Discover more from gender:hacked by Eliza Mondegreen
What if the word we suddenly couldn't define anymore was "children"?
On Tuesday, Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson—asked to define the word 'woman'—hedged: "Not in this context. I'm not a biologist." You can argue Senator Blackburn was looking to stir up trouble for Democrats—no doubt she was. But it's worth thinking about how we got here.
Because, of course, it doesn't take a biology degree to define the word 'woman.' It's never been some great mystery. It's just become fashionable lately to pretend it's all very complicated. You can only pretend it’s all very complicated by detaching sex from reproductive role (the meaningful referent of sex, about which no one is in fact in any doubt) and pinning it on rare differences of sexual development or an inner sense of gender identity instead.
Just one day after this exchange, the Taliban reminded us they don't need a fleet of biologists to determine which children are allowed to go to school in Afghanistan (boys) and which children aren't (girls). And somehow pimps and johns and pornographers still seem to know what women are. And somehow everybody knew back when women couldn't vote or own property or open a bank account or attend medical school. How on earth did they all manage it?
So it's discouraging to see a Supreme Court nominee either unable or—more likely—unwilling to define women, and an entire political party committed to mystification on this point. How is the law supposed to recognize and protect what can't even be named? Step back from the conflict between sex and gender identity for a moment. What if the word we suddenly couldn't define anymore was "children"? What if a child was anyone who identified as a child, regardless of age? Would this development help us to protect the people formerly known as children, whose unique needs would still exist even if recognition of those needs in language and the law collapsed?
Edited to add: What is a woman? We’ve got an answer…
Frustrated Therapist’s got it: “[M]aybe we should start answering the question "what is a woman?" with: "a member of the female sex class, the class who continually have to reassert our personhood, the class of people who are not allowed to center ourselves and who are constantly expected to put our needs to the side for others." And maybe "the class of people who are tired of this BS.”