Katie Herzog and Jesse Singal discuss the “dueling articles” of Dawkins and Rose

August 2, 2023 • 10:00 am

I could listen only to the free 17-minute beginning of Katie Herzog and Jesse Singal’s podcast episode, “But really, what IS a woman?”, as I don’t subscribe (I would, but I now subscribe to more sites than I can keep up with). At any rate, if you click below you can hear the 17-minute take for free, and then, if you want to subscribe and hear the whole thing, go here.

They introduce the controversy about “what is a woman” discussed by Richard Dawkins and Jacqueline Rose (see here for my link and the link to Dawkins’s and Rose’s pieces), and then go into the mistakes made when one violates the standard gamete-based definition of biological sex—mistakes famously promulgated by Anne Fausto-Sterling and repeated to this day by gender activists (though Fausto-Sterling’s calculation has long since been corrected by others). No, people, the frequency of intersexes is not 2%, they are not as common as people with red hair, they do not represent “other sexes” and thereby violate the sex binary, and, most important, people with intersex conditions are not the same thing as transgender people.

One plaint: Herzog mentions me and says that I “blog like it’s 2003,” which I gather means more than once a day, but what’s wrong with that? And what’s with the 2003?

That aside, the first 17 minutes of discussion is good, and if the podcasters loved me—since they do read this “blog”—they might give me free access. I know they’re reading this website (not a “blog”)!

22 thoughts on “Katie Herzog and Jesse Singal discuss the “dueling articles” of Dawkins and Rose

  1. I share your complaint! I love this site and think it treats important subjects rigorously and in a long format perfect for thoughtful readers.

    1. +1

      Comments section is good – and I think that is not a mistake – i.e. PCC(E) has to work to make that happen. That’s a complex subject, but sadly, if this became like a reddit or youtube comments section, it’d be bad.

      A Stack Exchange comments section would be good, though.

      A retort perhaps : Blog how you like, but website comments should be like Stack Exchange.

  2. Three cheers for this website, and also for 2003. In that year, the Human Genome Project was completed, NASA launched its Mars Exploration Rover mission, and Bill Maher debuted his “Real Time” TV show.

  3. When Fausto-Sterling defined intersex as a deviation from the “Platonic ideal” of man and women, I think she touched a nerve in the transactivists who appropriated her work. The sensitive nerve is the frustration trans people feel when others are able to tell their actual sex — and the anger they feel when it’s mentioned. They apparently think it’s grossly unfair to measure them by the ordinary standards of physical development that we use to tell men apart from women. The process must be wrong.

    But enter the concept of Platonic Ideals and its connotations. If people with Disorders of Sexual Development are variations from a Perfect (but unattainable) glorified hypothetical, then so are they. They don’t fit the Barbie and Ken molds either. The process of discernment is one of judgement.

    This means people who think women don’t have penises are really people who think women shouldn’t have penises. They shouldn’t have penises in the same way they shouldn’t be too tall, too dark, or have warts: only perfection counts. In other words, the Gender Critical are snobs living in a fantasy world.

    When Katie and Jesse explained what Fausto-Sterling’s definition of “intersex” was, a lightbulb went off in my head. More than once I’ve been accused of being a “Platonist” because I define women as a sex category. It never made much sense to me and I wondered where they got it. I suspect it may have originated with Fausto-Sterling.

    1. “The sensitive nerve is the frustration trans people feel when others are able to tell their actual sex — and the anger they feel when it’s mentioned.”

      This reminds me of a video that showed up on twitter a while back, of a young transman sobbing about how he was continually misgendered by people he interacted with – he was often assumed to be female.

      It was a perfect illustration of the fix both he, and the public are in, in regard to this issue. Because this person was very clearly born female – hadn’t transitioned, but was simply wearing “non-feminine” clothes with a short hair cut and no make up. In other words, indistinguishable from countless lesbians who adopt a similar look.

      And we rarely mistake such lesbians as men because we have evolved to be exquisitely attuned to differences between male and female.

      So trans people like this, who haven’t transitioned, are caught in that uncanny valley.
      Especially since so many of us came to accept gay rights, we are sensitive to insulting gay people, and we’d be mortified to accidentally refer to a butch looking lesbian as “sir.”

      So we can’t tell if the person before us is a transgender person who considers themself to be a “man” or if they are a woman who considers herself to be a gay woman. And we naturally default to what we can clearly identify the person as in terms of their sex.

      So…this trans stuff puts people like that in a bind…for the same reason it puts all of us in a bind.

  4. It’s all about gamete size. Biology had it right in 2003 and the facts haven’t changed in the interim. Herzog would rather criticize the format than to have to deal with the substance—hence her quip about 2003.

    1. Nah. That’s just style on her part (the snark is not much different from the beloved Nellie Bowles). For Herzog podcasts >> blogs. That’s all she meant there. Plus Jerry should love her if only for her twitter handle @kittiepurrzog

  5. Lest the ‘intersexists’ come up with intermediate sized gametes in serious numbers (AFAIK that number is 0), the intersex discussion is basically closed. (And yes, I know about fungi). I even doubt cases of true hermaphroditism, producing sperm as well as eggs, exist in mammals.
    It should also be stressed that indeed “people with intersex conditions are not the same thing as transgender people”. The whole ‘intersex trope’ appears a deflection to me.

    1. Some mammals are chimeras. And some of those chimeras result in an animal or person who has both XX and XY cells. They can have ovotestis which produce at least one type of gametes (generally eggs) but it’s theoretically possible for them to produce sperm.

      There are cases of XX/XY mammals that have produced ova and live offspring. Here’s an article related to this topic:

      [The reproductive performance of XX/XY male chimeric mice]

  6. Everybody asks “what is a woman?” and not “what is a man?” I consider this fortunate because I am a man, but I could not answer the question, at least not without reference to biology.

  7. As a longtime fan of both you (Jerry Coyne) and Katie Herzog (+Jesse Singal/BaRPod), I love that you all have started to mingle. Also, it seems like trash talking is how Katie shows affection, so I’m not sure her “blogs like it’s 2003” quips are intended to be taken at face value.

      1. The internet was a better and more thoughtful place when people blogged a lot, as in 2003. Now a lot of “the discourse” is held on hell-sites like Twitter (sorry, “X”) and lacks depth, among many other things. Thanks Ceiling Cat some folks still uphold the standards of 2003!

    1. Yup she does seem to tease Jesse a lot but that is her affection showing. Like this site they provide lots of intellectual fodder. The outliers from MSM and independent thinkers really are refreshing and give me optimism for the future.

      I echo the chorus in thanking Jerry for his super human power for creating maintaining and expanding this website.

    2. “Also, it seems like trash talking is how Katie shows affection . . . .”
      I gather that she welcomes such talk directed at her with open arms.

      I wonder how she talks when she shows opprobrium. Affection is fine. Affectatious and fatuous rhetorical piffle, not so much.

      (In the last few years I’ve heard some claim that “nerd” is a positive term. How is one to possibly know?)

  8. Never underestimate the value of one word, however banal, in Critical Social Justice praxis. It is a Trojan Horse for future praxis.


    (… for what “holistic” can mean – I admit it sounds nice – read Stalin or Dialectical Materialism.)

  9. I listen to Blocked and Reported regularly. They are very funny and clever. I think their reference to you “blogging like it’s 2003” was mostly a complement, since 2003 was the early days of blogging when bloggers were very enthusiastic and prolific- before twitter etc. sapped most of that energy. I think they’re kind of in awe of your blogging volume and quality (as are we all!).
    BTW, I thought Fausto-Sterling was very disingenuous in her comment. She wrote a paper trumpeting “2%” non-binary, and in the body of the paper buried the admission that “Oh, BTW, if we subtract Klinefelter’s, Turners, and late onset CAH-none of which are different sexes- it’s not 2%, it’s 0.02%”. Not lying exactly, but very dishonest. She now says it was all “tongue-in-cheek.” Whatever.

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