Last month, the internet erupted in response to JK Rowling’s comments on the campaign to remove gender terms from society:
If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. My life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.
My life has also been shaped by being female. Often, this hasn’t always been a positive experience, but it has been my experience.
Being catcalled by men while I walk down the street. Being groped by a strange man in a club. Continually battling for equality and women’s rights across the world. Hearing about the abuse, sexual assault, and rape of women I know.
Getting my period for the first time at the age of 12, bleeding once a month every time after that; and much later learning how my own cycle mirrors that of the moon. Watching my body grow and find new shapes and curves. Experiencing what sex felt like for the first time as a woman. Having my first pregnancy scare and taking the morning-after pill.
And being witness to the roaring objection of feminism, and continued dehumanization of women.
This has been my story for the past 30 years, along with many other women’s stories.
There is no hate in my heart for trans people. I can empathize with their struggle, trying to love and accept themselves and fit in in a world that continually tries to make them feel outcast. And I have no qualms with anyone identifying as a man or woman or neither.
What I do struggle with is an attempt to over-write my beliefs and my story, along with the collective female story.
As many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive. Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.
Suggestions to replace the word “woman” with terms like “menstruator,” or “person with a vulva,” are unsettling to me, as I’m sure they are to many. I wasn’t aware anyone was using language like this, as I haven’t yet been on the receiving end of it. If someone referred to me this way, I would personally feel violated and dehumanized.
While I understand the call for inclusive language so that everyone feels comfortable, that requires that everyone does feel comfortable.
Women have spent the past 60 years (and lifetimes more) trying to free themselves from patriarchal chains that cast them as no more than sex objects and reproductive machines. Every day is a battle for women to be viewed and treated as human beings.
Erasing the word “woman” erases all of that with it.
It erases the suffragettes who died to make sure women could vote. It erases all of the physical and emotional trauma abuse and rape survivors carry with them every day. And it erases every act of war any man has ever committed against a woman.
Social media can be a tricky sphere to navigate, especially when you’re a public figure with a certain platform. So many important issues have been highlighted and propelled to the forefront of our minds. But at the same time, it can be difficult to speak your truth without coming under attack. I don’t believe JK Rowling was being hateful. She was speaking from her own experiences as a woman—experiences that millions of other women identify with.
I find it incredible how quickly, and brutally, she was hung online. Yet do we see the same level of poison towards men who continue to do actual harm to women?
Spiritually, I believe the terms “men” and “women” are merely duality. They are descriptions to categorize us in our human experience on earth. In a spiritual sense, we are all just souls. But while we’re here on earth, these dualities do exist, and they color our past, present, and our future as human beings on this planet.
My life—my experiences, my struggles, and my challenges—has been shaped by womanhood.
I don’t believe gender terms need to be erased from society. I think everyone should be free to use the pronouns they feel comfortable with, and everyone should respect each other’s choices.
I’m curious to know how you feel?