Or if you prefer, women.

The alternative spelling of the word appeared in a tweet by the Wellcome (I know!) Collection (a free museum and library in London) in an attempt to move away from patriarchal language, because woman is derived from man.

This annoyed a lot of people, and while I understand what the Wellcome Collection were trying to do, I do find it a little puzzling.

Of course it’s true that much of our language is inherently patriarchal, as most societies around the world have traditionally been patriarchal. And changing the way we use language can influence our behaviour. Which is why, even though attempts to be politically correct can go much too far, I agree with the basic idea of being somewhat considerate about others when using language.

But it’s very hard to just introduce a new word. People really, really resist when they feel something’s being forced upon them. New words almost always have to allowed to become organically popular through consensus, and repeated natural usage.

When asked about the word, the Wellcome Collection said they used the term to be inclusive, with various groups in mind including trans women. But then the Chair of the campaign group Trans Media Watch stated that they prefer to just spell it normally, to emphasise that trans women are women. Which makes sense.

But yes, it wasn’t a terrible idea, and it was well-intentioned. I applaud the attempt to make a change and address injustice. And action does need to be taken to combat injustice, of course. The problem is that the way languages evolve naturally doesn’t lend itself to revolutionary actions.

And most importantly: how do you pronounce womxn!? And what’s the singular form!?

2 thoughts on “Womxn

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