ACCORDING to the dictionary, a woman is an adult human female.
Until very recently this definition had been accepted without controversy, in thousands of languages, for literally thousands of years.
Until very recently the definition of woman had been accepted without controversyCredit: Getty
Clear and unambiguous language is needed in NHS health literature when written information is already confusing to manyCredit: Alamy
However, in 2023 the word “woman” is slowly but surely becoming extinct in the UK.
This is on the basis that it feels exclusionary to a tiny but very vocal minority of people.
Policy Exchange’s Biology Matters project has been recording the systematic removal of the word “woman” from documents and policies in organisations across Britain — in the NHS, in universities, in charities and more.
On the surface, these policies seem fine, aside from one tiny detail: They almost entirely avoid using language that defines the very things they are discussing: “Woman” and “female”.
It must be quite difficult for the writers of such policies to skirt around the blatantly obvious.
Much care and attention is given to the document’s “inclusivity”, with meticulous and careful references throughout to “individuals”, “pregnant people” and “people to reach menopause”.
But what these policies fail to acknowledge in their attempts to be inclusive is quite how exclusionary they are — by casting aside language which is fundamental to what they are talking about.
Only women can give birth. Only women experience the menopause.
Of course, women should not be defined by their ability or inclination to have children.
But categorically speaking, it doesn’t matter how, what or who you identify as — if you give birth or experience the menopause, you are a woman.
Why has it become so offensive to say this?
It really isn’t rocket science: Women make up 51 per cent of the population and we have existed for millennia.
Most worryingly, we aren’t talking about just one isolated woke example here.
This is happening across the board — in education, the criminal justice system, the media and health.
The ACLU deliberately misquoted respected US lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her statments that referenced ‘women’Credit: Getty
The NHS is overrun with the denial of sex-based factual language.
No one can say that sex does not matter in the context of healthcare.
Freedom of Information requests to the NHS reveal that NHS Digital has made the decision to remove the word “woman” from its website.
We know that some of the NHS’s most vulnerable patients are women, particularly those who do not speak English.
In the UK, 7.1million adults read and write at or below the level of nine-year-olds and, critically, 43 per cent of adults already do not understand written health information.
That makes it all the more important that language in health literature is clear and unambiguous.
But increasingly, it isn’t.
According to the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, more than 40 per cent of women don’t know what the cervix is.
Despite this, the health system is often deliberately choosing to remove the vital signifier that cervical screening is a women’s health issue.
Instead, they blow the diversity, equity and inclusion dog whistle and use the dystopian and somewhat creepy phrase “cervix-holders” instead.
This is not going unnoticed. In February more than 1,200 clinicians signed an open letter to NHS chief executives and chief nursing officers of the four UK nations, and to relevant ministers, calling for the reinstatement of language that uses the word “woman” in NHS communications about women’s health.
We know there is dearth of research, funding and attention given to women’s health.
Reducing us to our body parts surely will not help the cause.
Another example is the supposed “correction” of language as it relates to the past.
On the anniversary of respected US lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death a few years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted a quote of hers in which every reference to “woman” had been edited to “person”.
The ACLU deliberately misquoted her. Ginsburg was talking about a woman’s right to have a child.
A similar problem is happening in relationship, sex and health education.
Removing female-centric language when teaching girls about puberty and how their bodies change won’t stop those changes happening.
Dehumanising the language around menstruation will not stop girls from menstruating.
They will just be all the more bewildered when their periods do start to happen.
Here’s the thing: Removing female-centric language does not remove the immutability of biological sex and the reality of this in everyday life.
It is quite telling that all this is a one-sided operation.
This isn’t happening to the word “man”.
There has not been an explosion of phrases such as “penis-havers”, “ejaculators” or “people who don’t give birth”.
It is just women who are being forced to give up their language, as they are their rights, spaces and sports medals.
This isn’t about being kind or inclusive.
In a liberal democracy it is not acceptable for public institutions — which receive vast sums of public money — to be deleting words from the dictionary because they might offend someone.
Language is essential to the operation of a functioning society.
It is vital for the expression of identity, and communication.
The weaponisation of a word so fundamental to public life is not something to be dismissed lightly.
* Article From: The Sun