This year is, unfortunately, pretty categorically awful, but there are some bright spots here and there. Today, one such reprieve came from an unexpected place: Senator Josh Hawley. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the fallout of the Supreme Court Dobbs decision, Hawley decided to humiliate himself by attempting to go head-to-head with UC Berkeley professor Khiara M. Bridges. And it was all captured on video.
Hawley, a Republican best known for raising a fist to the insurrectionists on January 6, tried to earn points with his conservative base by asking Bridges what he assumed was a “gotcha” question: “You’ve used a phrase — I want to make sure I understand what you mean by it. You referred to ‘people with a capacity for pregnancy.’ Would that be women?” The “What is a woman?” question has become a rallying cry for conservatives, but Bridges didn’t take the bait. “Many women — cis women — have the capacity for pregnancy. Many cis women do not have the capacity for pregnancy,” she explained. “There are also trans men who are capable of pregnancy as well as nonbinary people who are capable of pregnancy.” Hawley continued to push, saying, “So this isn’t really a women’s-rights issue. It’s a what issue?”
Hawley was seemingly winding up for a grandstanding speech, but Bridges wasn’t having it: “We can recognize that this impacts women while also recognizing that it impacts other groups. Those things are not mutually exclusive, Senator Hawley.” When Hawley continued to push back, Bridges said, “I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic, and it opens up trans people to violence by not recognizing them.” Bridges explained to Hawley that, by asserting that only women can get pregnant, he was denying the existence of trans people. Take notes on this exchange for how to talk to your conservative family members this Thanksgiving:
Professor Bridges: “Do you believe that men can get pregnant?”
Josh Hawley: “No, I don’t think men can get pregnant.”
Professor Bridges: “So you are denying that trans people exist.”
After being so thoroughly corrected, Hawley pivoted to questioning Bridges’s ability as a professor. He later tweeted a video clip of the exchange, categorizing it as “Far-left Berkeley Law professor melts down.” Sir, the only person having a meltdown is you.
Hawley wasn’t the only politician who was challenged by Professor Bridges. Senator John Cornyn tried another gotcha question, asking her, “Do you believe a baby has value?” Bridges said, “I believe the person with the capacity for pregnancy has value.” When Cornyn pointed out that she didn’t answer his question, she responded, “I answered a more interesting question.”