What The Term “Womxn” Means And Why You Should Be Using It
By Haley Guerin
When I first stumbled upon the term “womxn”, I found myself re-reading it. Was it a typo? Was it purposely written that way? As I continued reading, I saw the term repeatedly spelled that way and I soon realized that it was, indeed, on purpose. Realizing how unwoke I was, I immediately scrambled over to Google and popped the term “womxn” into my search browser. Quoted directly from Wikipedia, this is what came up: “a woman (used, especially in intersectional feminism, as an alternative spelling to avoid the suggestion of sexism perceived in the sequences m-a-n and m-e-n, and to be inclusive of trans and nonbinary women)". While this search did provide some guidance, the term “womxn” has a meaning that is much more profound than this overly simple Wikipedia definition suggests.
“Womxn” is about much more than a simple respelling of the commonplace words “woman” or “women”. It is a movement. It is about inclusivity, independence, equality, and empowerment. This is easy to contextualize when we take a closer look at the spelling of the words “woman” and “women” and how these spellings are problematic. Both of these spellings follow a basic, patriarchal construction: “wo” + “man/men”. This spelling suggests that womxn are merely an extension of men or a man, affirming patriarchal ideologies through linguistics. An article by the New York Times follows the findings of an associate cognitive science professor at the University of California San Diego, Lera Boroditsky: “When she studied speakers whose native languages used gendered nouns (Spanish, French, German and Russian are examples), she found that this influenced the way people thought about the world, even if they weren’t aware of it”. This has profound implications for how the way we structure language reflects societal hierarchies, supporting the importance of using the term “womxn” over “woman” or “women”.
The term also has important implications for the LGBTQ+ community. The “x” in the word “womxn” allows for a sense of inclusivity and does away with gender specificity. Essentially, this gender-neutral term creates a safe space where transgender and gender-nonconformist individuals feel welcomed. To speak more to the inclusivity aspect of this term, it invites womxn of color, womxn of developing countries, and womxn of all identities to belong to a united sense of community in which their accomplishments and worth as individuals are seen as separate from that of men. I believe this highlights the term’s power as a word that upholds womxn’s experience as being independent from that of men and celebrates their ability to operate as fully capable, individual entities with their own skills and achievements.
As you find yourself typing up another important work email, sending a quick text to your best friend, or creating a new Instagram post, be bold and try using “womxn” instead of “woman” or “women”. You will likely have the opportunity to introduce the term to people who have not seen it before and to help them be familiar with it and its importance. Challenge yourself and invite others to do so too! See you out there!
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