They’re cheesy wotsits

Suzanne Moore on the strange mystery of what the word “woman” means:

I guess it would be funny if the consequences of this evasion were not so deadly serious. On Woman’s Hour – on International Women’s Day – the redoubtable Emma Barnett asked Anneliese Dodds a simple question.

You know the one – “wossa woman?”

Dodds prevaricated for what seemed like hours. Stuff like: “Well, I have to say that there are different definitions legally around what a woman actually is. I mean, you look at the definition within the Equality Act, and I think it just says someone who is adult and female, I think, but then doesn’t see how you define either of those things.”

How about defining them the usual way, and defining women that way too? Wouldn’t that solve the problem in a stroke? Granted, “adult” really is more social than physical, and varies according to purpose and circumstances, but “female” is just as precise as “male,” and you don’t see people drawing back in horror and confusion when asked what a man is.

Barnett tried again. “What’s the Labour definition?” Dodds answered “Oh, I think, with respect, Emma, I think it does depend what the context is, surely. I mean, surely that is important here?” 

And yet, does the definition of “man” depend on what the context is? If “man” doesn’t then why does “woman”? Maybe the definition of woman is “blob that doesn’t even have a word to describe itself.”

Trans activism and lobby groups like Stonewall and Mermaids have been phenomenally successful in persuading corporations, institutions and political parties to adopt a language in which the word “woman” is verboten as it may “trigger” someone who feels themself to be a woman, even though they have male anatomy.

But not the word “man.” There is nothing like the same level of taboo and coercion around the word “man” as there is around “woman.” It’s almost as if the whole thing is just another way to keep women down.

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