Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson claims you need to be a biologist to define “woman” while the mainstream media ponders whether that level of expertise is enough. Meanwhile, race-based Critical Race Theory is said to be the domain of rarified legal experts, even as schools are implementing race-based disciplinary policies driven by it. Of course, we can’t forget how experts were used to censor content on Covid…
Last week, Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson stunned the world when she claimed she couldn’t define the word “woman” because she’s not a “biologist.” The startling admission occurred in an exchange with Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn that began with a quote from progressive hero, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In the majority decision United States v. Virginia, Justice Ginsberg specifically contrasted the difference between race and ethnicity and gender. She wrote, “Supposed ‘inherent differences’ are no longer accepted as a ground for race or national origin classifications. Physical differences between men and women, however, are enduring: ‘The two sexes are not fungible; a community made up exclusively of one sex is different from a community composed of both.’” The decision ultimately struck down a male-only admission policy at Virginia Military Institute. After reading Justice Ginsberg’s quote, Senator Blackburn asked a simple question, “Do you agree with Justice Ginsburg that there are physical differences between men and women that are enduring?”
Incredibly, Judge Jackson responded by claiming she’s not familiar with this landmark decision. “Senator, respectfully, I’m not familiar with that particular quote or case, so it’s hard for me to comment as to whether —” Senator Blackburn interjected, “Alright, I’d love to get your opinion on that. And you can submit that [in a written answer later].” The Senator continued, rephrasing it as a more general question, “Do you interpret Justice Ginsburg’s meaning of men and women as male and female?” Judge Jackson punted again, claiming, “Again, because I don’t know the case, I don’t know how I interpret it. I need to read the whole thing.” Some observers found her lack of familiarity with the case unbelievable given that it’s taught in every law school, but even if we give Judge Jackson the benefit of the doubt, her response to Senator Blackburn’s next question was truly astounding. The question was simple, “Can you provide a definition for the word ‘woman’?” It was clear Judge Jackson had no idea how to respond, asking in return, “Can I provide a definition?” “Yeah,” prompted Senator Blackburn, only to be met with, “I can’t,” from Judge Jackson. “You can’t?” It was the Senator’s turn to be surprised that a highly educated legal scholar couldn’t answer a basic question concerning people she deals with every day. “Not in this context,” clarified Judge Jackson. “I’m not a biologist,” she added as if one needs special expertise to provide your opinion on what constitutes either a man or a woman.
Even more incredibly, the mainstream media was enthused with this non-response. USA Today even claimed that an actual biologist couldn’t answer the question either. There is too much variation, they say, so apparently no one can. “Scientists, gender law scholars and philosophers of biology said Jackson’s response was commendable, though perhaps misleading. It’s useful, they say, that Jackson suggested science could help answer Blackburn’s question, but they note that a competent biologist would not be able to offer a definitive answer either. Scientists agree there is no sufficient way to clearly define what makes someone a woman, and with billions of women on the planet, there is much variation.” Consider what would happen if we applied this standard to anything else. We would never be able to define anything and language itself would break down. What is a car? There are about a billion of them on the planet as well. They come in sedans and coupes, hardtops and roadsters, compacts and crossover vehicles, gas, hybrids, and electrics, even three wheeled vehicles, part motorcycle, part car. Do we now need a mechanic to tell us what we drive? How about something as simple as water? There’s spring water, tap water, filtered water, Ph-balanced water, lake water, rain water, ocean water, brackish water, frozen water, drainage water, swamp water, tidal water, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. Can we not define water either?
Of course, everyone uses these and many other terms every day in their lives and no one has any trouble understanding what they mean. Linguists refer to these types of words as “mass terms.” Mass terms refer to a general group of objects, rather than any specific object or count. It remains unclear how easily our minds differentiate between the two, but somehow everyone intuitively understands that when you are speaking of women or cars in general, you are not referring to any specific woman or car. You are referring to the generalized set or collection; the “woman-ness” or the “car-ness,”and everyone knows what you are talking about regardless of their expertise on hybrid powertrains versus variable valve timing. In this fashion, anyone who graduated from Harvard Law School should certainly be able to offer their definition of a woman, much less have USA Today tell us that even experts are incapable of performing this simple task.
Moreover, that same person should be able to understand that other people’s definitions might be somewhat different than their own. Some might refer to child bearing, others to sex organs, a few to something else entirely. Finally, that person will also be aware that they’re referring to the general class of woman, not individual people. If their definition of a woman is the ability to bear children, this doesn’t mean an infertile woman isn’t a woman at all. We should also hope for the gift of differentiating between a literal definition and what individual people perceive they are. I’m 150 pounds soaking wet, but when I lose my temper I think I can take on prime Stallone. I cannot. I’d get killed, but at that moment it seems like I can. Likewise, there are short people who pretend to be tall, thin people who think they’re fat, ugly people who think they’re hot stuff. Lost in the debate over the proper definition of a woman, is the simple truth that people can think differently than what they are. A person might truly believe they are a woman at heart, but that doesn’t assume they fit the generally accepted definition or any specific biological definition. Otherwise, we are getting awfully close to modifying the traditional Catholic definition of transubstantiation, where the wine and wafer at mass are actually the body and blood of Christ, except for the accidents of taste, color, and body. Saying and believing something is so, doesn’t make it so. As a society, we can agree that people should be treated with dignity and respect, and have broad discretion to be called by the names and pronouns they prefer, but the idea that this phenomenon fundamentally changes the definition of words to mean whatever they want at any given moment makes language meaningless in general. The nature of a biological woman hasn’t changed, despite our current insistence otherwise.
It should also be noted that this endless reliance on experts for everything is a growing trend in progressive circles, generally used to shut down conversations they don’t want to hear or censor ideas they don’t want to spread. It is a political tool to silence opposition or dodge tough questions. Judge Jackson knows full well it is likely a case involving transgender will come before the court, and she fears expressing her true opinion might derail her confirmation, so she pretends she doesn’t have one. Also consider a different topic like Critical Race Theory, where we are repeatedly told such a subject can’t possibly be taught in elementary school and the average person can’t possibly know what it is because it’s a specialized area of the law that requires law school if not an actual degree and certification by the bar to understand. Of course, it is true that some of the more subtle aspects of it might escape the average person, but that is true of everything. I can know in principle how a car works, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to take apart the engine. Likewise, anyone can understand Critical Race Theory as a system that prioritizes racial hierarchies over the more egalitarian principle of equality under the law. We can also understand that this line of thinking can be applied in school, work, and generally outside the study of the law.
For example, Clover Park School District in Washington state recently announced a policy to discipline students differently based on their race and ethnicity. They refer to this as a new “culturally responsive discipline” model that encourages school staff to impose disciplinary policies that “may be adapted to individual student needs in a culturally responsive manner.” The language is clear as can be, and yet Board President Alyssa Anderson Pearson told the Daily Mail that it doesn’t mean what everyone knows it does. Perhaps we should bring in an expert to unpack this statement, “Contrary to recent inaccurate news coverage and social media posts, Clover Park School District’s Student Discipline Policy does not make race a determining factor for administering discipline. It contains no such provision.” The truth, however, came out at a meeting of the school board, when Acting Superintendent Brian Laubach explained the implications of the policy, saying that “Essentially, they are referring there that you look at — are you dispersing discipline across the ethnicities, the racial groups, equitably.” Are we truly supposed to believe you need a law degree to understand, first, that this policy is rooted in Critical Race Theory and, second, that it’s a bad idea? The lawyers and other experts can argue about it all they like. The average person knows that divvying up young children by race and punishing some more than others is a recipe for disaster, whatever legal theory or root cause progressives believe is at play.
In the same manner, it didn’t take a degree in virology or economics to correctly determine that shutting down most of the economy including schools for a prolonged period was a bad idea whatever the supposed safety concerns amid a pandemic. Alas, the entire coronavirus pandemic has been defined by the tyranny of expertise as a weapon for censorship, as if you need to be a virologist to make even basic decisions about your own risks or what is good for your family. Thus, we are supposed to believe an expert is the only person that knows whether your own children should be wearing masks, even if they are kicking and screaming and tearing it off as you try to put it on. They believe you are incapable of going to the CDC website and reading the simple statistics that clearly demonstrate the risk to children is almost non-existent, nor is your opinion on what is best overall for your own child relevant. Sadly, this fetish with expertise played out in real time on social media where contrary opinions were flagged if not banned, only to have the decision reversed in many cases. The experts said the vaccine would stop the spread. It didn’t. The experts said it couldn’t possibly have come from a lab. It more than likely did. If you questioned this at any point before expert opinion changed, you were branded a heretic, flagged, if not banned, from polite discourse. Just last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci told us we may never know if any of it was worth it. In an interview with the BBC, he claimed he doesn’t believe “we’re ever going to be able to determine” the truth. “Obviously, when you do have that kind of restriction on society, there are unintended negative consequences, particularly in children who are not allowed to go to school, in the psychological and mental health aspects it has on children, in the economic stress that it puts on society in general, on individual families. Obviously, those are negative consequences that are unintended. One has to look at the balance of life saved, hospitalizations avoided.” It takes an expert to tell us that?
Of course, he says this now after promoting these policies for two years and the damage is already done, the contrary opinions long since censored. One has to wonder how long before this same censorship tactic is applied to other areas of life, perhaps even basic definitions like what it means to be a man or a woman. Can we anticipate some future in which a post insisting women have babies is banned? I hope not, but ultimately it’s hard to see why not. If it takes an expert to define “woman,” it will take an expert to define anything and, in that case, why not police the definition, same as the pandemic? They say Abraham Lincoln once asked an audience how many legs a dog has if you count the tail as a leg. When the audience dutifully answered “five,” the legendary President replied: The fact that you called the tail a leg did not make it a leg. It’s a lesson we should all learn today the next time someone says it takes an expert to apply common sense.