Lauren Wong | The Poly Post

Inclusive language doesn’t strip away womanhood

By Antonia Lopez-Vega, April 25, 2023

As we progress into a more inclusive world, there is still so much resistance masked in the idea of keeping old traditions alive.

“I’m not a cis man, I’m a man.”

“At what point do we just wipe away all of womanhood?”

“God made both man and woman, those are the only two genders.”

All of these over replacing phrases like mothers with pregnant people, or women with people who menstruate.

It’s ridiculous! It’s ludicrous even how so many cis people are lashing out at changing language which is meant to be more inclusive to people.

The main argument they hold is that inclusive language strips them of their womanhood, that giving birth and breastfeeding are deeply ingrained into womanhood. Changing these terms, to them, is equal to taking away everything that makes them a woman.

This makes no sense for three reasons: inclusive language aims to ensure everyone is being represented. There are cis women who are unable to carry out these functions and womanhood is not limited to biology.

When the American Psychological Association presented their book “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Inclusive Language,” it addressed the APA’s role in perpetuating negative ideas towards marginalized groups through language, and how they seek to rectify that through changing their language. This meant changing their language to be gender inclusive as well.

Lauren Wong | The Poly Post

Contrary to the belief of erasing womanhood, inclusive language aims to add identities to those who share similar characteristics and functions. There are trans men who menstruate, non-binary people who are pregnant and cis women who are unable to give birth.

The last group is what hurts me the most, as it reminds me of my stepmother. When I was 4, my dad      remarried a woman who raised me as her own. My biological mother was still in the picture, but she wasn’t ready to take on the challenges of being a mother, as she was more focused on her work and social life.

It was my stepmom who would teach me how to cook, helped me with my schoolwork and taught me my worth as a woman. If my older brother hit me, she told me to hit them back harder. When I reached my lowest point in life, she held me as I cried and proceeded to help me find a therapist to help me.

One day, as we sat having our late-night talks, she told me about her struggles with having a child of her own. When she was younger, her doctor told her that she had a uterine abnormality.

This meant that the shape of her uterus was not ideal for pregnancy, and if she were to get pregnant, she’d most-likely end up having a miscarriage.

My stepmom cried as she told me this, remembering the pain at the thought of not being a mother. She felt that everything had been taken from her, and that her dream of having her own children someday left the realm of possibility. After all, how could she really be a woman if she couldn’t do what all women were meant to do?

I felt her hand on my cheek when she told me that one day, after she started dating this guy, she went to his house to surprise him. When he opened the door, behind him hid three kids, all peeking up at her in curiosity. That was the first day we had met, and the day she knew her dream of being a mother was coming true right before her eyes.

Years later, as technology advanced, she was able to carry and have two children of her own. She felt happy but told me that she had been a mother long before she gave birth to my brother as she hugged me close.

When I see people tying womanhood so closely with the ability to carry a child, I’m reminded of my stepmother, who made me into the woman I am now and how she reacted to the news. She was never less of a woman, and that’s something those who argue against inclusive language fail to acknowledge.

If womanhood is defined the ability to give birth, breastfeed and raise children, what does that make the women who don’t want to have children or the women who are unable to?

That would also mean that ciswomen who are unable to bear children are less of a woman than those who are. It also means that transmen who choose to carry and have children are just as much of a woman as a cisgender woman.

This line of logic doesn’t make sense.

Common traits associated with what it means to be a man are being assertive, strong, completely logic driver and a provider for the family. When we compare that to women, who are associated with bearing and raising children and being gentle, caring and supportive, there seems to be a double standard.

While what makes a man has to do with what he can provide and his abilities outside of the home, what makes a woman has to do with what she can do with her body and her ability to have kids.

This whittles down what womanhood is to just our biological functions and our anatomy. If we apply that same logic to men, manhood is defined by their ability to ejaculate working semen.

Womanhood should not be defined by our bodies because being a woman is way more than that.

By refusing to use inclusive language, it pushes for the alienation of groups which share these characteristics and reduces women to their ability to reproduce.

Feature image by Lauren Wong

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