Josh Hawley messed around and found out, or how to ‘professionally’ read someone who is playing in your face

OPINION: The Missouri senator got put in his place by U.C. Berkeley Professor Khiara Bridges during a Senate hearing on abortion policy.

U.C. Berkeley Professor Khiara Bridges, left, and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley (Screenshot/C-SPAN)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

As Black women, we put up with a lot on a daily basis. If we were petty enough to enumerate every single microaggression—or outright aggression—we endured, we would unfurl our scrolls like CVS receipts and it would take weeks just to read the grievances from one day. 

And still, we rise. 

And so it was on Tuesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on abortion policy that Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican representing Missouri, decided he would try Professor Khiara Bridges, who teaches law at the University of California, Berkeley. Yes, one of the top law schools in the country (and where my nephew, Kendrick Peterson, is a student!!!!! but I digress.)

For those who missed it, Hawley heard Bridges using trans-inclusive language, and it clearly bothered him, so he decided to poke at her about it. 

During her testimony, Bridges said, “people with a capacity for pregnancy,” a phrase that is gender-neutral and respectful of anyone who can become pregnant. 

Hawley, who gives me big “annoying dudebro” vibes every time he opens his mouth, latched onto that phrase like a newborn on a teat. 

“Professor Bridges, you’ve said several times—you’ve used a phrase I want to make sure I know what you mean by it. You’ve referred to people with a capacity for pregnancy. Would that be women?”

The look on his face was a combination of smug but also trying to fake like he wasn’t doing what we all know he was doing—being a transphobic jerk. He then stared blankly and waited for Bridges to answer. 

She explained to him that while there are plenty of cis women who can get pregnant, there are also cis women who cannot. There are also other people who can get pregnant who are not women at all—like trans men and nonbinary people. Sis explained it without even rolling her eyes at him, and I have to applaud her because my brow was already furrowed when he posted the question. I don’t have a poker face. 

Hawley, thinking this was his “Gotcha!” moment, then blurts out, “So this isn’t really a women’s rights issue, it’s uh…”

And before he could finish whatever ignorant statement he was prepared to follow up with, sis hit him with that AHT AHT and said

“We can recognize that this impacts women while also recognizing this impacts other groups. Those things are not mutually exclusive, Senator Hawley.”

At this point, he should have realized he was in over his head, but you know white people, they gonna keep pushing it. He didn’t even really have anything “good” to say back, so he just stammered, “Uh, so, uh your view is that the core of this right then is about what?”

And that’s when sis slapped the Big Joker down on the table. 

“So I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic, and it opens up trans people to violence by not recognizing them.”

And y’all, I kid you not, he hit her with that “Wowwwwwwwwwww” that all dudes do when you call them out on their bull and they know you are right, but they don’t have a comeback for it. 

“You’re saying that I’m opening up people to violence by asking whether or not women are the folks who can have pregnancies?”

Give it up, Josh, you’re done. 

He kept trying to push his dumb argument, but the master that she is, she bested him in the exchange. It was like he was only player number cards and she had all the Skip, Reverse, Draw 2, and Draw 4 cards. 

Josh got cooked, so then he fell into “Is this how it is in your classroom? Are students allowed to question you, or do they get treated like this?:

Treated like what, Josh? All she did was politely rip your frail “argument” apart and make you reveal your own bigotry with your own words. You mad? 

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Josh. He is a white man with some semblance of “power.” He tried a Black woman at work today, and he got ate up for his trouble. 

Don’t be like Josh. 

Monique Judge

Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at

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