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Womyn is one of several alternative spellings of the English word women used by some feminists. There are many alternative spellings, including womban and wommon (singular), and wimmin (plural). Some 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.
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". Feminist writers have suggested that this more symmetrical usage reflected more egalitarian notions of gender at the time.
Womyn appeared as an Older Scots spelling of woman 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 1976 referring to the first Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.
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.
The term "wimmin" was considered by George P. Krapp to be eye-dialect, the literary technique of using nonstandard spelling that implies a pronunciation of the given word that is actually standard. The spelling indicates that the character's speech overall is dialectal, foreign, or uneducated. This form of nonstandard spelling differs from others in that a difference in spelling does not indicate a difference in pronunciation of a word. That is, it is dialect to the eye rather than to the ear. It suggests that a character "would use a vulgar pronunciation if there were one" and "is at the level of ignorance where one misspells in this fashion, hence mispronounces as well."
This word has been criticized by trans activists due to its usage in trans-exclusionary radical feminist circles which excludes trans women from identifying into the category of "woman," and consequently prevents them from accessing spaces and resources for women. See Womyn-born womyn.
- D. Hatton. "Womyn and the 'L': A Study of the Relationship between Communication Apprehension, Gender, and Bulletin Boards" (abstract), Education Resources Information Center, 1995.
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- DOST: Woman[dead link]
- "Womyn." Oxford English Dictionary.
- Eugene V. Gallagher, W. Michael Ashcraft (2006) Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America
- Maconie, Stuart. "Pies and Prejudice: In search of the North". Edbuty, 2008. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-09-191023-5
- Walpole (1974:193, 195)
- Rickford & Rickford (2000:23)
- "Eye Dialect by Vivian Cook". Homepage.ntlworld.com. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
- Bolinger (1946:337)
|Look up womyn in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Sol Steinmetz. "Womyn: The Evidence," American Speech, Vol. 70, No. 4 (Winter, 1995), pp. 429–437