We must resist the trend turning ‘women’ into ‘bodies with vaginas’
There’s a new addition to the list of words you can no longer say: woman.
Because 0.6 percent of the adult population is transgender, the word must be banished outright for the sake of inclusivity. And it’s not just activist Twitter users or gender studies professors who are taking note. Suddenly, our institutions have scrapped the word “woman” altogether.
The news media is on board: CNN tweeted that “individuals with a cervix are now recommended to start cervical cancer screening at 25.” The new rule is being embraced by medical practices: gynecology clinic chain Tia advertised their services on TikTok to “uterus-having folks.”
Abortion providers have taken note: Planned Parenthood offers advice to “people who are pregnant.” Our medical literature is also conforming: the September 2021 cover of the Lancet declared that “historically, the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been neglected.”
Public health officials have hopped on the bandwagon: the CDC’s guidance on COVID-19 vaccination refers to “pregnant people.” And it goes all the way to the top of our government: the White House’s 2022 budget referred to mothers as “birthing people.”
The words they’re replacing “woman” with leave a lot to be desired. The list of new lingo goes on and on… menstruators, birthing persons, uterus-owners, vulva-havers, or, worst of all, non-males. What’s more dehumanizing than being reduced to a single aspect of your anatomy?
Womanhood is much greater than having a vulva or getting a period. Besides, the terms just don’t hold up to scrutiny—a woman with a hysterectomy is not a “uterus-haver,” a postmenopausal woman is not a “menstruator,” and an infertile woman is not a “birthing person.” We’re not “bodies” with particular parts or functions—our realities, experiences, and humanity deserve greater respect.
Biological sex has existed for 1 to 2 billion years. And researchers found that “mother” and “man” are among the 23 oldest words our ancestors spoke 15,000 years ago. Spontaneously ignoring that reality in 2022 is nonsensical.
And it’s worth asking why this same debate isn’t playing out with the word “man.” Only women are being requested to relinquish their categorical language. I haven’t heard any activists talking about… Bodies with testes? People with prostates? Ejaculators? Penis havers? Non-females?
Of course, those who point out the erasure of women are roundly condemned, like Bette Midler whose recent concerns were dismissed by Irish drag queen Panti Bliss-Cabrera as “anti-trans panic fake nonsense.” And then there’s JK Rowling, whose defense of the female body has almost seen her canceled. But it’s simply not true that standing firm in favor of the word “woman” means you are somehow anti-trans.
Humans are big-thinking beings, and most people are fully capable of supporting the rights of trans-folks to live as they please and access appropriate medical care — while also rejecting the idea that half the population should become “bodies with vaginas” along the way.
And, while it might seem like all our institutions are moving in lockstep on this issue, not everyone in the medical community is on board. In February, 10 top experts in women’s health from around the world released a paper arguing against erasing the word “woman” from our health lexicon.
While they agreed the language change was intended to be “kind and inclusive,” they worried that “referring to individuals in this reduced, mechanistic way is commonly perceived as ‘othering’ and ‘dehumanizing’… [and] has delivered unintended consequences that have serious implications for women and children.”
And, most important of all, the public isn’t on board, either. A recent New York Times Morning Consult Poll found an overwhelming majority of Americans are rejecting this Orwellian gender newspeak.
While 86% of respondents say they would use the term “pregnant women” and 85% would say “breastfeeding,” only 34% would use the term “birthing parent” and just 10% would use the word “chest feeding.” In fact, “chest feeding” was the least popular term of the 26 that The Times asked about.
This top-down linguistic engineering isn’t flying with the general public. And its instantaneous adoption by progressive institutions should concern us all. Accommodating the 0.6% does not require recategorizing the 50%. Inclusivity doesn’t demand erasure—and womankind should not be expected to stand silent as their bodies and identities are woke-spoke out of existence.
Rikki Schlott is a writer and columnist for The Post.