What Does 'Woman' Mean? | Opinion

"I am woman, hear me roar"—Helen Reddy's famous anthem of the feminist revolution of the 60's and 70's—is the latest arrival on the ash heap of history. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson declined to even define "woman" in her confirmation hearings last week. Her insistence that, because she was not a biologist, she was incapable of distinguishing between a male and a female makes one wonder how Judge Jackson will be able to make rulings about the hundreds of laws that acknowledge the differences between male and female—and specifically those meant to protect women.

One such civil rights law is Title IX, which requires equality of educational benefits and opportunities for students, including in athletics, on the basis of sex—as defined in the difference between male and female. This federal law extends to any school receiving federal financial assistance, including public K-12 schools and almost every college and university in America.

Last week, University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas (formerly Will Thomas) competed and won against accomplished, deserving young women at the NCAA Division I swim championships. Concerned Women for America (CWA) filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of these women against the university. UPenn is violating federal civil rights law under Title IX by allowing a biological male to take a spot and compete in women's sports.

After a half century of legal protection under Title IX, women are being pushed aside, again. By refusing to stop males from competing in women's sports, woke universities and organizations like the NCAA have turned a law that has benefited generations of passionate and promising female athletes on its head.

No male, however he identifies, will ever shed his XY chromosomes, menstruate or give birth. Male athletes simply cannot wish themselves out of the physical advantages they hold over female athletes. Thomas is 6'1"—towering over most female teammates. Male bodies have larger hearts and lungs and higher hemoglobin levels that enable them to oxygenate muscles faster. They have bigger bones and muscle capacity as well as larger feet and hands, a particular advantage in swimming. They also have a greater amount of fast-twitch muscle fiber, allowing for greater explosive power off the blocks.

These are facts of biology, not bigotry. But one does not have to be a biologist to understand them.

As recently as 2020, Thomas competed as a member of UPenn's men's swimming team. Thomas is anatomically a male. By allowing a male to take a spot and compete on the women's swim team, UPenn deprives aspiring young women athletes of a fair and level playing field in competition. This grave injustice violates the fundamental principles of equity in Title IX's historic efforts to promote equal opportunity in collegiate sports.

Ketanji Brown Jackson
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson returns from a break in her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 23, 2022 in Washington, DC. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden's pick to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, would become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court if confirmed. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

In 2019, after a biological male athlete dominated Division II women's competition in the 400-meter hurdles, CWA filed a federal sex discrimination complaint against Franklin Pierce University for violating the rights of female student-athletes to equal opportunity on the basis of sex. We won.

This battle is inevitably headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. How can women feel confident that they will get a fair hearing from Judge Jackson when she's shown a willingness to ignore the very definition of woman? The sort of discrimination women are facing right now—with males displacing them from meaningful competition in direct violation of federal law, when concerns for their safety in prisons and domestic violence shelters are being ignored, when sexual exploitation continues to expand—demands a Justice willing to stand up to the woke mob to follow the law and scientific facts.

We need judges who take women seriously. Judge Brown Jackson embraced gender theory politics when she chose to obscure the obvious differences between men and women.

As the tidal wave of gender activism consumes sports from the Olympics on down, a backlash is being felt in state capitals across the country. Eleven states have passed legislation and 20 more are considering bills that protect female athletes from competing against males.

If these laws get to the Supreme Court, what would a Justice Jackson decide?

Women have unique qualities and inherent dignity that should be championed, not pushed aside.

Fifty years after Title IX was implemented, young women's sisterhood is being undercut by male-bodied athletes who appropriate their identity to compete in their shoes and pilfer their standing in history.

Who will defend the rights of women, if we have judges who can't even define them?

Penny Nance is the CEO and President of Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest public policy women's organization in the country.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.