Courtesy | getdrawings

A new and most dan­gerous front in the 21st-century war on women opened when the word woman itself became taboo.

The Lancet, a British medical journal, joined the onslaught of sources attempting the erasure of women when it pub­lished an article about the stigma sur­rounding men­strual cycles. 

“His­tor­i­cally,” the front page of its Oct. 1 issue read, “the anatomy and phys­i­ology of bodies with vaginas have been neglected.” 

“Bodies with vaginas”? If only we had a name for such people. 

Lately, dehu­man­izing an entire sex just requires reducing a woman’s worth, identity, and rel­e­vancy to her body, and then dis­missing the idea of inherent meaning or dignity in what it means to be a woman. 

On Sept. 18, the American Civil Lib­erties Union tweeted a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote on the late Supreme Court justice’s belief in a woman’s right to abortion. Except, the ACLU cen­sored “woman” from the quote and replaced it with “person” and they/them pro­nouns in brackets and later offered an apology for it. 

The Biden admin­is­tration replaced the word “mothers” with the term “birthing people” in a public health funding section of its 2022 fiscal year budget. “Chest­feeding,” “human milk,” and “those with a uterus,” have all also become sup­posedly inclusive terms tossed around in online web­sites and mag­a­zines in attempts to avoid using the newly offensive term “woman.” 

It’s rem­i­niscent of the era when saying the word “pregnant” or “period” was taboo on tele­vision. Lucille Ball spent the 1950s “expecting” a child and Courtney Cox even­tually broke the norm in a Tampax com­mercial during the 1980s. Those inci­dents were 70 and 40 years ago, respec­tively. “Woman” appears to be the newest term that needs to be whis­pered in hushed tones to not offend.

This rejection is the most dis­turbing one yet.

It’s a new feeling for me to sit in front of a com­puter screen and feel the pit in my stomach grow every time I see myself and the women I love erased a little bit more from the world. 

I’ve spent the past two summers working with young women in middle and high school who struggle with their identity and self-worth. They look to each other for affir­mation, to boys for con­so­lation, and to social media for val­i­dation. They struggle with con­fi­dence, self-esteem, and often feel ugly more days than they feel beautiful. 

What they often find nowadays is a culture that wants to erase their femininity. 

Telling young women that they’re sep­arate from their bodies and that being a woman means whatever anyone wants it to only increases their con­fusion and inse­curity as they wrestle with growing up, learning who they are, and deciding what kind of human being they want to be. 

The idea that women are dis­tinct from men or that women have a par­ticular fem­inine genius unre­peatable in nature slips away, out of her grasp, and down the inof­fensive drain. 

Reading story after story of the name of woman being belittled raises the question of whether there is any­thing inherent about being a woman at all. Pope St. John Paul II’s “Letter to Women,” while it was written 26 years ago, still con­nects to this issue today.

He ref­er­ences his work “Muleris Dig­ni­tatem,” writing that the Church “desires to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the ‘mystery of woman’ and for every woman — for all that con­sti­tutes the eternal measure of her fem­inine dignity, for the ‘great works of God,’ which throughout human history have been accom­plished in and through her.”

The gaping dif­ference between the idea of “eternal measure of her fem­inine dignity” con­sti­tuting a woman and the description of a “person with a uterus” doesn’t make it hard to choose how I, or any young woman, want to be understood. 

When women become mere “birthing persons,” they suffer from the kind of objec­ti­fi­cation that fem­i­nists have worried about for decades. But this time, women are being erased from science and history in the name of inclu­sivity. This latest version pas­sively robs women of their very person as hand­books in hos­pitals and terms in legal doc­u­ments change and the original power of quotes melts under the heat of a polit­i­cally correct text bracket. 

Instead of reducing half of humanity to their bodies’ capa­bil­ities or hiding them under neutral terms, just call them what they are: women.