Looking Beneath the Surface of the Hawley-Bridges Exchange
If you haven’t already seen the viral clip of the exchange between Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo) and Professor Khiara Bridges, you should watch it. This fiery conversation, which occurred at a Senate Committee Hearing on July 12, is an entertaining foray into the new theatre of the culture war: the question of whether men can get pregnant.
A law professor from Cal-Berkeley says @HawleyMO is being transphobic for saying only women can get pregnant. Watch this exchange. These men can get pregnant people are crazy: pic.twitter.com/YxOd9kaXFh— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) July 12, 2022
On one level, this exchange was a typical example of (a) people talking past each other, (b) the reduction of political discourse to a zero-sum game between winners and losers, and (c) the failure on both sides of the ideological divide to truly engage with and listen to what their opponents are saying. After all, Professor Bridges was not actually claiming that biological men can get pregnant; rather, she was claiming that transgender men can. And since “transgender men” include biological women, it is very true they can get pregnant—in fact, biological women are the only group who can get pregnant.
So why all the fuss?
But before dismissing the entire debate as merely a confusion of semantics, we should attend to the underlying issues and consequences. Behind the proximate concern—can a man get pregnant?— are three important, but often overlooked, issues.
Issue #1: Change the Language, Change the Culture
According to transgender theory, biological sex is something you are born with, and gender is something you choose; biological sex is fixed, gender is fluid. I discussed this distinction last year in my article, “Cancelling Woman.” On one level, this is quite simple, but where it gets confusing is that people who espouse transgender theory use the categories “man” and “woman” to refer to gender, whereas most ordinary people use these terms to refer to biological sex. Accordingly, when Professor Bridges talks about men getting pregnant, she is not referring to people within the class of biological men. But when Sen. Hawley denies that men can get pregnant, he was only referring to people within the class of biological men. Sen. Hawley doesn’t understand this, and said later on “Hannity” that the Democrats now affirm the insane idea that biological men can become pregnant.
This is a typical semantic disagreement, hinging on fallacies of equivocation. But disagreements that are semantic are rarely merely semantic. Definitions have consequences, as we saw in the debate over the meaning of marriage. If we know anything about history, it is that totalitarians and revolutionaries routinely employ slippery definitions to introduce new cultural agendas and policies.
In his book Live Not By Lies, Rod Dreher showed that the way to change the way people think is to change how they speak:
Social justice warriors believe that human nature is constructed largely through the use of linguistic conventions. That is why they focus heavily on “discourses”—that is, the style and content of modes of speaking that, in their view, legitimize certain ways of being and delegitimize others. SJW [Social Justice Warriors] tightly police the spoken and written word, condemning speech that offends them as a form of violence.
The present case provides a perfect example of how policing speech legitimizes certain ways of being. By relocating words like “man” and “woman” and their associated pronouns away from sex (a person’s biology) and onto gender (how a person identifies), social justice warriors like Dr. Bridges are creating the groundwork for new policies, new ways of ordering society, and new witch-hunts.
Issue #2: Does Denying Male Pregnancy Make You Complicit in Violence?
The exchange between Sen. Hawley and Dr. Bridges may have offered a frightening glimpse into things to come. The political left is creating the conceptual template for associating denial of male pregnancy with complicity in violence. Let’s look again at the central part of the exchange:
Khiara Bridges: I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic, and it opens trans people up to violence by not recognizing them.
Josh Hawley: Wow, you’re saying that I’m opening up people to violence by asking whether or not women are the folks who can have pregnancies? …
Khiara Bridges: Do you believe that men can get pregnant?
Josh Hawley: No, I don't think men can get pregnant.
Khiara Bridges: So you’re denying that trans people exist.
Notice how Dr. Bridges takes it for granted that Sen Hawley’s denial that men can get pregnant opens trans people up to violence. Consider, if failure to affirm male pregnancy is truly equivalent to denying that trans people exist, then it is analogous to Hitler not recognizing Jews as legitimate citizens. If you don’t give the right answer to “Can men get pregnant?” then you are responsible for violence; you are a danger to society.
Will the next step be to pursue policies to protect society from people like Sen. Hawley?
Issue #3: The Left is Out to Erase Biological Sex
I already said that on one level this fiery exchange was largely semantic. For all Dr. Bridges’ bravado about men getting pregnant, she was still only talking about biological women, and a specific subset of biological women known as “transgender men.”
Here’s how it works. A woman decides to transition into a “man,” but she keeps her uterus. She may be taking artificial male hormones in order to gain a deep voice and facial hair. If she wants to become pregnant, she will be encouraged to stop taking male hormones during the course of pregnancy. Once the baby is born, she resumes taking male hormones. Thus, although we can talk all we want about men getting pregnant, in each case we are dealing with a biological woman who identifies as a “transgender man.”
Nobody denies that the person who gives birth is a biological woman…at least not yet. But there is some evidence that this is about to change. I already mentioned that semantics have real world consequences, because what begins with a change in language often ends up with a change in how we view reality. In the present case, Dr. Bridges represents a movement on the slippery slope to erasing biological sex completely. What is now merely a case of removing references to biological sex from language (for example, talking about “people with the capacity for pregnancy,” or “birthing people,”) has put our nation on a trajectory for completely cancelling biological sex in the near future.
If you think I’m being alarmist, here is a smattering of the chatter in recent discourse, showing there are powerful elements in our society at work to completely eliminate biological sex from our social, medical, legal, and scientific taxonomy.
- Four-year publicly funded research project from UK law school works to dismantle biological sex in case law
- Head of Stonewall claims that trans women (biological males who identify as women) were not born with the male sex, but “born as trans women”
- The American Medical Association’s (AMA) Board of Trustees has been trying to remove biological sex from birth certificates
And now we arrive at the ultimate irony. Bridges expressed moral outrage at Sen. Hawley for implying that trans people don't exist. Yet she is part of a movement that is on the cusp of denying that biological women exist. That future is not yet upon us, but it is approaching quickly.
If that future arrives, we could begin to see witch-hunting against segments of our population who refuse to go along with the new groupthink on male pregnancy.Robin Phillips
has a Master’s in Historical Theology from King’s College London and a Master’s in Library Science through the University of Oklahoma. He is the blog and media managing editor for the Fellowship of St. James and a regular contributor to Touchstone and Salvo. In addition to working as a ghost-writer for celebrities, his work has featured in a variety of publications, including the Colson Center, World Magazine, Sky News, and the Mars Hill Audio Journal. Phillips is the author of Gratitude in Life's Trenches: How to Experience the Good Life Even When Everything Is Going Wrong (Ancient Faith, 2020), and Rediscovering the Goodness of Creation: A Manuel for Recovering Gnostics (Ancient Faith, forthcoming 2023). He is a contributor to Pain, Suffering and Resilience: Orthodox Christian Perspectives (Sebastian Press, 2018), and Finding the Golden Key: Essays Towards a Recovery of the Sacramental Imagination (Eighth Day Press, forthcoming 2023). He operates a blog at www.robinmarkphillips.com.• Get SALVO blog posts in your inbox! Copyright © 2023 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/post/male-pregnancy-and-the-new-witch-hunting