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.