Womyn

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"Womyn" is one of several alternative spellings of the English word "women" used by some feminists.[1] There are many alternative spellings, including "womban" and "womon" (singular), and "wimmin" (plural). Writers who use alternative spellings see them as an expression of female independence and a repudiation of traditions that define females by reference to a male norm.[2]

Background[edit]

Main article: Woman

In Old English sources, the word "man" was gender-neutral, with a meaning similar to the modern English usage of "one" as an indefinite pronoun. The words wer and wyf were used to specify a man or woman where necessary, respectively. Combining them into wer-man or wyf-man expressed the concept of "any man" or "any woman".[3][4] Feminist writers have suggested that the less prejudicial usage of the Old English sources reflects more egalitarian notions of gender at the time. [2]

Reasoning[edit]

Feminists typically object to the fact that "woman" and "women" are just "man" and "men" with a "wo-" prepended.

By taking the “men” and “man” out of the words “woman” and “women” we are symbolically saying that we do not need men to be “complete. We, as womyn, are not a sub-category of men. We are not included in many of the history books, studies and statistics that are done in male dominated societies, thus they do not apply to us, for in these items we do not exist. In these societies men are the “norm” and women the “particular,” a mere sub-category of the “norm,” of men. The re-spelling of the word “woman” is a statement that we refused to be defined by men. We are womyn and only we have the right to define our relationships with ourselves, society, with other womyn and men. These re-spellings work as a symbolic act of looking at and defining ourselves as we really are, not how men and society view us, but through our own female views of ourselves, as self-defined womyn.[5]

Variants[edit]

Womon/womyn[edit]

"Womyn" appeared as an Older Scots spelling of "woman"[6] in the Scots poetry of James Hogg. Its usage as a feminist spelling of "women" (with "womon" as the singular form) first appeared in print in 1975 referring to the first Michigan Womyn's Music Festival,[7] an annual art festival that admits only womyn-born womyn.[8][9]

Womon/wimmin[edit]

"Wimmin" appeared in 19th century renderings of Black American English, without any feminist significance. Z. Budapest promoted the use of "wimmin" (singular "womon") in the 1970s as part of her Dianic Wicca movement, which claims that present-day patriarchy represents a fall from a matriarchal golden age.[10]

Conflict[edit]

"Womyn" is considered a generalizing term and is highly debated by marginalized feminist groups.[11]

Usage[edit]

"Womyn" has found prominent usage in the name of the music festival, Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, and in the names of a large number of feminist organisations.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ D. Hatton. "Womyn and the 'L': A Study of the Relationship between Communication Apprehension, Gender, and Bulletin Boards" (abstract), Education Resources Information Center, 1995.
  2. ^ a b Neeru Tandon (2008) Feminism: A Paradigm Shift
  3. ^ Spender, Dale. Man-Made Language.
  4. ^ Miller, Casey, and Kate Swift. The Handbook of Non-Sexist Language.
  5. ^ "Woman, Womyn, Wimyn, Womin, and Wimmin: Why the alternatives spellings?". Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  6. ^ DOST: Woman
  7. ^ "Womyn." Oxford English Dictionary.
  8. ^ http://eminism.org/michigan/20060822-mwmf.txt
  9. ^ Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture Issue 17, Summer 2002
  10. ^ Eugene V. Gallagher, W. Michael Ashcraft (2006) Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America
  11. ^ Browne, Kath (October 2009). "Womyn's Separatist Spaces: Rethinking Spaces of Difference and Exclusion". Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 34 (3). 

Further reading[edit]

  • Sol Steinmetz. "Womyn: The Evidence," American Speech, Vol. 70, No. 4 (Winter, 1995), pp. 429–437