A matter of simple semantics

Hilarity on Twitter today, from a familiar source.

Where it began:

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 5 hours ago
Is trans woman a woman? Purely semantic. If you define by chromosomes, no. If by self-identification, yes. I call her “she” out of courtesy.

Ah you know that’s not going to go well. Not good enough. You’re not allowed to have a “no” anywhere. You’re not allowed to have an “if” anywhere. You’re not allowed to make distinctions.

And then his unfailing clumsiness – to put it politely – makes it all the worse. “Out of courtesy” might as well be “to humor” her.

So, of course, the next tweet was the inevitable

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 5 hours ago
@partimetroll Why? What could anyone possibly object to in my tweet? Please tell. I’m sincerely curious.

And on they went:

@RedKaye1 How can you be so wantonly stupid as to suggest that I would suggest such a thing?

@Reverend_Banjo How could that possibly piss anyone off? I’m simply trying to clarify a matter of simple semantics.

@hemantmehta I don’t understand. What’s your problem?

@GenericGooner I am on their side. What makes you think I am not? Do you deny what I said about chromosomes? It’s a matter of simple fact.

@bcaton2 Again that would depend on semantic definition. Do you choose to define by brain or rest of body? Matter of semantic choice.

@TheGayChrist By your definition, which it is your privilege to adopt. I adopt it too for all purposes that matter.

Now I’m getting hate because I stated a wish to be courteous. It means “polite”, “respectful”, “considerate of people’s feelings.” Terrible!

@Miss_Violet2014 Why? You obviously agree that they have Y chromosomes. So IF somebody were to define “woman” as XX . . . that’s all I said

@thebrainofchris English is my native language. I speak and write it competently. The implication you suggest is parsecs from my intention.

Jan Morris’s book, Conundrum, is a beautifully written account of what it’s like to feel you’re a woman trapped in a man’s body.

It’s absurd to use the word “really” to criticise trans people. “Really” means nothing, since the definition is semantic. That was my point.

@HPluckrose Yes, but I didn’t say that. I said IF you define “woman” by chromosomes you’ll get one answer. I didn’t say I did, did I?

Well, who would have believed “courtesy” was a dirty word? Never mind, I intend to continue to be courteous. Sorry if that gives offence.

@VincentGrey1 Perhaps you’re not accustomed to thinking logically and clearly? It takes practice.

@BrookeTLarson OK, that’s fine. I only said IF you define “woman” by chromosomes. I never said I did. Did I? No I didn’t.

It will be in the Guardian and the Independent within hours.

26 Responses to “A matter of simple semantics”