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Republicans tried to define 'woman' and... yikes

Their odd attempts at defining the word explain why Ketanji Brown Jackson refused to do so during her confirmation hearings.


Of all the questions asked of Judge (soon-to-be Justice, hooray!) Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, one of the most ridiculous ones came — unsurprisingly — from Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. 

Blackburn asked Jackson if she could “provide a definition for the word ‘woman.’” The question was a clear attempt to push some of the transphobic rhetoric that’s become common in the conservative movement. 

But Jackson didn’t take the bait. 

That line of questioning had me wondering, though: How does one — especially Blackburn — answer that question? There’s enough information readily available online for even the layman to know the definition isn’t nearly as simple as someone's genitalia or their ability to give birth. Some women are born without either. 

Nonetheless, the conservative movement celebrated the question as though it were some kind of “gotcha” moment — as though Jackson were a simpleton for not answering it. But as HuffPost discovered this week, many Republicans themselves can’t accurately define what a woman is. The outlet asked Blackburn and several other GOPers for their definitions, and the answers are hilariously bad. 

Blackburn said a woman is someone with “two X chromosomes.” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas took the same route, arguing that chromosomes define a woman.

Wrong. Some women are born without two X chromosomes while some men are born with two

Republicans are set on turning back the clock to a bygone era of simple-minded gender politics.

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said a woman is, simply, “my wife.” Not sure whether he meant all women on Earth are his wife or that his wife is the only woman on Earth.

Either way: wrong. 

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said a woman is “an adult female of the human species,” but good luck defining “female” without running into the same issues you find in defining “woman.” 


Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri claimed a woman is “someone who can give birth to a child” and “someone who has a uterus.”


Asked whether a woman who has a hysterectomy is still a woman, Hawley said he didn’t know. I sure hope the women in his family never have to undergo such a procedure and face his judgment. 

Regardless: wrong.

The true answer to this complex question is that “woman” is a rather nebulous word without a clear definition — that’s why the concept of gender fluidity exists. But Republicans are set on turning back the clock to a bygone era of simple-minded gender politics, and they’re happy to remain ignorant, even if it means they look like fools parading as geniuses.