Nel's New Day

May 22, 2022

Conservatives’ Inability to Define ‘Woman’

What is a woman? That was one of the rude questions that Sen. Marsha Blackburn asked Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing. asked Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing. When Blackburn asked Jackson the question, Jackson began with “I can’t—” before Blackburn said, “You can’t?” Jackson graciously responded, “Not in this context. I’m not a biologist.” Blackburn criticized her inability to answer the question, and Jackson explained that she addresses disputes, listens to arguments, and looks at the law before she decides. “So I’m not—” she said before Blackburn interrupted her to toss another insult about “the dangers of the kind of progressive education.”

In Tennessee, 80 pastors were so upset with Blackburn’s behavior that they wrote her about her lack of professionalism and emphasis on politics, adding they were “embarrassed by her public behavior.” On of them commented on how her constant interruptions showed her agenda was only to create political sound bites for her base.

How many people can define a woman? What age—13, 18, another time? Chromosomal markers when people with Turner syndrome have only one X chromosome and might not meet the strict definition of two? Matthew Rozsa has provided further scientific background to answer Blackburn’s question. Fox highlighted criticism for Jackson, one of the few parts of the hearing on the “news” network.

Blackburn segued her woman definition question to asking about education at Georgetown Day School, where Jackson sits on the board, telling children “they can choose their gender.” Jackson declined to answer the question about whether “schools should teach children” this concept. Blackburn launched into a lecture on differences between male and female incorporating Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s written opinion that “supposed ‘inherent differences’ are no long accepted as a ground for race or national origin classifications [but] the two sexes are not fungible.” Blackburn asked Jackson if she agreed that there are enduring “physical differences between men and women.” In Ginsburg’s opinion for U.S. v. Virginia, striking down the male-only admission for Virginia Military Institute, she was quoting Ballard v. U.S. (1946) but not necessarily agreeing. As usual, Blackburn interrupted Jackson when she tried to answer.  

GOP Judiciary Committee members failed to answer Blackburn’s question. (Note that she never had an answer either; she just tried to claim that the definition is “fundamental.”) Responses to the question from GOP senators:

  • John Kennedy (LA): “I don’t have anything for you on that.”
  • John Cornyn (TX): “I’m not going to indulge you.” – Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
  • Marsha Blackburn (TN): She dodged the question three times, saying she doesn’t talk to reporters in the hallway. Later, her spokesperson said, “Two X chromosomes.” There was no response to whether women born with one X chromosome could be a woman or if men both with two X chromosomes were actually women.
  • Chuck Grassley (IA): He gave the same answer as Blackburn’s spokesperson.
  • Thom Tillis (NC): “My wife.”
  • Lindsey Graham (SC): He started out by saying a woman is simply someone who is “biologically a woman” and added that most Americans can figure out who’s a woman and who’s a man. “The birds and the bees stuff—it’s been a while, but I think I remember the general gist of the differences. To have a hard time answering that question is kind of odd to me.”
  • Ted Crux (TX): “An adult female human.” He denied he looked it up in a dictionary before answering the question. Then he added, “A Homosapien with two X chromosomes.” 
  • Mike Lee (UT): “An adult female of the human species.”
  • Josh Hawley (MO) center in the photograph talking to reporters: “Someone who can give birth to a child, a mother, is a woman. Someone who has a uterus is a woman. It doesn’t seem that complicated to me.” The question is whether a uterus is mandatory, if a woman stops being a woman after a hysterectomy. Hawley answered by saying, “Yeah. Well, I don’t know, would they?” Later, he said a woman could be a woman without a uterus by saying, “I mean, a woman has a vagina, right?”

About one in 5,000 women is born without a uterus. So much for the approximately 6,700 “people” who aren’t really women. Every year nearly 600,000 women get hysterectomies—probably a total of 20 million “people.”

In an interview, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) first refused to answer before he continued, probably referring to transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, finishing ahead of Anna Kalandadze by 38 seconds:

“A woman is—a woman is somebody that swims at a certain time and doesn’t get beaten by 38 seconds by somebody that wasn’t even a good swimmer as a male.”

DDT didn’t even say Kalandadze is a woman.

At a rally in Georgia, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said:

“I’m going to tell you right now what is a woman. This is an easy answer,” she said. “We came from Adam’s rib. God created us with his hands. We are—we may be the weaker sex… We are the weaker sex. But we are our partner’s, our husband’s wife.”

Monica Hesse wrote that Republicans aren’t giving a biology test when they ask this question. It’s a culture-war test, and conservatives are intent on showing every progressive woman she is failing. Instead, these Republicans are failing. Do they mean wives are not women before they were married as suggested in these definitions? Otherwise, they will be men until a man married them. Greene’s reference to the “weaker sex” is belied by her pride in her sculpted biceps and vigorous workouts. All these definitions come from people who claim that defining a woman is “simple.”  

It’s election year.

The question about defining a woman won’t go away, and the anti-abortion movement has added to the “definitions. This past week, the House Judiciary committee held a hearing addressing the strong possibility that the Supreme Court will probably overturn Roe v. Wade to end the federal right for abortions in the U.S. Testifying about abortion access was Dr. Yashica Robinson, who provides abortions in Alabama and sits on the board of directors of the group Physicians for Reproductive Health. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) tried to divert the topic to the grievance about sharing one’s pronouns to help people avoid misgendering others. Bishop said:

“In your written testimony, I noticed you said that you use she/her pronouns. You’re a medical doctor. What’s a woman?”

When Robinson tried to explain why she used the female pronouns, Bishop asked again, “What is a woman?”

Robinson answered: “I think it’s important that we educate people like you about why we’re doing the things that we do. So the reason I use she and her pronouns is because I understand that there are people who become pregnant that may not identify that way and I think it is discriminatory to speak to people or to call them in such a way as they desire not to be called. It’s important that we respect each individual person.”

Once again, Bishops demanded a definition, and Robinson said, “I’m a woman.” Bishop asked, “Is that as comprehensive of a definition as you can give me?” and Robinson brought him back to the topic, reminding that the hearing was about abortion, not pronouns or definitions of a woman:

“That’s as comprehensive of a definition as I will give you today because I think that it’s important that we focus on what we’re here for, and it’s to talk about access to abortion.”

Some Republicans didn’t do any better with definitions of abortion. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) condescendingly asked Robinson if she would support an abortion of a “child” who was “halfway out of the birth canal.” Robinson answered until he cut her off:

“I can’t even fathom that just like you probably can’t imagine what you would do if your daughter was raped. If it hasn’t happened, it may be difficult for you to—.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) addressed the Black doctor as “Ms. Robinson,” and she said, “Yes, my name is Dr. Robinson, and I provide abortion care in Alabama.” He wanted to know how she disposed of “baby parts” removed during dilation and extraction, an extremely rare procedure during the second trimester. When she didn’t specifically answer the question, he accused her of not wanting “to talk about how they’re being stored” and continued by saying they were put “in freezers of Pyrex dishes.” Robinson said she had never seen that happen.

More political sound bites. It’s election year.

While Republicans obsess about defining a woman, they can avoid providing any support for them.

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