The Word is Woman #13
Documenting the erasure of women from language and life.
OK so I look particularly goofy in this picture but I had to put it at the top because this week’s The Word is Woman is dedicated to Emma Barnett! (pic taken just after I’d survived an interview with her about birth and feminism on BBC Radio 5!)
Welcome to the Issue #13 of The Word is Woman, a weekly section of my substack where I document examples of the erasure of women from both language and public life.
For the past two years, ever since I spoke out about language changes in maternity such as ‘birthing people’, I have been sent hundreds of examples of convolutions of language in which the word woman is erased and replaced in the name of so-called ‘inclusivity’. Uterus owners, menstruators, non-men, bleeders, birthers, and even bodies with vaginas…the list of names we have been called and continue to be called is a seemingly endless catalogue of offence.
At the same time, we are seeing male people taking the place of women on sporting podiums and in public roles, and also being applauded as the ‘first woman’ to achieve a certain award or accomplishment, or the ‘best female’ or ‘woman of the year’ in their field.
The Word is Woman is a place to keep track.
So here is this week’s The Word is Woman for the week ending 17th November 2023.
Well it’s been quite the week and I feel almost too optimistic to write today! I suspect many of you will have been following the story of the appointment of trans woman Steph Richards as CEO of Endometriosis South Coast, but just to recap…
On Sunday 12th the charity made the announcement, and an outcry ensued. On Monday I wrote this piece about my own personal dealings with Steph. A lot more news coverage happened and on Tuesday evening rumours began that Steph was going to be on Woman’s Hour the following morning. I think a lot of people were skeptical at this point because Woman’s Hour doesn’t have a great track record of supporting the gender critical position - if I tell you they’ve platformed Grace Lavery to talk about ‘her penis’ but never had Helen Joyce on, that should just about sum it up.
Anyway everybody grabbed the popcorn and not long before the programme went out on Wednesday, a further announcement was made that the founder of Endometriosis South West, Jodie Hughes, would be joining Steph to talk to Emma Barnett about, ‘whether a charity should only be led by someone who has suffered from the disease’. Hearts sank further in the various gender critical whatsapps at this point, members of whom - myself included - had been resolutely tweeting, messaging and emailing the programme literally begging them not to make the whole programme a touchy-feely whitewash about how lovely it is that someone who hasn’t got any experience of endo cares so deeply about it.
And bugger me. They didn’t. Barnett actually went there.
You can listen to the full episode on BBC Sounds or Spotify, the interview starts about 22 mins 50 seconds in, depending on where you listen.
Endometriosis South Coast deserve their own spot in The Word is Woman for their website, where they claim to be an ‘inclusive charity’ who support ‘people’, with the word woman barely to be seen, even to the detriment of statistics. From their home page:
1 in 10 people suggests that in a room full of ten men, one of them would have endometriosis. But he wouldn’t. Because endometriosis is exclusively a women’s health condition, where endometrial tissue (the lining of the uterus that thickens during the menstrual cycle) grows elsewhere in the body, for example in the ovaries. (16 cases have been recorded in the medical literature of the disease occurring in men with disorders that elevate, or who were taking, oestrogen, according to Carol Hooven.)
In a car crash interview, Richards and Hughes try to convince Barnett, a long term endometriosis sufferer, that the disease also affects men (the subtext of “WTF?” when she repeats back the number they cited, “29?” is palpable) and that you don’t have to have a womb to suffer from it. When Hughes proudly states that as a charity they talk about ‘people with endometriosis’ and ‘individuals with endometriosis’, Barnett is having none of it: “But they’re not people with endometriosis are they, they’re women, what’s the issue with the word woman?”. In the usual topsy turvy logic of trans activism, Hughes proclaims that it’s because we see endometriosis as gynaecological that it’s so poorly understood and overlooked. “So we’ve got to rebrand something as something that men can have to be taken seriously by the male medical system?” says Barnett, sounding like steam is hissing out of her ears. It was pure gold.
But let’s not assume that it’s just the occasional ideological edgecase who’s erasing the word ‘woman’ from women’s health issues. Here’s a few more examples I’ve been sent or come across in the past week.
North West Cancer Research have been at Manchester Piccadilly Station with their cervical cancer campaign this week. Link here.
As well as the rather dehumanising image of disembodied legs and the retro slogan about ‘keeping your legs crossed’, their messaging has a word missing.
So does this information on gynaecological cancer referrals from Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospitals.
And so does this NHS web page about Shingles.
As I say every week, the important thing we are trying to push back against here is not people identifying as they wish, but the erosion of biological and scientific reality, and the redefinition of the word ‘woman’ to include male people, which affects women’s rights. This next example from All4Birth is part of that ideological drive.
Let’s put that last post alongside this one from Red Hen Press to demonstrate the point. Their ‘Women’s Prize’ is open to anyone who identifies as a woman. In other words, it’s open to male people. Such prizes were set up to address sex based injustice and give women more opportunities to excel in a male dominated world. How will they do that now?
AIMS Ireland are concerned about c-section rates in first time parents. Link here.
This instagram post erases women entirely.
Isn’t it wonderful how much contraception helps ‘people’? When you think about how people used to stop people from accessing contraception because people thought that people shouldn’t have autonomy over their own bodies, and how even now people stop people from accessing abortion even if people have let those people have access to contraception…it just gives you the warm fuzzies doesn’t it?
Evidence Based Birth, who I used to greatly admire, have gone for a rebrand as Erasure Based Birth I think. Link here.
We need a gif of Barnett saying, “Is the word you are looking for there, ‘woman’ so that we can leave it on all of these posts and the many others that appear on a weekly basis. If anyone tech savvy out there can make that happen, they’ll get a free pin badge. I must get one to Emma somehow, too! More are in stock soon, and you can preorder now here.
Keep the faith. Sanity will prevail! See you next week! Milli x
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