Pressure to define ‘woman’ puts Democrats in a political quandary

Republicans, feminists put party on the spot on gender identity

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra goes before a House Appropriations subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., to discuss President Joe Biden’s budget proposals for fiscal year 2023, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 31, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By Valerie Richardson – The Washington Times – Sunday, April 10, 2022

Supreme Court Justice-designate Ketanji Brown Jackson isn’t a biologist, and apparently neither is Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Mr. Becerra became the latest Democrat to struggle to answer after Rep. Mary Miller, Illinois Republican, asked him point-blank, “What is a woman? Can you define the word?”

“Congresswoman, I’m looking at you, and I think you’re a woman. How much more do you want me to give you?” said Mr. Becerra at the Wednesday hearing of the House Education and Labor Committee.

Ms. Miller shot back: “If you’re in charge of Health and Human Services, we want a specific definition of what a woman is.”

None was forthcoming, but don’t expect Republicans to stop asking. As Democrats get behind the push to fold transgender women into women’s sports, prisons, public facilities and categories, opponents want the party to define its terms before redefining society.

“This didn’t used to be a trick question,” Ms. Miller told The Washington Times. “While there is so much in this world that we don’t know, for all of recorded history, people have known what a woman is. But Justice Jackson, Secretary Becerra, and others in the Biden administration are so pressured to be aligned with the radical left that they cannot acknowledge common sense.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, put the question on the public’s radar by asking then-Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for a definition during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s March 22 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, prompting the judge’s reply, “I’m not a biologist.”

The dilemma for Democrats is that there may be no good answer for a party struggling to balance its appeal to middle-of-the-road voters while addressing the increasingly radical demands from the far left. 

The LGBTQ movement insists that anyone who identifies as a woman is a woman, even if they have XY chromosomes and male genitalia, and must be treated as such by both society and the law.

“When we say women, that word always includes trans women,” said the Human Rights Campaign under the heading “5 Things to Know to Make Your Feminism Trans-Inclusive.” “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. A woman’s gender identity is her innermost concept of being female.”

In addition, a “trans woman’s gender identity doesn’t define or caveat her womanhood, it simply describes her journey to womanhood,” the HRC said.

As the American Civil Liberties Union puts it, “Trans women are women. Trans men are men.”

That effort has yet to win over the public, however, as shown in polling on transgender-related issues. For example, a May 26 Gallup poll showed that 62% of Americans believe athletes should play on teams that “match their birth gender.”

Mrs. Blackburn’s quizzing of the Supreme Court nominee crystallized for conservatives what Bethany Mandel, editor of the children’s book series Heroes of Liberty, calls a “Rubicon moment.”

“It’s a question that has captured the conservative zeitgeist, and it isn’t a ‘gotcha,’ but a fundamental chasm between the right and left leading up to the midterm elections of 2022,” said Ms. Mandel in a March 26 op-ed for the Deseret [Utah] News.

She said Republicans used to be “wary of being labeled hateful and bigots, but now they see that their failure to push back has led to situations that are damaging for women and girls.”

“They’re increasingly willing to endure the name-calling for what they believe is right,” Ms. Mandel said.

The Washington Post in a March 23 “political analysis” scolded Mrs. Blackburn for her “obvious bad-faith ploy.” ABC-TV late-night host Jimmy Kimmel slammed her as a “horrible woman,” and the left-wing outlet Jezebel ripped her as “a shining example of how white women help uphold white patriarchy.”

USA Today reported March 24 that there is “no clear way to define what makes someone a woman,” but the Independent Women’s Voice disagrees.

‘Adult human female’

Rather than shy away from definitions, the right-of-center organization released March 31 the Women’s Bill of Rights, partnering with the conservative Concerned Women of America as well as the Women’s Liberation Front and Women’s Declaration International, both self-described radical-feminist groups.

The document defines “sex” as biological sex; “female” as “an individual whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova;” “woman” and “girl” as “human females,” and “mother” as a “parent of the female sex.”

A “male” is defined as “an individual whose biological reproductive system is developed to fertilize the ova of a female.”

The Senate confirmed Justice Jackson’s nomination on Thursday, but the question lingers.

After the vote, Independent Women’s Law Center Director Jennifer Braceras declared that: “We need to pass the Women’s Bill of Rights to clarify for all judges the meaning of the word woman.”

Also tackling the big question is Matt Walsh, right-leaning host of a popular podcast on The Daily Wire, whose timing could hardly be better.

He released a video promoting his upcoming book on March 24, two days after the Jackson hearing. The book’s title: “What is a Woman? One Man’s Journey to Answer the Question of a Generation” (DW Books).

The publication is slated for release June 7, but already tops Amazon’s “political humor” list. At one point, the book was ranked No. 1 on Amazon’s “women’s studies” bestsellers, although it has since fallen to No. 27.

“I’ve traveled all over the world for the past year asking one simple question: What is a woman?” Mr. Walsh says in the video. “I’ve been asking everybody this, and almost nobody can answer it.”

One of those eager to do so is British feminist Kellie-Jay Keen, who founded in 2020 the group Standing for Women. The definition on its website is: “woman/noun/adult human female.”

She urges supporters to “be the billboard” by wearing T-shirts, posting signs and carrying swag emblazoned with the definition. The merchandise is available online on the group’s Adult Human Female store.

Ms. Keen, who also goes by Posie Parker, turned up last month at the NCAA Division I women’s swimming championships in Atlanta featuring transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. At one point, Ms. Keen was asked by a bystander, “Are you a biologist?”

She fired back: “Oh, my God, don’t be ridiculous. I’m not a vet, but I know what a dog is.”

Also stoking the backlash among the right are terms that refer to the female-born as cisgender women, birthers, bleeders, gestators, and chest-feeders, as well as gender-neutral euphemisms such as “birthing people” and “pregnant individuals.”

Such terms are making their way into federal and state policy and laws. President Biden, who signed a Jan. 20 executive order prohibiting “sex discrimination on the basis of gender identity,” drew criticism in July by using the term “birthing people” in his 2022 budget proposal.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed last week a bill to declare abortion a fundamental right that never mentions women, but rather uses the term “pregnant individuals.”

Emilie Kao, senior counsel at the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, said the refusal by lawmakers to acknowledge and specify the differences between males and females signals “deep trouble” for U.S. society.

“There is no real debate about what a woman is,” said Ms. Kao. “Refusing to respond to this easily answered question or denying the basic and undeniable truth about what it means to be male and female is a sign of a society in deep trouble. Women are half of humanity, equal and distinct from men. No one should seek to erase or redefine women to appease radical ideologues.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at

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