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Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson claims she doesn’t know what a woman is. Swimmer Will Thomas (now Lia Thomas) thinks he does. What does God say? It’s more than you might think.
Is “Woman” Hard to Define?
For a couple years now I’ve been meaning to write a blog about femininity—what it means to be a woman. I’ve been putting it off, but after the recent questioning of Ketanji Brown Jackson in Congress, I couldn’t procrastinate any longer. When a U.S. Senator asks a Supreme Court nominee in an official congressional hearing if she could define the word, “woman,” and the judge says, “No. I can’t. … I’m not a biologist”—our culture is in a really bad place.
Most normal people rolled their eyes at that. Jackson’s response implies the answer has something to do with biology. But if it’s a matter of biology, then it would not take a trained biologist to discover the difference between a boy and a girl. Children can do that. Throughout the history of mankind, everyone, regardless of political orientation, regarded the question of maleness and femaleness as the easiest of all questions. People with female parts and XX chromosomes are women. Simple as that.
But the “trans” activists of our day believe they are the first people in all of human history to discover that humanity has had it wrong all this time. They say it’s more complicated than physiology. Leftists news outlets rushed to Judge Jackson’s defense with headlines like this one from the Philadelphia Inquirer: Defining ‘woman’ is complicated for everyone.
So complicated, it seems, that a definition is impossible. Nevertheless, even though they don’t know what the word means, even transgenders use it. William Thomas changed his name to Lia and refers to himself as a “transgender woman.”
They use the term, “woman” so they must mean something by it. Evidently, they believe a woman is anyone who feels like a woman.
Feeling Like a Woman
The problem with that is obvious. What if the person is wrong about what it feels like to be a woman? If I walked into a room full of women and claimed I knew what it feels like to be a woman, I doubt it would be well-received.
And rightly so. A person in a man’s body may claim to know what it feels like to be a woman, but how can he be sure? Isn’t it possible for a person to feel one way and be wrong? What if a person feels like he’s an animal? Or that he’s God? We have all felt things that turned out not to match reality.
Personally, I have no idea what it feels like to be a woman. For that matter, I can’t even say I know what it feels like to be a man. I know how I feel, but I don’t know how other men feel. My suspicion is that there are millions of different ways men feel. And the same goes for women. Using one’s feelings as a definition of gender is hopelessly imprecise.
Trans? From What to What?
And it’s contradicted by the very term, “transgender.” Bruce Jenner (now Kaitlyn Jenner) believes he was female from childhood. But if that’s the case, in what sense is he “trans”? Surgery and hormone treatments represent a physical transition, but if femaleness is not a matter of physical traits, in what sense is there a transition from male to female? If Bruce Jenner really was female from birth because he felt female, why call him a transgender woman? Why not just a woman?
The Distinction between the Sexes
They use that language because the transgender movement has backed into a truth that the secular world has long resisted—that men and women are different. And that the differences matter.
On this point, they are in agreement with the Bible. From the opening pages of Scripture God made it clear how important the distinction between the sexes is to him.
Genesis 1:27 …In the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 5:2 He created them male and female and blessed them.
And as ardent as Scripture is about the distinction between male and female, the world has been equally strident in their effort to flatten the differences between the sexes.
The worst culprit in this has been the feminist movement. No movement has undervalued femaleness more than feminism.
Feminism is not mainly about equal pay or equal rights. It is about deprecating femaleness altogether.
The feminist movement has proved to be one of the greatest enemies to femininity there is. The movement is misnamed. “Feminist” leaders despise femininity. For years they told women that in order to find fulfillment, women had to be like men. Stop bearing children, get out of the home, get into the work force—do all the things men do. The more you can be like men, the better.
There is such a thing as a heroine. Many have lived in history. But Hollywood has no concept of it. Their idea of a heroine is to take a petite, 100 pound girl and put her in the role of an male action hero. The more she acts like a man, the better. They glorify masculine roles and masculine characteristics and scoff at all that’s feminine.
A more accurate term for the movement would be “anti-feminism,” or “masculinism,” because they despise all that is feminine and prize masculine traits above all.
Thankfully, the movement has waned in recent decades as millions of women discovered they don’t really like being men.
The Preciousness of Femaleness
While the world has undervalued femaleness, God has prized it. Throughout Scripture, God assigns value and dignity to women that is strikingly out of step with cultural norms.
And that attitude is evident in cultures where Christianity has had influence. As you survey cultures across the world, the greater the influence of Christianity, the more women are treated with respect.
Femaleness supremely valuable in the eyes of God. After creating woman, God stopped creating. Eve was the crowning climax of God’s creative work. He takes pleasure in femininity because women bear the image of God. Make a list of female traits and you will have a list of attributes of God. Women exist to display truths about God that we wouldn’t properly understand if we only had men.
Beyond the Body
Despite their claims, even the transgender activists seem to believe that physical characteristics are indeed a significant aspect of what it means to be male or female.
And they’re right. Your body is very much a part of your identity. If someone punches your body, you say, “He punched me.” If your body is sick, you say, “I’m sick.” If your body is in Colorado, your whole being is in Colorado.
So your body is important, but it’s not all there is to you. You’re still the same person now as when you were three, even though not one cell of your body from back then is still part of your body today. There is a “you” that goes deeper than your body.
And on this point, the transgender movement is right. There is more to femaleness than physical traits. But what is it? What is the definition of “woman”?
What Does God Say?
Rather than relying on feelings and opinions, which are decidedly unreliable means of discovering truth, a more rational approach would be to look to our Creator to define what we are. What does the Bible say about what it means to be a woman and not a man?
Perhaps the most obvious mark of femininity is beauty. Nothing in creation is more beautiful than female human beings. If they want to sell a magazine to men, they put a beautiful woman on the cover. If they want to sell a magazine to women, they put a beautiful woman on the cover. Women are associated with beauty.
This is by God’s design. 1 Peter 3 has a lengthy passage teaching women how to become more beautiful.
1 Peter 3:3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
God designed women to reflect his beauty in a greater way than anything else in the creation. And it’s a beauty that emanates from her character.
The feminist movement reacted against this. Since they are all about making women more like men, they downplay the importance of beauty. They say, “It’s demeaning for a woman to jump through hoops just to be attractive to men!”
But women don’t wear nice clothes, style their hair, put on makeup, and all the rest just to be attractive to men. They also do it to appear attractive to other women. And they do it to be attractive to themselves when they are alone in their bathroom standing in front of a mirror. For most women, it simply feels good to be beautiful.
Women to the Rescue
Another characteristic of femaleness has to do with the role God assigned to women when he created mankind.
Genesis 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.
The woman was created to be a suitable helper for the man. But when you hear that word “helper” don’t think assistant. The only other individual in the Bible described by this Hebrew word is God.
That should tell you something about what this word means. It doesn’t mean assistant. God is not our assistant.
The word means to rescue someone out of desperate trouble—trouble he can’t handle himself.
So what kind of desperate trouble was the man in that he needed to be rescued from? God gave him a task that was more than he was capable of doing. He didn’t have enough strength or knowledge or ability. He needed another human being—a different kind of human being who had a very special ability. The ability to strengthen him.
God has given women a special ability to support and strengthen male leadership.
Over the years I’ve faced some pretty rough situations in ministry. I know what it’s like to have someone spread lies about me and turn the entire church against me. I know what it’s like to be in a board meeting with twenty people and every single one of them is against me and no one is on my side.
And I know what it’s like to feel like I have the strength to face it because of my wife’s support. When she is for me, I feel like I can face down the whole world.
I was in a situation that required more strength than I naturally had. I was in a desperate condition and needed a helper—a rescuer who could provide strength that I didn’t otherwise have access to. And God gave me that helper and enabled me to be strong.
If you’ve never experienced it, it’s hard to even explain. But take my word for it. You can hardly imagine how much strength a woman can infuse into a man by supporting him and encouraging him and being responsive to his leadership.
I don’t think most women realize how much power they have to strengthen their husbands.
And they have just as much power to weaken them. There are men who seem like some of the strongest, most powerful, most intimidating guys around. But in their home they are boys, because their wife has ripped away all their strength.
She treats him like a child, demeans him, mocks him. She manipulates him and controls him and gets him to get her way. It might be through nagging, crying, pouting, being in a bad mood, yelling, or manipulating him with her body.
And he is powerless to do anything about it because in order for him to have enough strength to lead, he needs to be strengthened. He’s like Popeye needing spinach, and she’s the only one who can provide that spinach.
The spinach is those times when he makes an effort to lead and she praises him for it and encourages him in it and supports it and is responsive to his leadership and follows it willingly and eagerly. But if she withholds that she makes him weak and powerless.
Women have awesome power to strengthen or to weaken men.
And this applies to single women as well. A guy in the youth group tries to step up and be a man and lead. He says, “Hey, let’s go ahead and pray.” If the girls laugh at him, roll their eyes, or just ignore him, that will rip the strength out of his manhood and spiritual leadership. They just made sure it will be a really long time before that guy ever makes another effort toward spiritual leadership, if ever.
But something as simple as one girl saying, “Yeah, good idea” and influencing a couple others to respond to his leadership can infuse strength that will affect the trajectory of his whole life.
A Real Woman
A real woman is someone who can spot spiritual leadership and loves it. And she knows the power she has been given to strengthen it or destroy it. And she is skilled and righteous in the use of that power.
She is beautiful, and her beauty brings glory to God.
Those are two characteristics of femininity. We could explore many others. Watch a mother nurture her children or lay her life down for the sake of her family. Watch that, and you’re seeing the heart of God.
Consider a woman’s sensitivity—how she notices how people feel. How she can pick up on slight changes in skin color and emotional reactions. Watch her compassion. Her tenderness. Her ability to comfort. You’re seeing attributes of God.
What would the world be like if there were no women? Horrible, right? Unimaginable. And that’s exactly what Satan would love to see, which is why he pushes so hard for society to destroying femininity.
He’s done it through chauvinism—monstrous men when use brute strength the subjugate women. He’s done it through feminism—working to flatten the differences between male and female. And now he’s doing it through the confusion of transgenderism.
Whatever the form, we must resist it at every turn. We must strive to build masculine men and nurture feminine women. We must do this because God created them in his image, male and female, and it was very good.