Do it to her

Sarah Ditum takes a look at the peculiar asymmetry of the move to make language more “inclusive” by not using the word “women.”

In June Cancer Research UK, a charity, tweeted: “Cervical screening (or the smear test) is relevant for everyone aged 25-64 with a cervix.” The odd phrasing—“everyone with a cervix” rather than “women”—was not accidental. The charity explained that it had deliberately chosen to use what it described as “inclusive language”. Similarly, the campaign Bloody Good Period, which donates tampons and sanitary towels to asylum-seekers, uses the word “menstruators” rather than “women”. And Green Party Women, an internal campaign group of the British Green Party, confirmed last year that its preferred designation for the constituency it represented was not, in fact, “women” but “non-men”.

Trans people face substantial injustices, most significantly violence (perpetrated, like all violence, largely by men) and discrimination. The process of applying for a gender-recognition certificate is intrusive and burdensome for many, and there are frustrating waiting lists for medical transition, which are compounded when doctors appear unsympathetic or obstructive. Yet rather than confront male violence or lobby the medical system, the focus of trans activism has overwhelmingly been the feminist movement, spaces and services designed for women, and the meaning of the word “woman”.

It is notable that Cancer Research UK did not test its “inclusive” approach with a male-specific cancer. Its campaign messages about prostate and testicular cancer address “men”, rather than “everyone with a prostate” or “everyone with testicles”. (Addressing “people with a cervix” is, of course, only inclusive of people who know they have a cervix. Many women do not have that detailed knowledge of their internal anatomy. And those who speak English as a second language may well not know the word.) While organisations in the women’s sector have revised their language to avoid the word “women”, male-specific charities such as CALM (the Campaign against Living Miserably, a movement against male suicide) continue to refer uncomplicatedly to “men”. Women’s groups are aggressively picketed for being exclusionary; men’s clubs are left unmolested.

Strange, isn’t it. The explanation that leaps to mind first is the fact that men hit harder. Sarah points out in that parenthesis that most violence is perpetrated by men – so who ya gonna go after if you have a choice? Not men, because they might cut up rough.

But also, let’s face it, because women are inferior. Women are the subordinate sex, so if there is bullying aka “activism” to be done, it’s obviously women it should be done to.

Or, in other words, we’ve always told women what to do so why stop now?

Also, to be perfectly honest, women are the sex trained to be agreeable – or is it innate? Nature or nurture? Some of both with a dash of lemon juice? Either way, they are, so let’s push them around, not those stubborn autonomy-protecting men. Let’s keep right on treating women as the servant half of humanity.

As Sarah sums it up,

There is a word for a situation where women talking about female bodies is considered impermissibly antisocial, where describing the consequences of sexism for women is systematically impeded, where resources for women are redistributed to male users while resources for men are left in male hands, and where “male” and “female” are rigidly associated with masculinity and femininity. That word is not “progressive”, “liberal” or any of the other terms usually associated with trans activism. The word is misogyny. Trans rights should not come at the cost of women’s fragile gains.

Wouldn’t you think?

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