In the current febrile atmosphere surround transgender women in single-sex spaces and indeed both trans and intersex trait women in sport, today – International Women’s Day is a good day to celebrate all women. Indeed, one of my preferred yet also subtle ways of being inclusive has been the addition of a plus sign at the end of many Women’s events, groups and societies. Women+ is such a (pun-intended) positive way of demonstrating inclusivity and intersectionality without erasing the word woman.
On a side note, etymologically woman is not a modification of male man (since ‘man’ meant ‘human’), neither is female of male. Both the modern word man and woman derive from separate roots. In Old English, wīfmann meant “female human” not female man. So the movement to respell woman as womban, womon, wimmin, womyn (Trans exclusive) or womxn (Trans & WOC inclusive) is to some extent misguided, linguistically at least to language pedants!
I like International Women’s Day because the only adjective added is international – inclusive of all women the world over. It is refreshingly broad in an age of exclusionary defining language such as biological woman, cisgender woman, natal woman, real woman, trans woman or woman defined by vagina, womb, low testosterone, motherhood, violence, abuse or oppression.
“…every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity. Is this attribute something secreted by the ovaries? Or is it a Platonic essence, a product of the philosophic imagination?” – Simone de Beauvoir, ‘The Second Sex’, introduction (1949)
Not every woman has the same experience and I’m not talking trans here, but the individual diversity of female lived experience. Some women have privilege, some at 21 are billionaires (Kylie Jenner). Some as Ivanka Trump, daughter of POTUS, are out of touch and have said people don’t need welfare and would be happy to make their own way in the world.
If biology – wombs, vaginas etc, is the root of women’s oppression why should their definition be rooted in oppression? Why not define by the positive factors of community, sisterhood, inclusion, lifting each other up, social enterprise, leaving no one behind, intersectionality and inclusion.
My response to the following greeting on #IWD on my Facebook wall was this:
Thank you. I feel honoured to be called a woman by women, whether I’m inspirational or not, in the current climate. It’s not an aspect of my identity I’ve used to gain entry to women’s spaces instead I’ve been consistently invited, welcomed, respected and included – and for that, I thank every other woman, most of whom are inspirational to me.
I define as a biological natal real human first, not cis or trans, intersex, male or female, man or woman, non-binary or otherwise.
I want to be known for my humanity, though. I have to admit I see more of that expressed in and by women, but not exclusively so.
Women are not angels, nor devils wearing Prada, they are human. Capable of greatness and also of harm and hurt, like anyone else.
Being a superhero-loving film buff, I found it particularly appropriate to go and see Captain Marvel today, a film in which the world is saved by a woman – without the help of a man, she even talks to other women – not about men, thereby passing the Bechdel test. Without an actual plot spoiler I’ll quote one short dialogue from the film:
“We’ll be back for the weapon”
“No, the WOMAN”
Take that how you like, I see the positive in it, woman and women’s power for positivity in this world.
I’ll end with a tweet I saw this morning that shouts out to me about the behaviour of some women (“some” RadFems/GC Feminists, “some” Trans etc). It says to me that you don’t raise yourself up by bringing other women down.
We’re growing, we’re finding liberation but there’s still one thing pulling us back- Dragging down other women for their size, style, race, or any other preference. Be confident enough to not walk over somebody else to feel better! More power to us! ❤️#InternationalWomensDay pic.twitter.com/Cjhhd3AkLW
— Radhika Mundra (@radhikamundra99) March 8, 2019