A word that seems to have a simple meaning

Steven Gimbel and Gwydion Suilebhan at 3 Quarks Daily tell us how stooooooopid people who think women are adult human females are.

For the last several years, elected Republicans, full of anti-trans zeal, have challenged their opponents to define the word “woman.” They aren’t really curious. They’re setting a rhetorical trap. They’re taking a word that seems to have a simple meaning, because the majority of people who identify as women resemble each other in some ways, then refusing to consider any of the people who don’t.

Yes that’s an honest account. Most people “who identify as women” are alike “in some ways” and then there are other people “who identify as women” who are not alike in those unspecified “some ways.” It’s entirely a matter of who identifies as what, and vague hand-wavey “resembling each other.” It’s squishy all the way down. It’s opinion, it’s idenniny, it’s resemblances; it’s all a matter of choice and taste and preference. It works the same way with identifying as human – most people who identify as human resemble each other in some ways, but others don’t. Clear?

They go on to explain that this is so clear, and so true, that dictionaries have taken note.

On December 13, the Cambridge Dictionary broadened their definitions of “man” and “woman” to include people who identify as either.

The original definition of “woman”: an adult female human being.

The new addition to the definition: an adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth.

So there! It’s in the dictionary! Take that, Republicans! Dictionaries don’t police words, they tell you how words are used, so once enough people say that men who call themselves women are women, the dictionary has to say it too, and therefore it’s true that men can be women, and we’ll police you if you don’t believe it.

In fact, the definition of the word “woman” has been considered complicated for quite some time. For more than 30 years, at least since the publication of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, people have understood those complexities.

Judith Butler doesn’t get enough recognition. All by herself she changed what the word “woman” means – she should have some kind of Nobel Prize, shouldn’t she?

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