WASHINGTON ― Republicans mocked Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson last month for refusing to define the word “woman” during her Senate confirmation hearing.
But it turns out those same Republicans on the Judiciary Committee don’t agree on how to define a woman, and some wouldn’t ― or couldn’t ― give a definition when HuffPost asked Tuesday.
“I don’t have anything for you on that,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).
“I’m not going to indulge you,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) dodged the question three times in a row, citing her policy of not talking to reporters in Senate hallways ― even though it was Blackburn who made this an issue with Jackson in the first place.
Thirteen hours into the first day of Jackson’s hearing last month, the Tennessee Republican tossed out the question: “Can you define the word ‘woman’?”
“Can I provide a definition?” Jackson said, appearing confused. “No, I can’t. I’m not a biologist.”
After some back and forth, Blackburn concluded: “The fact that you can’t give me a straight answer about something as fundamental as what a woman is underscores the dangers of the kind of progressive education that we are hearing about.”
The next day, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) laid into Jackson too, telling her: “I think you are the only Supreme Court nominee in history who has been unable to answer the question ‘What is a woman?’”
The real aim of Blackburn’s question was almost certainly to try to corner Jackson on the issue of transgender women participating in women’s sports ― part of a broader, ugly GOP attack on LGBTQ people heading into the 2022 elections. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is pushing for child abuse investigations of parents whose children seek gender-affirming medical care. Florida’s new “Don’t Say Gay” law prevents teachers from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity to students younger than fourth graders. The Human Rights Campaign, meanwhile, is tracking more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills across the country.
In a follow-up email to HuffPost, a spokesperson for Blackburn said her definition of a woman is “Two X chromosomes.”
The spokesperson did not respond to questions about whether Blackburn considers women born with only one X chromosome to be women, or if she considers men born with two X chromosomes to be women.
In a written statement, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) offered the same definition as Blackburn: “A woman is born with two X-chromosomes.”
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the Britannica Dictionary define a woman as “an adult female person” and “an adult female human being,” respectively. Do senators agree with this?
“I have more of a traditional view of what a woman is,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
What is that?
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said a woman is simply someone who is “biologically a woman,” adding that he thinks 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,” Graham said. “To have a hard time answering that question is kind of odd to me.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) shouted his definition of a woman before slipping into a Senate elevator: “An adult female of the human species.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was bolder than most.
“Someone who can give birth to a child, a mother, is a woman,” he said. “Someone who has a uterus is a woman. It doesn’t seem that complicated to me.”
So if a woman has her uterus removed by a hysterectomy, is she still a woman?
“Yeah. Well, I don’t know, would they?” he asked. (Yes.)
Asked again later if he would consider a woman to still be a woman if she lost her reproductive organs to cancer, Hawley said: “I mean, a woman has a vagina, right?”
Cruz, when asked, immediately answered that a woman is “an adult female human.”
He denied that he had recently looked it up in a dictionary.
“I just happen to speak English,” Cruz said, adding: “A Homo sapien with two X chromosomes.”