Cancel culture won’t leave the word “woman” alone. “Bodies with vaginas” is the latest term to replace it. But this isn’t the only attempt at the erasure of any biological connection to the word woman.
On September 24, acclaimed British medical journal The Lancet was put on blast for referring to women as “bodies with vaginas” on the cover of their latest issue. The Lancet issued an apology statement in response to the backlash but defended its decision to use transgender-inclusive language.
The transgender-inclusive terms of choice reduce women to body parts and biological functions. These terms are degrading and dehumanizing to women, and they undermine the wonderfulness of womanhood and motherhood. Every attempt to erase the word “woman” inevitably receives an abundance of backlash. So why are we still trying to cancel the word “woman”?
Reducing Women to Biological Functions
“Bodies with vaginas” is certainly not the first attempt at replacing the word woman. Various alternative terms have been used to reduce women to biological functions, usually relating to birthing, breastfeeding, and menstruating. The Biden administration adopted the terms “birthing person” and “pregnant people” to replace the word mother. “Chestfeeding” is now a viable alternative to “breastfeeding.”
On the anniversary of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) shared a quote from one of her best-known speeches on abortion and gender equality. However, the ACLU altered the quote for gender-neutral language, replacing the word “woman” with “person” and replacing feminine pronouns with gender-neutral pronouns.
The adjusted quote read: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a [person’s] life, to [their] well-being and dignity… When the government controls that decision for [people], [they are] being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for [their] own choices.” The purpose of altering the quote for gender-neutral language is to be inclusive of those with non-binary and trans-masculine identities who could get pregnant or seek an abortion.
Menstruating, pregnancy, birthing, and breastfeeding all belong to the unique female experience.
The executive director of the ACLU, Anthony Romero, later issued an apology for altering the quote. Romero, however, suggested that he believed if Justice Ginsberg were alive today, “she would encourage us to evolve our language to encompass a broader vision of gender, identity, and sexuality.” But would the champions of women’s rights and leaders of women’s progress really be so keen on a broader vision that erases the group they fought so hard to uplift and protect?
The marketers of these terms will claim that this kind of language is inclusive and compassionate, but in actuality, it’s offensive and degrading to women. Women are more than our body parts. Women are more than a biological function. Menstruating, pregnancy, birthing, and breastfeeding all belong to the unique female experience. This can’t be detached from the word “woman.”
Why “Woman” and Not “Man”?
The word “woman” appears to be more vulnerable to the wrath of cancel culture than the word “man.” We don’t exactly see headlines flooded with terms like “people with prostates.” However, in more subtle ways, we're also witnessing the erasure of the word “man.” A good example of this is the language used for male-dominated professions like fireman or fisherman. It’s now politically correct to use “fireperson” or “fisherperson.” Sure, the gender-neutral terms are more inclusive, but there’s no denying that they erase the history of masculine risk and sacrifice.
The feminine sacrifice is growing a baby in the womb, giving birth, breastfeeding, and nurturing the child.
The feminine sacrifice is growing a baby in the womb, giving birth, breastfeeding, and nurturing the child until adulthood. The media has already attacked masculinity and neglected the importance of fatherhood, and now it has come for motherhood in the only way it knows how: through the use of language.
How This Hurts Women
In a healthy society, motherhood and nuclear family values are central. Womanhood and motherhood are deeply intertwined, but feminism put a wrench in this when it promoted women’s economic participation and discouraged women’s domestic role. And as we’re currently experiencing, the removal of any biological connotation from the word woman is an attempt to strip women of their unique gift as life-givers and nurturers. It’s an attack on women, men, and the family.
The consequences of erasing the word “woman” can’t be understated. If the word “woman” isn’t protected in language, then how will this impact women’s protections in real life? Should a male prisoner who identifies as a female be housed in a women’s prison? Should males be allowed in women’s sports? What about the protection and safety of women in public spaces? These are the questions to address before blindly accepting the erasure of biological sex and the word “woman.”
Language As a Means of Control
You see, the alteration of language is usually not welcomed by the groups it aims to protect. The term “Latinx” isn’t welcomed by the majority of Spanish speakers. The majority of women don’t want to call themselves a feminist. I can hardly imagine that women around the globe who don’t have access to proper sanitation and menstrual hygiene products are concerned with affluent people referring to them as “people who menstruate.”
The erasure of the word “woman” is beyond inclusivity. It’s a means of controlling how we think, how we act, and how we view the world. Language is a powerful tool, and placing restrictions on freedom of speech or distorting the truth through language is a dangerous game to play. The purpose of language is to communicate, and this new set of rules we’re facing, filled with terms that are unfamiliar or alien, makes it difficult to express what we truly mean. Frankly, it’s just confusing.
The erasure of the word “woman” is a means of controlling how we think, act, and view the world.
The word “person” is no substitute for the word “woman.” Behind the front of gender inclusivity lies an ideology that claims gender is a spectrum and opposes the natural law. It denies the quality of being a man or a woman, which is imperative to each of our identities as a human. Participation in this alteration of language means consenting to the ideology it’s promoting.
The good news is that we each have the ability to use the language we deem necessary to express our worldview. And perhaps even more important, we have the ability to reject language that doesn’t represent our values. So if “birthing person,” “chestfeeder,” or “body with a vagina” just doesn’t do it for you, reject it. “Woman” will more than suffice.
The erasure of the word “woman” does more harm than good. This trend is offensive and dehumanizing to women, and it’s a manipulation of language as a means of pushing an ideology. It does a disservice to women who wish to be respected in their identities as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and of course, as a woman.
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