This existential question was solved once and for all by English judges in the eternally famous 1927 case of Fardell v Potts which explored the core legal concept of the Reasonable Man and considered whether it should be extended to include the Reasonable Woman.
The facts were clear enough:
In this case the appellant was a Mrs Fardell, a woman, who, while navigating a motor-launch on the River Thames collided with the respondent, who was navigating a punt, as a result of which the respondent was immersed and caught cold.
The respondent brought an action for damages, in which it was alleged that the collision and subsequent immersion were caused by the negligent navigation of the appellant.
The Appeal Court led by the Master (sic) of the Rolls carefully examined the evidence and legal precedents – and reached a clear and unanimous view:
It is no bad thing that the law of the land should here and there conform with the known facts of every day experience.
The view that there exists a class of beings, illogical, impulsive, careless, irresponsible, extravagant, prejudiced, and vain, free for the most part from those worthy and repellent excellences which distinguish the Reasonable Man, and devoted to the irrational arts of pleasure and attraction, is one which should be as welcome and as well accepted in our Courts as it is in our drawing-rooms-and even in Parliament.
The odd stipulation is often heard there that some new Committee or Council shall consist of so many persons ‘one of which must be a woman’: the assumption being that upon scientific principles of selection no woman would be added to a body having serious deliberative functions.
That assumption, which is at once accepted and resented by those who maintain the complete equality of the sexes, is not founded, as they suppose, in some prejudice of Man but in the considered judgments of Nature.
I find that at Common Law a reasonable woman does not exist. The contention of the respondent fails and the appeal must be allowed.