What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
When in Romeo and Juliet, Juliet utters these words Shakespeare is displaying the fulsome naivety that prevailed before we were assailed by “wokedom”.
In such innocent times we were not unduly concerned how we named things because there was a general consensus about what we meant.
However, Juliet was just trying to make the point that she did not care whether Romeo was a Montague or a Capulet because he was before anything else a male human being she found desirable.
To a botanist a rose may be Rosa rubiginosa but to most of us we don’t need a botanical definition of a rose when it occurs in common parlance. We know that roses come in many forms (such as hybrid tea roses, grandiflora roses, floribunda roses, miniature roses and climbing roses) but despite these differences most of us are able to recognise a rose when we see one. But in today’s “woke” world, there seems to be a lot less clarity in the meaning of words.
And, of course, one area where clarity of language has been diminished by wokeness in recent times is gender.
Last year in a Senate Estimates hearing, the South Australian Liberal senator Alex Antic put the cat among the pigeons. He questioned a panel of five of Australia’s medical experts from the Department of Health. At the end of his questioning he put this query to the assembled experts.
I’m going to finish up with a very simple question for the department, and one that has troubled me for a great deal of time with the bureaucracy here. Can someone please provide me with a definition of what a woman is?
This question caused great discomfiture and concern among the panel. After a while with no response, Senator Antic asks again:
Definition of a man. Definition of a woman. Anyone?
Professor Brendan Murphy, suddenly seemed to realise as Secretary of the Department of Health he was the most senior official in the room and consequently felt compelled to reply. He waffled on for a while about there being many definitions of the word “woman “before begging leave to take the question on notice and provide an answer at a later date. Now this is the same Professor Murphy who had previously been the Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government.
Now it is totally implausible that Professor Murphy didn’t know what a woman is. What he didn’t know was how to couch his definition in a way that wouldn’t offend the “woke” activists that the Government is trying to appease. He didn’t have at hand a mealy -mouthed set of words that could identify a woman without referring to the biological differences between males and females. He didn’t want to challenge the prevailing wisdom of the woke community that gender is merely a matter of choice and not biologically determined.
As a former Chief Medical Officer I am sure Professor Murphy is well-versed in human biology. He was merely deficient in the nuances of “woke” ideology and how to defend undefendable propositions..
In his ignorance he was aiding and abetting the nonsense propagated by the transgender movement that gender is not biologically determined.
If you go to my opening remarks, Juliet was guided by her biological inclinations.
I doubt she had any misgivings about whether Romeo was cis, bi, transgender or queer or any of those other gender divisions that that seem to be so important to today’s gender obsessed “woke” disciples.
Now if this was just an academic argument I wouldn’t be so concerned. But it is not just an academic argument – it has real life implications.
Most of the emerging gender controversy revolves around the concept that biological males should somehow be treated as women if they choose to self-identify as women.
This has a number of deleterious impacts.
Firstly these males self-identifying as women want to be able to compete in women’s sports. Now there is a very good reason why we don’t allow men to compete against women in most sports. Testosterone provides men with physical advantages relating to size and strength.
In my youth I was a schoolboy athlete. My athletic heroes in those days were Ron Clarke and Raelene Boyle. I can remember reading newspaper reports of Raelene in the early nineteen sixties (when I was about sixteen) setting an Australian women’s record for the 220 yards sprint (as it was then –now the close equivalence of the 200m sprint). I was surprised to observe that I had run faster times myself and I had been beaten by other boys in this event in some athletics carnivals at the time.
It is patently unfair to allow biological men compete against biological women in sports that depend on physical size or strength. I can’t see why men and women couldn’t physically compete in snooker or clay target shooting but certainly not in running, swimming, weightlifting, wrestling and so on.
(As an amusing aside, when I played rugby league in my first two years at James Cook University we used to have an annual match when we were pitted against a team of the young women undergraduates. But to compensate for the inherent male advantages we were not allowed to run but only to hop!}
As some feminists have rightly pointed out, allowing biological men to compete against biological women not only deprives the women of sporting success but (particularly in the USA) deprives them of the opportunity to gain sporting scholarships to Universities thus depriving them of academic opportunities as well.
But these biological males, self-identifying as women, want access to such other female only spaces as women’s toilets and changerooms.
Nicola Sturgeon, previously Scotland’s First Minister has just been forced to fall on her sword because of her progressive attitude to transgender politics. This was a government who allowed a convicted rapist, who decided to identify as female, the right to be incarcerated in a female prison. What could possibly go wrong?
So Senator Antic was perfectly correct to raise his question about “what is a woman” because it has important ramifications in the real world.
But the good Senator Antic was not done there. Sometime after, he asked at Senate Estimates, another difficult but pertinent question when interrogating the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Commission. He queried the definition of “indigenous”. The Labor Minister, in response, accused Senator Antic of being “borderline racist” for daring to seek clarification of who would be deemed “indigenous” in the voice referendum.
Now surely it is an entirely reasonable request to ask who will be entitled to vote for the voice and who will be the beneficiaries of the voice. Indeed I would have thought this was essential knowledge if one was to make a considered decision on whether to vote for the voice or not. But, of course, the Federal Government isn’t seeking to promote a considered debate about the merits of the voice. The government is relying on an emotional campaign that seeks to shame us into submission by implying that those opposed to ensconcing the voice in the constitution are somehow racist.
At the hearing department officials protested that there was already in place a process for identifying indigeneity. It had been advanced at the Mabo case and has been used ever since. When asked by the Senator how the process worked they were vague in their response except for the fact that self-identifying as indigenous triggered the process,
We know from recent census results that many more people are identifying as indigenous. Some estimates suggest that up to 30% of those identifying as indigenous do not in fact have indigenous blood. How easy the process can be manipulated is vividly demonstrated by Aborigine pretender and darling of the ABC, Bruce Pascoe author of Dark Emu.
Far from being racist, if we are to have a serious debate about the voice, defining “indigenous” is clearly essential. At least ten years ago, indigenous affairs commentator, Anthony Dillon told me that when it came to indigenous affairs the definition of “indigenous” was undoubtedly the “elephant in the room”. It’s time we did something about it if we want to develop real solutions to indigenous dysfunction.
But there is something even more fundamentally important here. I have told you numerous times how my friend and mentor, Dr Phil Harker taught us that offense was never given, only taken. Now we have allowed victimhood to flourish in our society and the principal weapon resorted to by these pathetic victims is taking offense. Rather than counter any threats to their cultivated beliefs with rational argument they pretend emotional hurt and silence us by parading their victimhood. Unfortunately this pathetic response is encouraged by many of our woke institutions to the extent that our freedom of speech is compromised.
The prime defence we have against wokedom is the truth. (I point to the fact that I wrote the truth and not another woke concept, my truth!) Wokeness is so fragile it uses many subterfuges to prevent us arriving at the truth.
But apropos the above discussion about confecting identity there seems little evidence that we seek out the truth.
I could, if I wished, identify as a woman. If I did this I would be supported by the transgender movement and my claim would largely go uninvestigated by the woke community.
I could, if I wished, identify as indigenous. If I was friendly with the elders of the local indigenous community I would more than likely be endorsed as indigenous without anyone querying my genealogy or my genetic history.
If I truly wanted to impress the woke brigade I might identify improbably as an indigenous woman! I would be celebrated as a liberated human being and most likely get to appear on the ABC!
Yet if I , just as improbably, said I was Jesus, I would more than likely be locked up while my mental health was assessed.