Thursday 11 June 2020

The SNP sit on a wall

Recently the SNP MP Kirsty Blackman tweeted

We need to talk about menstruation. Contrary to the views of a very famous author, using the word "menstruator" is not an attempt to erase the word "woman". The word menstruator is used to describe people who menstruate. This is not the same as women.

She included a graph

What the graph shows is that there is a subset of menstruators who are not women? I assume she doesn’t mean cows, mares and bitches. So, what can she mean? She must mean that men can menstruate.

This is why she is tweeting about a famous author.

A quick look at Kirsty Blackman’s biography tells us that she studied medicine at the University of Aberdeen but left the course. Perhaps her trouble was with biology.

There is a further problem. Blackman’s SNP has been introducing laws which protect certain groups of people from hate crimes. One of these groups is transgender people. I responded to Blackman’s tweet by asking whether if I disagreed with her, I would be charged with a hate crime. She didn’t reply.

But this is a genuine problem because of the basic meaning of ordinary words.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines woman as:

An adult female human being. The counterpart of man.

It defines sex as

Either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and many other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions; (hence) the members of these categories viewed as a group; the males or females of a particular species, esp. the human race, considered collectively.

Linguistically we mean that a woman is a person of the sex that can bear offspring. It doesn’t matter if this particular woman or girl cannot bear offspring either because she is too old or too young. They belong to the sex that can bear offspring. How do these women do this? They do it because of their biology and owing to the fact that they can menstruate. If they cannot menstruate, they cannot have children.

What about gender? How does this affect the issue?

Gender is defined by the OED in a number of ways, but the relevant one is this.

Males or females viewed as a group;  Also: the property or fact of belonging to one of these groups.

There is no distinction therefore between sex and gender.  The property of belonging to one or other of the groups of human beings makes your gender male or female. If you are an adult female you are a woman, if you are an adult male you are a man. Q.E.D.

But were did we get the idea that people could change gender? Did we get it from experience, or did we deduce it using logic? Did we get it from the ordinary meaning of words. No it was invented in America.

The OED defines this sense.

Psychology and Sociology (originally U.S.). The state of being male or female as expressed by social or cultural distinctions and differences, rather than biological ones;

When did this usage begin. The OED lists the first example as occurring in a psychology journal in 1945.

How do we learn words? We learn them by being taught by our parents and others. We are taught the words “man” and “woman” based on objective characteristics. We learn that we have given birth to a “boy” or a girl” based on physical appearance. Until very recently in human history the words "man" and "woman" "male" and "female" were considered to be objective characteristics that could not be changed. This is how each of us learned these words.

Blackman’s word “menstruator” does not appear in the OED. The reason for this is obvious. It has never been needed until she invented it. Women belong to a sex that can menstruate. Men do not.

Humpty Blackman is sitting on an SNP wall and she is making up words.

When I use a word," Kirsty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

But the problem here is that the SNP are in control of the law and they can prosecute people like me for a hate crime if they dislike what I write. In Scotland am I still allowed  to use words according to how they are defined in our greatest dictionary or must we learn a whole knew SNP vocabulary.