The most difficult question for a civil servant to answer: what is a woman?

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More and more, “What is a woman?” becomes a question that actors in the public domain are unable to answer. This week, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Supreme Court nominee who is being grilled by the Senate, could not give a definition, and UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak did all he could to avoid completely an answer. Here are the awkward exchanges on how Jackson and Sunak avoided the question.

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Senator Marsha Blackburn: Can you give a definition of the word woman?

Jackson: Can I give a definition? No I can not.

Blackburn: You can not ?

Jackson: Not in this context. I am not a biologist.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Photo by Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images


Interviewer Julia Hartley-Brewer: Just to finish, I want to ask you a question that seems to be very complicated for many politicians these days… What is a woman?

Sunak: I think the Prime Minister answered that question brilliantly in Prime Minister’s Questions this week, and I agree with him wholeheartedly.

Hartley Brewer: What is your definition of a woman?

Sunak: As I said, I would totally agree with what the Prime Minister said in question time. I think he answered the question very well.

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Hartley Brewer: An adult human female?

Sunak: I think the Prime Minister answered the question brilliantly.

Hartley Brewer: So you thought he answered it brilliantly, so what were the words he said that you agree with?

Sunak: Well, if you look at everything he said on Wednesday, he answered the question brilliantly and I agree with every word he said.

Hartley Brewer: We won’t get a proper response from you, will we? It’s a very simple question.

Sunak: Because I wouldn’t say it as well as he did.

Julia Hartley-Brewer: Adult human female?

Sunak: I think he said it very well and I think you understand his language and I would gladly associate myself with every word he said. I thought he said it very well.

For memory : On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘When it comes to distinguishing between a male and a female, the basic facts of biology remain extremely important.

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