The word "woman" is on the lips of a slew of conservative elected officials and media personalities. Is it because they finally came around to supporting the extension of the Violence Against Women Act? Nope. Is it cause they took steps to address the gender pay gap? Wrong.
It's actually because they're demanding that anyone with President Joe Biden's stamp of approval define the word "woman."
The trend started during the Senate Judiciary Committee's questioning of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was confirmed in a 53-47 floor vote this Thursday. During the committee hearing, far-right Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee demanded Judge Jackson define the word.
"Senator, in my work as a judge, what I do is I address disputes. If there is a dispute about a definition, people make arguments and I look at the law and decide."
The effort for Fox News sound bites continued with far-right Congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who demanded Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra define the terms "man" and "woman" in a recent committee hearing.
The goal of this line of questioning is to discredit the recognition of transgender people, but turning the tables on Republicans lays bare the ways in which conservatives' biological essentialism ignores factors that make the definition of "woman" complex.
When Republican Senator Josh Hawley told HuffPost that "woman" means “someone who can give birth to a child, a mother, is a woman. Someone who has a uterus is a woman. It doesn’t seem that complicated to me," he seemed glib about the millions of women who can no longer bear children or the millions of women who've had hysterectomies to remove their uteri.
In a House floor speech, far-right Congressman Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina said, "I’m about to define what a woman is for you: X chromosomes, no tallywhacker. It’s so simple.” The simplification led Monica Hesse of the Washington Post to "wonder what the congressman would make of the millions of women who have had Turner syndrome, a genetic disorder defined by a missing X chromosome. I wonder how he would determine the gender of an intersex individual who had reproductive characteristics of both sexes. Via a coin flip? A ruler?"
Now, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is noting further Republican hypocrisy on the issue.
The Congresswoman, known colloquially as AOC, was alluding to the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which granted some of the broadest corporate personhood rights in U.S. history. Though the Court's earliest rumblings of corporate personhood recognition date all the way back to the 19th century, the Citizens United decision ruled that political speech protections in the First Amendment extended beyond individuals and to corporations, paving the way for corporations to flood the political landscape with exorbitant funds.
Subsequently, despite boycotts of businesses expressing political speech that conservatives don't support, Republicans have embraced the idea of corporations as people.
Though the exploitation of this ruling is by no means limited to Republicans, it was concluded by conservative Justices and embraced by Republican elected officials. Republican then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney said, "Corporations are people, my friend." In 2014, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly said that corporations are just as entitled to free speech as human beings.
AOC's critique calls into question how Republicans can judge a corporation as a human being without genitals or chromosomes to determine its place in society.
Some social media users thought it to be a worthwhile question.
Others noted that corporations are taxed differently than human beings as well.
Conservatives remain unconvinced.