The term Womxn is an alternative term for the English language word women which has been regularly in use since 2015 to explicitly include transgender women and women of color. It has been used in a similar manner as womyn and wimmin, as a rejection of the etymology of 'woman' being 'of man'. Due to transgender women and women of colour's perceived exclusion from the usage of these respellings, an "x" is used to "broaden the scope of womanhood," to include them.
"While hard to pronounce, “womxn” is perhaps the most inclusive word yet using an “x” to tinker with the word’s literal approach to gender in a similar way as “Latinx,” which has become an ungendered alternative to words like “Latino” and “Latina.” 'Womxn' explicitly includes femme/feminine-identifying genderqueer and non-binary individuals.
'Women' is considered an exclusionary term, particularly in relation to histories of slavery and the struggle of black women to resist objectification and the combined impacts of racism and sexism. bell hooks' 1981 book 'Ain't I a Woman?: Black women and feminism? argues that stereotypes fixed during slavery continue to affect black women, effectively categorising them as separate and different from white women. “In America, white racist ideology has always allowed white women to assume that the word woman is synonymous with white woman, for women of other races are always perceived as Others, as de-humanized beings who do not fall under the heading woman.” hooks resists American feminist claims at solidarity between white and black women in the US and charts the way in which the word 'women' came to symbolically exclude black women.
Kimberle Crenshaw also emphasises this exclusion in her article 'Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics'. Crenshaw references Sojourner Truth's 1851 speech 'Ain't I a Woman?' stating 'When feminist theory and politics that claim to reflect women's experience and women's aspirations do not include or speak to Black women, Black women must ask: "Ain't We Women?"'.
Usage in the USA
The term Womxn originated at the University of California, Davis in 1971. A Womxn’s Resources and Research Center was opened on campus with the specific intention of achieving gender equity which is defined as “a world in which people of all genders, specifically womxn, transgender, and people with marginalised genders - have the opportunity to reach their full potential.” The history of the term’s use at UC Davis is explored on their website where their use of the 'x' is explained. Heather C. Lou, a former director of the U.C. Davis Womxn's Resources and Research Centre, writes about the work to address and dismantle cisgenderism in womxn’s centres in 'University and College Women’s and Gender Equity Centers: The Changing Landscape' (2018). U.C. Davis now use the term across their site, and the term has been picked up by societies across the campus and across disciplines. The University also celebrates an International Womxn's Day. Other Universities across the USA have adopted the spelling including The University of Iowa, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Texas State University.
Art + Feminism who work to rectify the imbalance of representation of women's art work on Wikipedia also announced a change in 2019 to focus on womxn. In an open letter one of Art + Feminism's founders stated “In a society where the dominant feminism does not speak to the experiences of Black women, trans women, indigenous women, queer women, immigrant women and the histories and knowledge systems of women based outside of the U.S. and Canada – we know we have a responsibility not only to dismantle patriarchy but to also dismantle destructive feminism that perpetuates social, institutional, and interpersonal harm in the lives of cis and trans women and gender non-binary people everywhere.”
Usage in South Africa
In South Africa some students in the organised higher education protest movements #RhodesMustFall, and the subsequent #FeesMustFall student movements which aimed to decolonise the institution and increase access to university education for all, used the term 'womxn' define an intersectional approach to the movement. Many of the organisers of the movement were womxn and took inspiration from Kimberle Crenshaws work on intersectionality.
Their manifesto states "a]n intersectional approach to our blackness takes into account that we are not only defined by our blackness, but that some of us are also defined by our gender, our sexuality, our able-bodiedness, our mental health, and our class, among other things. We all have certain oppressions and certain privileges and this must inform our organising so that we do not silence groups among us, and so that no one should have to choose between their struggles."
Usage in Nepal
Some MOGAI women in Nepal are using the 'x' spelling to demand a more inclusive Women's Movement. MOGAI is an acronym for 'Marginalized Orientation (sexual/romantic), Gender alignments (identity/ expressions) and Intersex bodily variations'. The Queer Youth Group organised a womxn's rally as part of the International Women's Day in March 2019. They describe the pronunciation of womxn as 'wo-mux'.
Usage in the UK
The use of the term 'Womxn' has caused huge debate in the UK, particularly in relation to the Gender Recognition Act reforms, debated in late 2018. Intersectional feminist use of the term 'womxn' over other alternative spellings has arisen in response to associations of terms such as 'womyn' and 'wimmin' with trans exclusionary radical feminists. A programme of events at the Wellcome Collection in October 2018 'Daylighting' used the term 'womxn' in promotional tweets, triggering a national debate, international news coverage, and a media furore. Criticism of the term included responses from MPs such as Jess Phillips who argued that trans women are women, and do not need a new word, alongside feminist perspectives that claimed the use of the term is an erasure and exclusion of biological women that takes away their identities. Further comments acknowledged that the term prompts new thinking, conversation and a challenge to binary ideas about gender. The Wellcome Collection apologised for its use of the term.
Concurrently with the Wellcome Collection programme, Nottingham Contemporary also used 'Womxn' in relation to their 'Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 1' exhibition, October 2018 - January 2019. Despite receiving similar negative attention to the Wellcome Collection, Nottingham Contemporary defended their use of the term, arguing its importance in relation to the use of language "to resist patriarchal norms"
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