“Womxn/Womyn/Women, a gender neutral approach to gender?”

Disclaimer: This isn’t a mean-spirited mockery of “woke liberal language”, but I think stopping at what’s valid and affirming misses a large part of the semantics behind the term “woman” and all of it’s different iterations. With that said, this is primarily an editorial/ informative article expressing my thoughts on the titular topic. The race analysis of the terms “wimmin” and “womxn” is going to be kept to a minimum, as there is less generalization to be made with these terms in relation to race as they discuss specific experiences.

The history lesson:

The alternative spelling “womyn” first appeared in print in 1976 at the first annual Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.” it should be noted that it was through this festival that the clarity of “womyn-born womyn” was revealed to be trans-exclusionary, and the circles that popularized the term within themselves were described as white, cisgender women. This has led to the predictable result of this term being a self descriptor of radical and separatist feminist groups.

Wombyn, by extension of womyn, specifically centers the idea that women carry wombs, and that it’s integral to a female existence. If the bio-essentialism, transmysoginy, and intersexism didn’t hit you on the previous paragraph, reflect on that now as you think about the word “womb” and how to pronounce “wombyn” without emphasizing the silent ‘b’ too much.

The most explicitly inclusive term out of all of these is “womxn”.

Olivia Romero, the co-founder of Pikes Peak Womxn for Liberation, says, “The spelling of womxn is meant to show inclusion of trans, nonbinary, womxn of color, womxn with disabilities and all other marginalized genders. Our organization particularly uses this spelling to separate ourselves from exclusionary feminisms.”

With wimmin, there’s not too much to comment on as the roots aren't inherently feminist (though it is modernly used in feminist spaces).Wimmin stems from alternate dialectical spellings that have been around since the early 20th century.

Phonetically, women, womyn, and wimmin are indistinguishable. The thing that probably confuses the most people, is the ‘x’ in womxn.

Nita Harker, an assistant professor of sociology at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington USA and co-organizer of a “Womxn’s March” said, “I actually think the challenge — particularly that it is hard to pronounce in your mind as you read it, that it forces one to stop and think, that it is not just easy and nice and recognizable — is part of the point and the draw.(1)

The polarity that these terms have created can be summarized by this chart:

My complaints:

If trans women have a recurring problem with being validly perceived or treated like women, the solution isn’t to shift the goalposts for the sake of keeping cis women comfortable with looking inclusive, as opposed to being inclusive.

Similarly, if nonbinary people (or even nonbinary women) identify with women’s spaces and conversations, then they belong in those spaces. That should be the end of the discussion.

The erasure of bigender, polygender, genderfluid, and gender-flux people that inhabit men’s and women’s spaces is a walking contradiction that women don’t want to confront. It’s so often that these modifiers of the word “women” seek to exclude men that they always neglect the nonbinary people that don't literally fit in the preconceived notion of what a woman is. It’s somewhat antithetical to the nonbinary existence, to find a new box for people that have had the courage to walk away from the old box.

If I happen to be bigender during a time when an exclusive woman’s space is available to me, I do not enter. I don’t feel remotely within my right to, because my experience of gender is simultaneously defined by womanhood, and defined by manhood.

It’d be more efficient to say “no men allowed” and wave a trans flag in front of a woman’s space then to leave it to the individual to parse out their gender identity for inclusivity points. It certainly doesn’t seem like women’s spaces really want to welcome all nonbinary people, but there would be backlash in publicly admitting that.

The ethos of these alternative titles revolves around the idea that these people want to be a default category, in the same way men are. The failure comes from the notion that words like “human” and “person” are gendered and not worth using because the prototypical human, according to western society, is the cis-white man. The solution could more easily come from erasing the idea of the “prototypical human” as it always comes with generalizations that will leave minorities under the boot.

The closer one is to being cis, and/or white, and/or being a man, the more a person is expected to be treated with respect. If you lack whiteness, this is probably obvious to you without factoring gender, but white women have a track record of using whiteness in combination with femininity to their advantage(1,2,3). The fact that white women’s voices are still at the front of this concept (literally and through token mouthpieces), makes this more of a problem, in my opinion.

The biggest issue above all else, with these spellings trying to disconnect from their patriarchal origins. is that they’re STILL derivative of the word man. It even brings more attention to the derivative nature of the alternate spellings. If “woman” is derived from “man” and “womxn” is defined as woman 2.0, then that’s not really a strong separation from patriarchy. It’s more of an announcement that someone is trying to “promote a conversation” about how they’re separated from patriarchy without saying they’re a separatist.

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The lexical definition of “woman” excludes no one who falls into the category of a woman, yet every self-identified womxn reveals that something external is indeed excluding these people. They seem to be on the precipice of the very sad realization that the movement as a whole lacks the care to talk about varying social experiences without involving intersectionality.

The existence of the term is an admittance that nonbinary and trans woman aren’t near the center of the picture. As the internet savvy probably know already, the words you use are more important than actually doing work to allow minorities respect and dignity, so this new term probably looks progressive to certain people. If there is a way to actively make trans women and nonbinary people feel welcome, it’s by centering their voices, their issues, and their experiences, and this doesn’t do that.

Redefining everyone under the (nearly) same word is good from an optics perspective, but not for the group you’d expect. It’s not a stretch to imagine Big Data using the performative aspects of defining oneself as intrinsically at odds with men. This comes to their advantage when it comes to marketing. In other words, hello neo-pink tax.

A term like “womxn” is equally as inclusive as “women”, because these terms don’t exclude anyone, it’s the self appointed “spokespeople” that exclude people and it’s critically ignored in order to appear more inclusive than ones neighbor.

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I’m on Twitter if anyone wants to share thoughts on the matter or call me a slur❤

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Nada Alami

Nada Alami

Nada, 22, Muslim, Trans, Cognitive Science Major, big nerd.