This is an excellent analysis of the modern trend to redefine the meaning of "female." When Rachel Donezal insisted she was "trans-racial" the world cThis is an excellent analysis of the modern trend to redefine the meaning of "female." When Rachel Donezal insisted she was "trans-racial" the world collectively lost it because white women should not pretend to be black women, even if they "identify" as black women. I do think that the world was too hard on Donezel, but I can understand why, because, after all, being black is not something you can simply take off and put on again as it suits you. And accepting scholarships and grants intended for black women is cheating, IMO. But why isn't the same true of transgender women who accept grants and scholarships intended for women? After all, billons of dollars are at stake.
McGuire argues that being a woman is not an arbitrary definition, but a biological and involuntary one. I accept the existence of transgender women, and believe they deserve to be treated fairly, but I don't think they are the same as women. In fact, the biological difference between the sexes is much, much greater than the difference between various races, which is mostly trivial external attributes relating to adaptations to regional climates. Sex exists in the DNA, and it is determined at conception. It affects many different biological aspects from heart rate to physical strength to dept of color perception. No matter what cosmetic and hormonal treatments we administer, we cannot (yet) change DNA. So I'm not entirely comfortable with considering men and women to be arbitrary definitions, because the future of the human species depends on that distinction.
McGuire takes on the Marxists and cultural relativists who tend to believe all human beings are a blank slate, that sex is cultural, not biological, and that the brain, alone of all organs, is unaffected by sex hormones or even by evolutionary modifications. Her chapters on women firefighters, police, and military, and the hot-button issue of locker room access, are nicely written and well-researched.
However I do have an issue with some of her footnotes, in that there are data sources that have since been discredited. I wish I could cite one, but I didn't put a Post-It on the pages and now cannot find them again. One of them is the so-called epidemic of rape on college campuses. There isn't one. College women are less likely to be raped than women outside of college. But I think she's right to call out the "lad" culture that seems to have become the norm for women. Excessive drinking is a problem, and the ridiculous notion that girls can do everything boys can do does not help. If a guy passes out drunk at a frat house party, he might wake up with Sharpie marker on his face, or his wallet or phone might be stolen. But the consquences for women can be much more severe. Some college girls believe they can take the same risks that met do and not be faced with any more danger than men would face, but that simply isn't the case.
Nevertheless I feel McGuire is a little too conservative in her attitude of reasonable behaviour for women. As a libertarian woman, I don't have an issue with women financing their tuition with prostitution, as long as the physical danger is not too excessive. I don't care what other women do with their bodies, including selling sex, if that's what they choose to do. I think McGuire occassionally comes off as a bit prudish, and the sources she cites are not always verifiably sound data, which is why I knocked off one star. However these are minor issues with an otherwise excellent book that covers an issue that is highly emotional for many: how do we define men and women, if not by their sex? ...more