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Philosophy of the Feminine

A new episode of Girlboss, Interrupted just dropped, and it’s a good one. My favorite, probably.

What is a woman? In asking this plain and simple question in his viral documentary by the same name, Matt Walsh confounded the nation. Progressives recoiled seeing their most loyal foot soldiers attempt to answer, but stumble, saying things like “a woman is whoever feels like a woman.” The question was rhetorically brilliant. It exposed the linguistic gymnastics and circular reasoning meant to conceal the lie at the heart of the progressive view of the human being: that we are self-creating individuals. We are whatever we say we are. “Reality,” if we can speak of it, bends to neologism, always.

Others were happy to finally see progressives on the backfoot—a position more familiar to conservatives, who, especially when it comes to sexual norms, have lost every fight there was to be had over the course of the past century.

Owning the libs might be delicious, and it is actually important, but it is not a sufficient political position for any kind of long-term winning strategy. No one is satisfied by the bare minimum answer to Walsh’s question, which has become a new conservative slogan in itself: Woman, (n.), adult human female. And yes, of course. This is the scientific description of a woman, based on physically observable phenomena like gametes and chromosomes and sexual dimorphism. It’s true. It’s concrete. But it is incomplete.

I stumbled upon the work of Edith Stein by happenstance a few years ago, and the more I reflect on it, the more strongly I believe she offers the answer to that unanswerable question: what is a woman?

Stein’s work is high-level; in the effort to be maximally precise and clear, I had the pleasure of inviting Dr. Catherine Ruth Pakaluk, an expert on Stein’s work, to explain it on the podcast.

Catherine Ruth Pakaluk joined the faculty at the Catholic University of America’s Busch School in the summer of 2016, and is the founder of the Social Research academic area, where she is an Associate Professor of Social Research and Economic Thought. Her primary areas of research include economics of education and religion, family studies and demography, Catholic social thought and political economy. Beyond her formal training in economics, Dr. Pakaluk studied Catholic social thought under the mentorship of F. Russell Hittinger, and various aspects of Thomistic thought with Steven A. Long. She is a widely-admired writer and sought-after speaker on matters of culture, gender, social science, the vocation of women, and the work of Edith Stein. She lives in Maryland with her husband Michael Pakaluk and eight children.

For more on Edith Stein and her philosophy of womanhood, read: