Republican Congresspeople Can’t Define ‘Woman’ Either

Hoisted by their own petard.

WaPo columnist Monica Hesse has some good fun at the expense of grandstanding idiots trying to score cheap points during Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings.

Last month Republican lawmakers went fishing for a “gotcha” at Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and thought they’d found one when Jackson declined a request from Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to “provide a definition for the word ‘woman.'” Jackson replied that she was “not a biologist.”

Of course, this wasn’t a biology test, it was a culture-war test, and conservatives were more than willing to inform Jackson she had failed. “The meaning of the word ‘woman’ is so unclear and controversial that you can’t give me a definition?” Blackburn marveled, setting off waves of complaints about woke liberals and activist judges, and presenting Tucker Carlson with Christmas in March.

All that set the stage for this week, when several Republican lawmakers who had previously mocked Jackson’s answer set out to show how just how simple and uncontroversial defining “woman” could be.

“I’m going to tell you right now what is a woman,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) informed the audience at a GOP event after namechecking Jackson. “This is an easy answer. We’re a creation of God. We came from Adam’s rib. God created us with his hands. We may be the weaker sex — we are the weaker sex — but we are our partner — we are our husband’s wife.”

Meanwhile Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), already in the news cycle for implying that cocaine and orgies were par for the course on Capitol Hill, decided to extend his moment in the sun by lecturing Nancy Pelosi from the House floor. “Science isn’t Burger King; you can’t just ‘have it your way,'” he said. “Take notes, Madame Speaker. I’m about to define what a woman is for you,” he said. “X chromosomes, no tallywhacker. It’s so simple.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was asked by a HuffPost reporter to define “woman,” and replied, “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.” When the reporter asked him whether a woman whose uterus was removed via hysterectomy was still a woman, he appeared uncertain: “Yeah. Well, I don’t know, would they?”

So, to review, here’s the GOP tip sheet: If you want to know whether someone is a woman, you should simply walk up to them and say, “Pardon, are you of Adam’s rib?” Alternatively, you could demand to see either a uterus or a “tallywhacker.”

These attempts at defining womanhood are not only weird (“weaker sex” is retrograde even by the standards of Republican gender politics), they are also unhelpful.

Let’s assume some basic things: that Marjorie Taylor Greene believes that all humans, not just women, are “creations of God”; and that Greene considered herself a woman long before she became her “husband’s wife.” Presumably she is not suggesting that a woman who is unmarried is in fact a man.

Greene is known for her vigorous workouts and her sculpted biceps. Such a strong woman would certainly acknowledge that “weaker sex” often depends on the category in question (mental, physical, emotional) and on the individual specimen. Does Greene believe she is inherently weaker, on any of these dimensions, than, say, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)? How about President Biden?

That leaves us with the “Adam’s rib” bit, an allusion to the biblical origin story of women. Which, fine. But I’m not sure how much closer this gets any of us to a definition of womanhood that we can actually use in The Year of Our Lord 2022. How is a women’s college or women’s athletic team supposed to incorporate the Adam’s rib test into their eligibility policies? Is there a swab for ancestral rib residue?

Again, this definition was the very best that Greene could come up with two full weeks after gloating on Twitter that Judge Jackson, “can’t define ‘woman’ so can’t say for sure whether her own two daughters are women.”

Hesse goes on to note that, even aside from the transgender issue that sparked this “debate,” there are all manner of people who don’t meet these simple, anatomical definitions. And that, hysterically, “by Hawley’s new definition he would be forced to accept trans women, post-gender affirming surgery, as women too.”

FILED UNDER: Congress, Gender Issues, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    This is what qualifies as “thinking” for these dolts. The Republican party really is beyond repair.

    6
  2. DK says:

    GQP politicians should consider fewer cocaine orgies, more science classes.

    2
  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Yesterday Blackburn said that Obama is running the country and will be brought back into the White House…so that’s the level of intelligence we have in the Republican Senate.

    2
  4. SC_Birdflyte says:

    These fools are the gifts that keep on giving. As a trained academic historian, I learned not to play “what if?” games with history. Still, I can’t help wondering what would have happened if “Mister Sam” Rayburn were in the Speaker’s chair. I think he was of the school that “protruding nails get hammered down.”

    1
  5. Andy says:

    James,

    So what is your definition?

  6. James Joyner says:

    @Andy: A single definition that covers all cases is really, really difficult. But I’m not the one who posed it as an idiotic gotcha question in a Supreme Court nomination hearing.

    22
  7. Kathy says:

    “I know it when I see it”

    Now let’s do time. What is time?

    6
  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @DK: GQP politicians should consider fewer cocaine orgies, more science classes.

    I disagree. They haven’t learned a damn thing in science class that isn’t over ridden by a 2,000 yr old (6,000? I’m a little hazy) book that is the unaltered word of God. All 62 versions. I think we’d all be far better off if they immersed themselves in nonstop cocaine orgies.

    4
  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Andy:

    Q. What is a woman?

    A. A wonderful mystery.

    7
  10. becca says:

    @Kathy: I read that time keeps everything from happening at once.

    3
  11. DaveD says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: On the same day her lovely state introduced a child bride bill. They’ll know it when they have statutorily raped it.

    5
  12. Chris says:

    The greatest danger to America is its seemingly inexhaustible supply of citizens who vehemently believe in the nonsense spewed by a cadre of manipulators, charlatans, and fools; while its remaining citizens are conditioned to be disorganized, ambivalent, or paralyzed in the tidal wake of such nonsensical propagandizing.

    8
  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Imagine being Judge Jackson, with all her qualifications and accomplishments, and being forced to endure this “jack-assery”, as Ben Sasse colorfully termed it, from people who do not and cannot hold a candle to her.
    While I do appreciate this columnists fun take on the hearings, I also think these people are nothing more than shit-stains and have no business holding seats in what, at one time, was the worlds greatest deliberative body.

    3
  14. sam says:

    “And that, hysterically, “by Hawley’s new definition he would be forced to accept trans women, post-gender affirming surgery, as women too.”

    Très droll.

    2
  15. Rick DeMent says:

    As far as the law is concerned I don’t even know if we need to define what a woman is in the vast majority of cases. In the past, most on the right objected to the equal rights amendment because, they argue, it’s already in the constitution enshrined in the 14th amendment. There is an old West Wing clip that sum up the debate cleverly, and on its face, the right wing position is a pretty compelling argument. In a nutshell the argument is the 14th give rights to all citizens of theses United States

    The problem is that women have, in the past, and in many cases in the present been discriminated precisely because of sex regardless of what the 14th says. We are in living memory of women needing their husbands consent for all manner of transactions. Not only that, but when you think about it gay and trans people are not only discriminated against, but face active hostility, but it’s precisely due to issues of sex, or rather that some on the rights don’t see them as having certain rights.

    However if we follow that logic, then things like the guy who wouldn’t sell someone a cake would be discriminating against a person, not a gay or a trans because to make a distinction would be discriminating again a United States citizen. Of course the next thing out of someone’s mouth will be “…that not what the authors intended” which is why I think that originalisum is largely nonsense. Just consider the Army clause and how that has been pretty much ignored completely by everyone, but I guess if ignoring the constitution is bi-partisan, then it’s OK.

    I suppose the other argument you could make is that being trans or gay is a perfectly acceptable reason to discriminate against a citizen, because it’s not like skin color, but then again you can make a good argument that it’s exactly like a “closely held religious belief”.

    Now what a lot of people are animated about is trans woman in sports and frankly this is among the most inconsequential nonsense in politics. I get that in other countries governments get involved in sports issues (and they have basically insured that team sports like T20 Cricket will forever languish in a black hole of shitwittery), but the qualifications of anyone to participate in sports leagues and competition should be up to the organizers of the competition exclusively. I get that it get’s sticky when we are talking about the NCAA and title IX, but that could be dealt with by the completely sensible step of elimination sports related scholarships and replacing them with some other mechanism to get scholarships to kids that are deserving, but can’t hit a three pointer from outside the ring consistently.

    But I guess if the reactionary right can’t gin up a moral panic about trans woman in sports they feel they can’t win elections.

    TLDR: the whole question of defining what is a woman is all but irrelevant to the workings of a modern judiciary.

    Offered for entertainment value, and not a bad debate among people actually care about the issue.

    3
  16. Jay L Gischer says:

    The stuff depicted above is, of course, the worst possible way to have a discussion on the subject. Nobody’s trying to learn anything. Nobody’s trying to evangelize, either. Nope, it’s all mockery and ridicule. That’s politics for ya.

    1
  17. Gustopher says:

    I’m impressed by how unimpressive the Republicans asked are — their entire argument is that it is a trivial matter of genetics, and only Cawthorn got to genetics at all, and he flubbed it.

    Meanwhile Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), already in the news cycle for implying that cocaine and orgies were par for the course on Capitol Hill, decided to extend his moment in the sun by lecturing Nancy Pelosi from the House floor. “Science isn’t Burger King; you can’t just ‘have it your way,’” he said. “Take notes, Madame Speaker. I’m about to define what a woman is for you,” he said. “X chromosomes, no tallywhacker. It’s so simple.”

    Everyone has X chromosomes. Tallywackers come and go. If he were just a little bit more knowledgeable or careful, he would have gotten to “no Y chromosome,” which would have at least correctly matched their argument.

    And then the question of Originalism could come up, since the Founders didn’t know about chromosomes, so clearly they were using some different definition based on externally visible body parts, societal treatment and the person’s assertions — a definition that more closely matches a trans rights activist’s definition.

    4
  18. Tony W says:

    The problem here, as often is the case, is that Republicans are making no attempt at good-faith politics, while Democrats take the bait every time and address the merits of whatever happens to come out of a Republican’s mouth.

    Then we high-five each other and congratulate ourselves on having the obviously correct, well-reasoned argument.

    Meanwhile, we lose elections and cede more and more power to the minority that is the Republican party.

    Of course the press loves this stuff and they report the controversy. In doing so they are no better than the Tucker Carlson’s of the world who are “just asking questions”.

    One day we may well learn to ignore them. That will probably happen the day after the mass media adopts new rules for reporting – rules that ignore the provocative three-name people’s pleas for attention, and focus on actual accomplishments.

    3
  19. MarkedMan says:

    @Rick DeMent: how did you embed a video?

  20. Kurtz says:

    Well, Mr. Hawley may be surprised to learn there is a genetic condition called persistent Müllerian duct syndrome. A man, as verified by Florida tallywhacker watcher/pecker inspector,* also has the reproductive organs typically associated with a woman. In some cases, both sets of organs are fully functional.

    Maybe we can bring back the egg guy, Richard Marx mullet and all, from the anti-drug ads. Just replace “this is your brain on drugs” with “this is your brain on early-21st century Republicanism.”

    *I’m not sure which job title they prefer.

    2
  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher:

    I’m impressed by how unimpressive the Republicans asked are

    Among the handful of reasons I am actively repulsed by the modern Republican Party is the fact that so many of their arguments are (high school) sophomoric in the worst sense of that word. They latch on to something that sounds clever but all too often has no useful meaning and then bray it out over and over in the most obnoxious way possible, absolutely delighted with how they are showing up the losers, and absolutely confident that they know everything important and anything they don’t know is unimportant. In reality they are at the level of the kids who figured out that Uranus could also be pronounced “your anus” and never got beyond that.

    4
  22. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    @Andy: A single definition that covers all cases is really, really difficult. But I’m not the one who posed it as an idiotic gotcha question in a Supreme Court nomination hearing.

    Agree it was an idiotic gotcha question, but that is what confirmation hearings have become. But I think your answer – it can be complicated – is the answer I would give.

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Q. What is a woman?

    A. A wonderful mystery.

    That is probably the best answer, however.

    1
  23. Rick DeMent says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I didn’t, I suspect one of the moderators did it for me, I just put in the URL.

    Moderation is magic 🙂

    2
  24. Beth says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    As far as the law is concerned I don’t even know if we need to define what a woman is in the vast majority of cases. In the past, most on the right objected to the equal rights amendment because, they argue, it’s already in the constitution enshrined in the 14th amendment.

    I have a friend who used to argue, with a straight face, the the 14th Amendment didn’t apply to women because of some original intent nonsense. According to him, the 14th Amendment only applied to White and Black men and we needed to amend the Constitution to get it to apply to anyone else. He was a “Ted Cruz Republican”. I think he’s still a Republican, but now he’s trying to find a bunk in the log cabin. I’m pretty sure a lot of his old arguments are going to bite him in his ass.

    1
  25. Gustopher says:

    As amusing as it is that these people are morons, they are morons who are playing with fire.

    The entire grooming/Decocrats-are-pedophile-friendly/Democrats-are-pedophiles thing is the Republican Party embracing QAnon and the global conspiracy to traffic children and harvest their adrenal glands or whatever.

    QAnon is just a warmed over Protocols of the Elders of Zion — less bathing in the blood of Christian infants, more adrenochrome(?), but the same basic story, adding Democrats to the Jews.

    We’ve seen where this leads.

    I’m not usually a slippery slope kind of guy — when asked “where will it stop?” my usual assumption is “somewhere worse than I would like, but not genocide” — but I don’t see this ending without the far right descending into violence.

    Hopefully limited violence and then a public revulsion at what the Republicans have done, and a martyrdom of the victims.

    One of my idiot brothers is getting way too into the right wing’s pedophile thing, and is now sending links to OANN on the group chat. He’s shifting from asshole to radicalized asshole. I expect others are getting radicalized too, and that they won’t have the saving grace of being stoners with no ambition.

    Anyway, we might have video embedding now! Here’s 8 hours of sheep in slow motion!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UygLV4znHw

    1
  26. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    The vid embed intrigued me as well. Looked up the HTML for video embed and realized that YouTube provides the code for its videos I’m going to try and embed one on the forum.

  27. Kurtz says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    Whoaaa. Man, some of the jokes I’ve made dependent on gif/YT punchlines would have hit a bit harder with an embed.

    :stares blankly into void:

    1
  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: The 4th Dimension. Duh. 😉

    1
  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: If the film is in slow motion, why do the hawks/ravens/crows/whatever appear to be flying at normal speed? (Or are they edited in for cognitive dissonance purposes?)

  30. DaveD says:

    @Gustopher: I would caution any chromosomal definition Turner’s syndrome and Kleinfelter syndrome are just two off the top of my head but human genetics is weird.

  31. DaveD says:

    @DaveD: I forgot Swyer syndrome. Besides the government has neither the time nor the resources to karyotype ever single person.

  32. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    In spite of the efforts by shit-stains on the Republican side of the Senate, Judge Jackson is now Justice Jackson.
    History is made.

    9
  33. Rick DeMent says:

    I have gotten more attention from an unintended embed then any of my posts ever. I’ll take the win 🙂

    2
  34. Rick DeMent says:

    @Beth:

    Yeah they will bounce around on what originalism means. Original understanding is fine until you try and have them explain why we flat out ignore the Army clause in all but the most transparently technical way. I’m not sure how fetal personhood fits under original understanding either or money = speech. I definitely don’t understand how any jurisprudence concerning corporations is shoehorned under the 14th, but then again I don’t have a fancy law degree.

    The constitution is one area where reactionary right wingers are willing to abandon “plain common sense” get all nuance-y. Trying to follow the whole sovereign citizen notion can give you a splitting headache.

  35. Joe says:

    In reality they are at the level of the kids who figured out that Uranus could also be pronounced “your anus” and never got beyond that.

    Unfortunately, MarkedMan, this also defines over 30% of the electorate.

    I think he’s still a Republican, but now he’s trying to find a bunk in the log cabin.

    Beth, does that make him a Log Cabin Republican?

    1
  36. senyordave says:

    @MarkedMan: In reality they are at the level of the kids who figured out that Uranus could also be pronounced “your anus” and never got beyond that.
    I’s add that the Republicans are the party of Bevis and Butthead, but I’m not sure if that is fair to Bevis and Butthead.

    1
  37. Kylopod says:

    @senyordave:

    I’s add that the Republicans are the party of Bevis and Butthead

    Huhuhuh huh huh huh huhuh huhuhuhuh. You said pube.

    3
  38. MarkedMan says:

    @Joe:

    this also defines over 30% of the electorate

    I agree, but only for large values of “over”…

    1
  39. Beth says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    When he annoys me and I want to retaliate I start to argue that cars, planes, the internet and the space program are unconstitutional under “originalism” as there was no way the framers could have imagined those things. That got him spouting all sorts of justifications. It warmed my heart.

    @Joe:

    While I’m going to try and fill his with all sorts of lefty nonsense, I’m sure he’ll eventually fall in with those quislings.

    1
  40. Mister Bluster says:

    Republican Congresspeople Can’t Define ‘Woman’ Either
    “You can grab them by the pussy.” Every Republican heard Donald Trump say that.
    Why are they so confused?

  41. mister bluster says:

    test

  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tony W: Meanwhile, we lose elections and cede more and more power to the minority that is the Republican party.

    Excuse me? Which party currently has a majority in the House? A 50/50 split (+1) in the (constitutionally rigged) Senate? Inhabits the White House? How’d dey do dat?

    Oh yeah, by winning elections.

    I know, I know, everybody thinks DEMs are so incompetent because they are always one election from losing it all. But nobody ever notices that the GOP already has.

    That’s because everybody focuses on the next election. A hint: There is always a next election. A further hint: The minority is always going to catch up or win the narrative. Narrative’s don’t rule. Majorities do.

    Worry about wtf a Republican majority will do when there is one. And then know that the clock is ticking on it.

    4
  43. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    IMO, there’s a good possibility some Democrats might resort to violence.

    Imagine it’s late 2023 or early 2024 and, unfortunately, the GQP controls the Senate. Then one of the Supreme Court justices dies or retires, it doesn’t matter which one, and Mitch or his successor does a replay of 2016 and refuses to even hold hearings for Biden’s nominee.

    I can fully imagine such anger among Democrats that one would try to take the majority leader out, to encourage the others to do the right thing.