Female Is A Fact

Reporter to Gloria Steinem on her 40th birthday - “You don’t look 40.”

Gloria – “This is what 40 looks like.”

Humans have 23 pairs (46 total) of chromosomes in each cell. Gametes, the sperm and egg cells, each have 23 chromosomes. When we open a biology textbook, we see them arranged from largest to smallest pairs. One of each pair is inherited from the father and one from the mother. The functions of some genes are well-known, and some abnormalities yield predictable results. Genetic research is robust.

Chromosome 1, the largest, has 249 million base pairs and constitutes about 8% of total DNA. Chromosome 10 has more than 133 million base pairs. Chromosome 22 has about 51 million.

Chromosome X -- all of us have one from our mothers – has 155 million base pairs and makes up about 5% of DNA in the body. Females have two X chromosomes in each cell, one of which is inactivated during gestation. In some cells, the inactivated X chromosome will be the one from the father, in others the one from the mother. Interesting, isn’t it?

Chromosome Y – which only males have – has around 59 million base pairs and is responsible largely for male sex differentiation. In males, it comprises about 2% of DNA.

Our biological gender is determined at conception, depending on whether the sperm that fertilizes the egg contains an X or a Y chromosome. Everything biological about us is determined at that point, and only awaits the appropriate time to be expressed. Sexual structures in the body can be initially observed at about six weeks, with development complete at 13 weeks of gestation. Maturation of sexual characteristics is completed during puberty. We continue to change throughout our lives. Truly we are wonderfully and fearfully made.

Barring abnormalities, genetic or environmental accidents, female humans are born with biological structures designed for maturing ova, gestating new humans, and nursing babies. And of course, with the blueprints for female secondary sexual characteristics. Immature female humans are girls; mature female humans are women. Seems silly to say all this, but precise language is called for here.

Female is a fact. Every cell in our bodies carries our genetic print. Our 30 trillion cells each hold DNA made from more than 3 million base pairs that contain around 30,000 genes that express us biologically. You, the “you” that is conscious of you, were born with a body that is either female or male. You are either a girl or a boy, a woman or a man. Only two ways about it.

There is a saddening new trend lately that sees some teenaged girls expressing that they do not feel like girls. They say they feel like a boy trapped in a girl’s body. They are saying this when in the grip of that powerful physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and educational derangement called puberty. An unsettling time, to be sure. And a dangerous one for deciding to make permanent changes to the body where their life started.

How do they know what a boy feels like? How do they know that the feelings they have about themselves, their thoughts, urges, and actions are male in nature? I’m not sure they do. Without a Y chromosome, how could any teenage girl possibly conceptualize what it means to have lived in a boy’s body from the beginning?

Males are biologically almost identical to, yet very different from, females, and not just in reproductive functions and other sexual characteristics. Their brains are larger than female brains but have fewer connections between the hemispheres. They mature at a different rate than females. That’s why forcing boys to conform to a learning environment optimized for girls will always be unfair.

Men have longer, stronger, and denser bones. Their torsos are proportionately shorter, shoulders wider, pelvises narrower, and femurs differently curved from females, so they walk, stand, and carry themselves differently.

The strongest women have grips that are similar to the weakest 10% of men, which makes female gymnasts that much more amazing. Men have 66% more muscle in their upper body and 50% more in their lower body than women. They move differently and are generally significantly stronger and faster than women. That’s why girls being forced to compete against boys in sports will always be unfair.

Is it societal influence that makes some girls feel all wrong? For decades, feminists have struggled against adopting the superficialities, exaggerations, and simplifications to define what are sex-determined preferences and related activities. Wearing makeup or frilly clothing does not make one a girl, just as rough play and running and shouting do not belong solely to the realm of the boy.

We are none of us Disney princesses or Marvel superheroes, though we all enjoy playing dress-up. Aladdin is not the archetypal young man, nor Jasmine the perfect model of a young woman. Yet media, and those pro-regressives pressing our youth to define their gender during the massive change of growing up, offer only such caricatures to assist in that decision-making process.

If a child is persistently miserable, regardless of the focus of the misery, we must offer to help. Parents, teachers, medical professionals, and others into whose hands these people are tendered, need to offer intelligent and compassionate help, perhaps by directing the child toward psychological therapy. Their job is not to rush that child toward an irreversible cliff edge.

Besides, nearly every girl I knew growing up, including myself, was miserable at the onset of menstruation. The potential for embarrassment loomed large for years. We were used to growing, getting taller and bigger, but suddenly our breasts began to develop, and everyone could witness how we were changing. We were suddenly aware of ourselves as objects of unwanted attention, and sometimes as prey. Who wouldn’t yearn to be a boy? That’s because we knew nothing of how they were changing, just that their adaptation to adulthood seemed much easier.

We all want to feel beautiful, competent, liked, admired, and wanted. The desire for some conformity in the face of the massive personal changes foisted upon us during puberty is entirely normal. It’s hard to mature into a self-actualized individual. These days, the drive within our society to define and divide ourselves according to the most superficial aspects of skin tone and belief systems only makes it that much harder to finish growing up.

In the final analysis, we are who and what we are. We can’t do much about the basic biology we are born with, but the expression of ourselves is entirely up to us. Most of us outgrow that awkwardness of youth and learn to be comfortable in our own skin, in our lives, and in our loves. Girls need to give themselves grace and space and time to become women. And so does everyone else.

Sometimes that mean voice inside says, “You don’t feel like a girl.” It’s painful to have such thoughts; it hurts. When that happens we need to teach our daughters to look into the mirror, smile ironically, and announce “This is what a girl feels like.”

Anony Mee is a retired public servant.

IMAGE: The Life & Age of Woman, ca. 1849. Public domain.

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