The Biden administration’s secretary of education repeatedly and awkwardly refused to offer a definition of the term “woman” when confronted on biological male athletes participating in women’s sports.
During a heated exchange before the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) grilled U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona as the latter attempted to defend his proposed change to Title IX — the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in government-funded schools and educational programs.
The Biden administration’s new Title IX rules seek to outlaw the right of schools to prohibit transgender students from competing on sports teams that don’t align with their birth-assigned sex.
“Following the civil rights movement of the 1960s, lawmakers established Title IX — rules to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and federally-funded education programs, making a historic impact on girls and women sports,” Clyde said.
Prior to that, he noted, “female athletes only received two percent of college athletic budgets and athletic scholarships for women were quite rare.”
According to Clyde, Title IX “unquestionably transformed women’s sports, ensuring female athletes enjoy the same opportunities as their male counterparts.”
Turning to Cardona, the congressman from Georgia slammed the Biden administration’s proposed amendment to the federal law passed in 1972.
“Earlier this month on April the 13th, your department filed a proposed rule, amending Title IX regulations that would unilaterally force schools to allow biological males to participate in women’s athletics,” he said. “This proposed rule would withhold federal assistance from schools across the nation seeking to maintain the integrity and safety of women’s sports.”
“Since Title IX prohibits discrimination between male and female to ensure that each gets appropriate funding, I think it’s important that the country sees that HHS understands the difference,” he added.
Due to the relevance of determining the difference between men and women, Clyde asked: “So can you please tell me or can you please define for me what is a woman?”
“Our focus at the department is to provide equal access to students, including students who are LGBTQ, access free from discrimination,” Cardona responded.
“So what’s the definition of a woman? You haven’t given me that. You haven’t answered my question,” Clyde fired back.
“I think that’s almost secondary to the important role that I have as secretary of education,” Cardona replied.
Pushing the Biden-nominated former teacher to answer the simple question, Clyde explained that his question was “not secondary.”
“My question is very simple: what does HHS say the definition of a woman is?” he asked.
Cardona, refusing to answer, spoke broadly of his role.
“I lead the Department of Education, and my job is to make sure that all students have access to public education, which includes co-curricular activities,” he said.
“And I think you highlighted pretty well the importance of Title IX and giving students equal access, whether it’s scholarship and facilities and participation as well,” he added.
Clyde then highlighted the fact that Cardona was avoiding the question.
“OK, so you’re not going to answer my question,” he said, asking instead: “Do you believe that a biological male who self-identifies as a woman should be allowed to compete in women’s sports?”
Cardona, again, veered from answering, preferring to speak in general terms.
“I believe our focus needs to make sure that all students have access to public education,” he said.
“A yes or no is sufficient,” Clyde retorted.
Cardona explained that the question did not necessitate a binary answer.
“I think it’s not answered with a yes or no,” he said. “I think all students should have access to co-curricular activities.”
But Clyde insisted the question did warrant a “yes” or “no.”
“I think that is a yes or no question,” Clyde said, as he repeated the question: “Do you believe that a biological male who self-identifies as a woman should be allowed to compete in women’s sports?”
“I believe all students should have access to all things that public education—,” Cardona replied.
“So you’re not going to answer my question: do you believe allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports benefits female athletes?” Clyde asked.
Cardona, yet again, avoided the question.
“I believe it’s important that we take into account the needs of all students when they’re engaging in co-curricular—,” he began to say.
However, Clyde cut him off.
“So again you’re not going to answer my question: do you believe allowing biological males to enter women’s private spaces such as bathrooms and locker rooms is safe for female students?” he asked.
Cardona responded: “It’s critically important that we make sure all students feel safe in their school environment…. It means that the perspective of all students should be taken into account when decisions are made around facilities.”
In response to the exchange, many took to social media to slam the education secretary’s repeated evasions.
“Can’t define ‘woman,’ but is in charge of making sure women have equal rights in education. Brilliant,” wrote one Twitter user.
“How can the party who claims to be ‘pro-women’ not [be] able to define what a woman even is?” asked a Twitter user. “The Dems are so lost it’s pathetic.”
“The West is dead,” wrote another user.
“The secretary of education refuses to answer the question ‘What is a woman’?” noted another.
“So much for ‘women’s’ rights,” another Twitter user noted.
The matter comes as more and more Western officials appear stumped by the simple task of defining what a woman is.
Earlier this month, current left-wing New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins seemed unable to provide a coherent answer as to what constitutes a woman.
BREAKING: New Zealand’s new Prime Minister doesn’t know what a woman is, despite replacing one as Prime Minister. pic.twitter.com/3Gj39RhXDX
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) April 3, 2023
During his weekly post-cabinet press conference, Hipkins was questioned by broadcaster Sean Plunket about how he and the government define the term “woman.”
Stumbling over his answer, the New Zealand leader said: “Um… to be honest Sean, that question has come slightly out of left field for me.”
After a significant pause, Hipkins finally replied: “Well, biology, sex, gender, um… people define themselves, people define their own genders.”
Last month, a Summit Ministries/McLaughlin & Associates survey found most voters agree that changes to Title IX regulations — namely, allowing males to compete in female sports — hurts women.
Last year, President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, could not define the word “woman” during her confirmation hearing.
After Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) asked Jackson if she could provide a definition for the word “woman” in light of the national debate regarding transgender athletes and men who compete in women’s sports, the latter could not answer.
“Can I provide a definition? No, I can’t,” Jackson replied.
“You can’t?” Blackburn again asked.
“Not in this context, I’m not a biologist,” Jackson said.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.