Womxn

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Queer Womxn Pride at Nepal's International Women's Day rally from Bhrikutimandap, or ‘Bwojyaa Khyo‘ in the Newa language, March 2019
Womxn's March on Seattle, January 2017

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.[1] It has been used in a similar manner as womyn and wimmin, as a rejection of the etymology of 'woman' being 'of man'.[2] 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.[3]

"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.”[4] 'Womxn' explicitly includes femme/feminine-identifying genderqueer and non-binary individuals.[5]

Background[edit]

'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.[6] 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.”[7] 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'[8]. 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?"'.[8]

Usage in the USA[edit]

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.”[9] The history of the term’s use at UC Davis is explored on their website[10] 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).[11] 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.[12] The University also celebrates an International Womxn's Day.[13] 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.[14]

In 2017 the Womxn's March on Seattle used womxn in place of women "to promote intersectionality in the movement".[15]

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.”[16]

Usage in South Africa[edit]

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.[17] Many of the organisers of the movement were womxn and took inspiration from Kimberle Crenshaws work on intersectionality.[18][19]

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."[17]

South African poet Koleka Putuma uses the term widely in her 2017 poetry anthology Collective Amnesia and named the first poem in the collection “Growing up Black and a Womxn”.[20]

Usage in Nepal[edit]

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'[21]. The Queer Youth Group[22] organised a womxn's rally as part of the International Women's Day in March 2019.[23] They describe the pronunciation of womxn as 'wo-mux'.[21]

Usage in the UK[edit]

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[24]. 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'[25] used the term 'womxn' in promotional tweets, triggering a national debate, international news coverage, and a media furore.[26] 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[27], alongside feminist perspectives that claimed the use of the term is an erasure and exclusion of biological women[28] that takes away their identities.[29] Further comments acknowledged that the term prompts new thinking, conversation and a challenge to binary ideas about gender.[30] The Wellcome Collection apologised for its use of the term.[31]

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.[32] 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"[33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kerr, Breena (2019-03-14). "What Do Womxn Want?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  2. ^ "Why the Y?". Womyn's Centre. 2011-04-11. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  3. ^ "Womyn, wimmin, and other folx - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  4. ^ Kerr, Breena (2019-03-14). "What Do Womxn Want?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  5. ^ Paradis, Crystal (2018-01-02). "A note on inclusive language: intersectionality, feminism, womxn, cis, nonbinary, etc". Feminist Oasis. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  6. ^ hooks, bell (2014-12-17). Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. Routledge. ISBN 9781317588610.
  7. ^ hooks, bell (2014-12-17). Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. Routledge. p. 281. ISBN 9781317588610.
  8. ^ a b Crenshaw, Kimberle (1989). "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics". University of Chicago Legal Forum. 1: 154.
  9. ^ "Why a Women's Center? | Women's Resources and Research Center". wrrc.ucdavis.edu. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  10. ^ "Hxrstory of WRRC | Women's Resources and Research Center". wrrc.ucdavis.edu. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  11. ^ Bethman, Brenda; Cottledge, Anitra; Bickford, Donna M. (2018-10-03). University and College Women's and Gender Equity Centers: The Changing Landscape. Routledge. ISBN 9781351174688.
  12. ^ "Undergraduate Womxn in Economics Society — economics". economics.ucdavis.edu. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  13. ^ "International Womxn's Day | Women's Resources and Research Center". wrrc.ucdavis.edu. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  14. ^ Steubenville •January 10, Maria Lencki-Franciscan University of; 2019 (2019-01-10). "'Woman,' 'womxn' or 'womyn': Campus feminist groups opt for alternative spelling". The College Fix. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  15. ^ EndPlay (2017-01-21). "Seattle women's march estimates 50,000 attendees after Trump inauguration". KIRO. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  16. ^ Dazed (2019-03-25). "The collective writing womxn back into art history". Dazed. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  17. ^ a b Ndelu, Sandy; Dlakavu, Simamkele; Boswell, Barbara (2017-10-02). "Womxn's and nonbinary activists' contribution to the RhodesMustFall and FeesMustFall student movements: 2015 and 2016". Agenda. 31 (3–4): 1–4. doi:10.1080/10130950.2017.1394693. ISSN 1013-0950.
  18. ^ Crenshaw, Kimberle (2018-02-19), "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics [1989]", Feminist Legal Theory, Routledge, pp. 57–80, doi:10.4324/9780429500480-5, ISBN 9780429500480
  19. ^ Vallabhjee, Devaksha. "#MbokodoLead: The Women Leading The #FeesMustFall Movement". Marie Claire – South Africa. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  20. ^ "Koleka Putuma's Collective Amnesia Insists On Visibility And Healing". HuffPost UK. 2017-06-12. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  21. ^ a b "LGBT community marks Pride Month with hope and fear". 2019-06-26. Retrieved 2019-06-30.
  22. ^ "Queer Youth Group". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2019-06-30.
  23. ^ supressednarratives (2019-03-08). "Queer womxn voices at Women's Day Rally". Suppressed Narratives upsuring against hegemony. Retrieved 2019-06-30.
  24. ^ "TERF Wars". National Review. 2018-11-15. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  25. ^ "Daylighting". Wellcome Collection. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  26. ^ Topping, Alexandra (2018-10-10). "Wellcome Collection excoriated over use of term 'womxn'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  27. ^ Science Correspondent, Rhys Blakely (2018-10-11). "Wellcome Collection workshop for 'womxn' backfires". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  28. ^ Horton, Helena (2018-10-10). "'Womxn' row as companies worry the word 'women' excludes transgender people". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  29. ^ Orr, Deborah (2018-10-10). "Our health system is topsy-turvy: often, mental health causes poor physical health". inews.co.uk. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  30. ^ Dent, Susie (2018-10-14). "Susie Dent: If Mx and womxn makes us stop and think, then it might just be doing its job after all". inews.co.uk. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  31. ^ Regan, Alex (2018-10-10). "Should women be spelt womxn?". Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  32. ^ "Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 1". www.nottinghamcontemporary.org. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  33. ^ Contemporary, Nottingham (2018-10-11). "4/6. We have chosen to use the word 'womxn' both because of its intended inclusivity, but also because it reflects the way that many groups and individuals have used language to resist patriarchal norms. Our intention is neither to re-label women nor to erase any experiences". @Nottm_Contemp. Retrieved 2019-06-27.