There is something fascinating about people who have an issue with inclusive language.
Their main argument is that inclusive language -phrases like “humans with a uterus” or “folks who menstruate” or “pregnant people”- erases women. These reproductive ideals have historically been linked with the concept of cis women and therefore that makes them somehow exclusive to them. To include non-binary and trans folks into that conversation somehow excludes women despite women also being people, folks, and humans.
Like I said, fascinating.
It’s fascinating because the fixation on a woman’s reproductive organs and the reduction of a woman’s entire identity to this biological function puts women into their own special category, exalted and oppressed and in dire need of protection, apparently. According to these people, only women can have a uterus; only women menstruate; only women give birth. Are there cis women who don’t have a uterus, menstruate, or give birth? Yes, but the insinuation is that they are somehow less of a woman because of that. The gatekeeping is intense and it’s damaging to those cis women these people purport to protect.
Why do you think Blanche Deveraux on The Golden Girls had a crisis over going through menopause and even said that she was less of a woman because she could no longer bear children? Why do you think women who struggle with infertility feel like failures? Because of the perpetuation of these bullshit requirements that insist that the only real women are biologically capable of bearing children. The underlying message, of course, is that a woman’s most important role -dare I say sole purpose- is to produce and raise the next generation and if you can’t do that (or don’t want to do that), then you’re failing as a woman.
I think, though, the real trouble these people have with inclusive language isn’t just that it includes non-cis women into this formerly cis-women-only conversation, it’s that it refers to all of them as people.
When the inclusive-language haters talk about people, they’re talking about men. Men are people. Women are not people. Women are women. Trans folks are not people. They’re trans. Non-binary folk are not people. They’re non-binary. Men are people. The rest are categories. And when these categories start using inclusive language like “folks who menstruate” or “humans who have a uterus” or “pregnant people”, it doesn’t just include anyone these things apply to, but it also excludes men. Men are people, but they are not these people. And that bothers some humans to such an extent that they feel the need to police language and defend the use of the word “woman” as they believe it’s going extinct.
But the truly fascinating thing is that the word “woman” isn’t going extinct. In fact, it’s growing in popularity and gaining meaning.
Probably because women are people, too.