The new global empire of disembodiment
Loading the language to sell dissociation, goods, and services
(**Note that I’m going to use a word I genuinely abhor here—‘problematic’—because in this context I'll use it to refer to the process of *labeling something* in order to dismiss or marginalize it, typically without explaining your reasons...)
It's no mystery at this point that trans activism loads ordinary language with objectionable associations and pushes its own bizarre language of disembodiment as an 'inclusive' alternative.
And it's no coincidence that this loading of the language alienates trans people from the everyday language that everyone else uses (intending no offense) and drives trans people ever more tightly into the embrace of an insular and manipulative community.
‘Woman’ is an obvious case. Every language in the world has a word that refers to adult human females—women, 여자들, wanawake, wahine, feminae—except for 21st-century Anglophone genderists, that is. It's gotten to the point where the only people it’s unproblematic to refer to as ‘women’ in ultra-woke circles are males who identify as such.
But because there’s an obvious need for a word to refer exclusively to half of humanity, we find ourselves shuffling through unsatisfactory, inaccessible, and often downright insulting alternatives: birthing bodies, gestators, menstruators, cervix-havers, AFABs We can fight over whether ‘woman’ is a sex-word or a gender-word or asex-and-gender-word—and we will!—but what’s truly remarkable is what happened to the most obvious alternative: female.
Nowhere is the trans community’s loading of language more clear than when we consider the words ‘female’ and ‘male,’ words that refer to reproductive roles not just among humans but across the animal kingdom.
For the overwhelming majority of society, ‘female’ and ‘male’ refer simply and unproblematically to sex. These words don’t imply a right or wrong way to be male or female. 'Female' and 'male' don’t say anything about identity. They’re ideal for use in scientific or medical settings where gender-sensitivity forbids the use of ‘woman’ and ‘man.’
Yet you can lose your Twitter account or find yourself accused of hate speech for referring to a biological male as male, and get pilloried for being exclusive by referring to the existence of ‘females.’
A dear trans friend of mine said whenever they hear the word female it automatically means “not me.” Better to be a body with a vagina, which makes unwanted body parts sound incidental, not elemental. In the trans community, 'female' has thus accumulated all the baggage of the community's own regressive sex-role stereotyping and inability to separate sex and gender: Females should be this way, not that way; I'm AFAB but not *female*.
But the word's real crimes are more basic.
‘Female’ coherently picks out the sex class that can bear young and excludes males (never mind that biology excluded males first). ‘Female’ keeps women together as a sex class and keeps women’s bodies intact, rather than spinning us off into body parts, functions, and services... And it’s an unfashionable reminder of our embodiment, our humanity, and that we’re animals—none of which sits comfortably with the new global empire of disembodiment that’s pushing the sex trade, surrogacy, virtual reality, and transgenderism all at once.
The ideology that underlies transgender identification relies on problematizing and denying basic truths about what it means to be embodied, to be human. Language can't alter these realities, but language can mask them. 'Female' doesn't.
If you can convince everyone else to use your words, through a combination of carrots and sticks, you can bury what's at stake in the conflict over gender identity and rope off potential exit ramps.
This way lies "reconstructive surgeries" (elective double mastectomies for teenage girls). This way lies woman not as an adult human female with any personality, but 'woman' as consumer of identity props and medical services.
This language of "bodies with vaginas" and gestators and chestfeeders serves an ideology. It's a disconnected, consumption-oriented way of thinking and talking about women.
Instead of 'woman,' I might mean "someone I want to fuck" ("one body with vagina, please!"). "Uterus-haver" or "gestator" is someone I might contract as a surrogate.
"Person with breasts" might as well be a (mixed-sex) category of pornography content, or a candidate for cosmetic surgery (reduction, removal, enhancement, or creation).
Or "woman" becomes "a patient who takes estrogen supplementation," whether for purposes of transition (MTF), identity, appearance, aging, mood regulation, birth control.
This is taking women and slicing us into market segments: by services sought or rendered, by what we consume and who wants to consume us.
That's why it's so appalling to see trans activists and even self-identified feminists speak of women in the very terms industries and corporations would use to sell to us—or sell us.
Interesting Eliza. You’ve hit a nail here I think. This piece clarifies what my muddier head has been working towards lately. Woman as commerce. It was ever thus of course, but never before has it been so blatant….or perverse and degrading. It has crept up on us in a way. Most of what has passed as comedy on the telly for years now has been disgustingly misogynistic. Women called ‘hole’ is apparently hilarious now. It sickens me. My opinion of Men has never been so low.
This is such an illuminating read - thank you.
The menstruator, the breasts-have, the person with a vulva, the uterus owner, the person with ovaries - this is one living, breathing woman. Who, apparently, we cannot name or regard as more than a collection of parts.