The Word is Woman #8
Documenting the erasure of women in language and life.
Welcome to the Issue #8 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.
This issue comes to you live from day 1 of FiLiA conference in Glasgow, which I will write more about next week. As some of you may have heard, this event - the largest feminist conference in Europe and perhaps the world - very nearly did not go ahead because an ‘online pressure group’ persuaded the venue to cancel just 12 hours before set-up was due to begin. It was only the intervention of FiLiA’s legal team, who explained to the venue that this behaviour was unlawful, that meant the event was able to take place. In the main session this morning, Reem Alsalem raised the point that organisations and events focused on the concerns of women and girls are having their efforts undermined by the gender issue. At FiLiA, the focus is on all of the many way the lives of women globally are affected by sex based violence and oppression. All of the 1500 delegates know what the word ‘woman’ means. And for this, they try to shut us down.
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.
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So here is this week’s The Word is Woman for the week ending 13th October 2023.
We have to start this week with the renaming of the classic breastfeeding book from La Leche League, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
Can you guess what they are going to call it? Yes, you guessed correctly.
OK OK I know ‘womanly’ is a bit of a marmite word, the title was from the 1950’s, it’s a bit old fashioned isn’t it, etc. But that’s not why they’re changing it. Is it?
Another example from the utterly ‘captured’ La Leche League is this post, where they refer to ‘those who are latching their baby to their breast or chest’.
Another maternity institution, Spinning Babies, posted this week about their specialist topic, foetal position.
But, the W word is missing. Instead we are ‘birth givers’.
This is in line with the rest of their account. On most posts, they avoid using any ‘gendered terms’ (i.e sex based language) at all. On another, they tell us, “Every person can have different symptoms at different weeks in their pregnancy.”
When challenged by one women who said, “I’m not a birth giver, I’m a woman thank you very much”, Spinning Babies responded:
The Welsh Blood Service want you to donate blood if you ‘know or love a pregnant person’. Women and mothers are completely erased from their appeal.
Going back to school? Always says it’s time to get your child period ready! Yes, you remember Always. The ones who apparently instructed an online magazine to make my own words ‘gender neutral’. (read about that here if you haven’t already). By the way, my complaint about that situation to the Independent Press Standards Organisation is being further investigated. I will keep you posted!
I received a lovely email this week from a UK based PR company with the subject line, “What are the best indoor sports for pregnant people during Fall?”. The email, promoting website Your Baby Club, made no mention of women, instead referring throughout to ‘individuals’.
A reader of The Word is Woman alerted me to this social media post from ‘Blithe Yoga’ about their Red Tent Menstrual Workshops. Again, the W word is missing, but this time we are ‘menstruators’.
This instagram post from the perhaps aptly named AGP Soton tells us that this ObGyn works with ‘people with reproductive organs’. We assume she means women because, all people have reproductive organs, don’t they? But the male ones don’t tend to interact with ObGyns.
Inclusivity is an admirable aim, but there is still one type of body that is very much excluded from this activity. It almost prompts a Life of Brian sketch this one, doesn’t it.
This workshop will teach you all about the role of parental positioning in the baby’s descent. Or maternal positioning, as it used to be called. I’m not sure that the dad’s body has a great deal to do with it.
It’s only fitting to end this week with a mention of Attitude and Virgin Atlantic’s Woman of the Year, Dylan Mulvaney. Seems like some people still get to use the word woman.
See you next week.
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If you spot examples of erasure that you’d like to see highlighted, you can send them to me via email (either by replying to one of my substacks or at firstname.lastname@example.org), with the subject line, The Word is Woman.