deaths, if our graves are dug up, archaeologists will know whether we were male or female by examining our bones.
Being a woman is no less exquisite a reality, and no more complicated, than that.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on June 20, 2022.]