"People with ovaries"
The venn diagram that says it all
Someone just tagged me today in this ‘reel’ on instagram entitled, “What do you mean people with ovaries…? That’s a dehumanising term for women.”
In case you’re not on instagram, the post shows a venn diagram being created, here’s a screenshot so you get the idea.
The three overlapping circles of the venn are marked ‘Women’, ‘Trans Men’, and ‘Non Binary People’. The overlap is marked ‘People with ovaries’. *
The person who tagged me clearly thought this was a ‘gotcha’.
“Yo Milli Hill, this one is for you”, they commented.
But in fact it felt like they were handing to me on a plate the opportunity to explain my stance on all this. I’m aware this is something I’ve already explained in various places, but I’m going to keep repeating it as clearly as I can because this helps me with my own thinking and it also hopefully stops others misinterpreting and misrepresenting me, as, it seems, they are wont to do.
So, this venn diagram highlights my stance that the MEANING of the word woman is
a) already established
b) vitally important to data, law, rights and more
and c) currently under threat.
Woman means an adult female person.
But in the venn diagram we are being told something different.
We are being told that there are 3 types of ‘people with ovaries’.
Non binary people (the ones with ovaries presumably).
In short, we are being told that there are two categories of human in existence who have ovaries but who are not women.
But hang on.
If woman means ‘adult female person’, then everyone who has ovaries is a woman - right?
For this not to be true, we have to change the meaning of the word woman. Instead of ‘adult female person’, it has to mean something different. An identity? Someone who feels themselves to be a woman? Certainly not an adult female person because otherwise, how could there be other categories of human who have ovaries?!
And this matters. If we change the definition of the word woman, this has a knock on impact. A woman only shortlist is open to all. A man only panel (‘manel’) cannot be challenged. A woman only space must admit men. A woman’s sport category is no longer only for female humans. Data collection and research starts to lose the ability (which has only been recently gained), to highlight sex-based issues for example relating to health, or injustices such as the pay-gap between men and women.
The central section of the diagram should perhaps say instead: Women (female people).
Of course, there are people who are trans or non binary who don’t want to be referred to as women, in spite of being biologically female. This presents a challenge that we need to overcome if we are to be inclusive of their needs AND retain the meaning of the word ‘woman’ as adult female.
I don’t have the solution for that but one thing I do know is that enforced denial of biological reality is not it.
So thanks for tagging me in this post! It nicely illustrates the point - but perhaps not in the way the person who tagged me hoped.
(*I’ll come back to intersex another day, it’s complex and not directly relevant to the points in this post.)
While you’re here. For daring to have these views, ask such ‘difficult’ questions and hold the boundaries of biological reality and existing word definitions, there is currently an attempt to deplatform me from speaking at a conference. If you would like to sign this petition (not by me) that supports me and calls for me to be kept in place as a speaker, please click here.
My new book for preteen girls, ‘My Period’ is now out and available from all good bookshops. You can get it from a variety of places and all the links are here. I was really thrilled this week to find out it’s in the top 10 bestselling books on Hive and to see some of the first five star Amazon reviews coming in. Thank you to all who are buying it and reviewing it!
Got to accentuate the positive! Love to all, Milli x