Aussie Life

Language

9 July 2022

9:00 AM

9 July 2022

9:00 AM

No language column can ignore Professor Brendan Murphy’s extraordinary 78-word definition of ‘woman’. As you know, when he was questioned during a Senate hearing by Speccie contributor and Senator Alex Antic, Australia’s top health bureaucrat failed to answer the question: what is a woman? He ducked and weaved saying: ‘Look, I think there are a variety of definitions’ – adding that he needed to take the question on notice, and have his department prepare a definition. He could, of course, have just opened up a dictionary. The Oxford gets its definition down to just four words, saying ‘woman’ means an ‘adult female human being’. The Longman does even better – just three words an ‘adult female person’. But the nervous Professor Murphy has finally come back with his department’s definition – and here is the entire 78 words of bureaucratic gobbledegook.

You can try reading it, but I promise your eyes will glaze over before you get to the end:

‘The frameworks adopted to define a person’s gender include chromosomal makeup, the gender assigned at birth, and the gender with which a person identifies. The Department of Health does not adopt a single definition. Health policies and access to health programs are based on clinical evidence and clinical need for all Australians, regardless of gender identity, biological characteristics, or genetic variations. Our programs are designed to be inclusive and to provide better health and wellbeing for all Australians.’


It took an entire federal government department almost three months to come up with that!

If Professor Murphy was terrified of the woke warriors and the screaming Twitter mob, he should have come to me and said, ‘Kel, how can I give a clear definition without be hung, drawn and quartered on Instagram?’ I would have suggestion a short, simply text giving a double answer: ‘Woman has two definitions based on (1) biology and (2) gender. (1) Biology’s answer is that a woman is an adult female person. While (2) gender is socially defined, varies from culture to culture and time to time, and is currently disputed.’ That is not what I personally think but I could have got him off the hook without resorting to gobbledegook. We can judge the sheer terror giving Professor Murphy heart palpitations from the nonsensical 78 words he offered us.

But was the fear justified? How rough could it be?

In a new documentary released recently in America commentator Matt Walsh asks various ‘gender-affirming’ doctors, therapists, and activists a seemingly straightforward question: ‘What is a woman?’ And those he asks give answers that range from the convoluted and meaningless to the circular –  ‘a woman is anyone who identifies as a woman’. To that response Matt Walsh asked ‘But what do they identify as? Can you give a definition of “woman” that doesn’t use the word “woman”?’ Of course the answer was ‘no’. When Walsh kept using the word ‘truth’ in these interviews Patrick Grzanka, a professor of women’s studies, said the repeated use of the word ‘truth’ made him uncomfortable and ‘sounded transphobic’.

How can intelligent, thoughtful people so scramble reality – and the words that name reality – that they are frightened by words such as ‘truth’ and ‘woman’?

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Contact Kel at ozwords.com.au

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