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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 womon (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 the less prejudicial usage of the Old English sources reflects 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.
This word has been criticized due to its usage in trans-exclusionary radical feminist circles to exclude trans women from the category "woman," and consequently prevent them from using 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.
- Neeru Tandon (2008) Feminism: A Paradigm Shift
- Spender, Dale. Man-Made Language.
- Miller, Casey, and Kate Swift. The Handbook of Non-Sexist Language.
- DOST: Woman[dead link]
- "Womyn." Oxford English Dictionary.
- Eugene V. Gallagher, W. Michael Ashcraft (2006) Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America
|Look up womyn in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Sol Steinmetz. "Womyn: The Evidence," American Speech, Vol. 70, No. 4 (Winter, 1995), pp. 429–437