When Dictionary.com added Womxn to its lexicon, early in 2019, it described it as term used especially by intersectional feminists to be inclusive of trans and nonbinary women.
Of course, if you live by intersectional sword then you die by the intersectional sword and, on Monday night, the Twitch streaming service was forced to take down a tweet and issue an apology after try to celebrate Womxn’s History Month.
What they quickly learned is that Dictionary.com had it all arse-about-face. Womxn wasn’t created by the good intersectional feminists, but by their evil rivals, the trans-exclusionary radical feminists! And it was never about inclusivity, rather it was maliciously designed to exclude transwomen, and shunt them from womanhood into mere womxnhood. Or possibly womxnhxxd.
By the time you read this the retroactive application of this etymology will probably be nearly complete. Trans-supporting social media accounts will be purging their history of womxn, university societies will be hurriedly pulping fliers about getting more womxn into science, and the LGBTQI+ activists, who gave interviews saying how great it was to see womxn in the dictionary, will have been hunted down and metaphorically nailed to a X.
As the gender-critical feminists always hated the word, womxn will be left unloved by all. A word nobody takes credit for creating, nobody wants to use, and which describes nobody. Given that it’s impossible to pronounce, it can’t even look forward to rap-music revival, like the slightly less hated n-word.
The demise of womxn was preceded by the embargo on transwomen (without a space) which, unlike trans women (with a space), does not convey the connotation that trans women are a kind of woman, and comes long after the denouncings of female, natal women, biological women, or even (sotto voce) real women. The language to distinguish between those who were born into a class that has experienced centuries of oppression, and those born into the class that has been doing the oppressing, is being eroded.
This creates something of a linguistical problem. Referring to transwomen as trans women, rather than just women, continues the distinction. To identify transwomen as trans is to suggest, even using the currently acceptable terms, that they are not part of the same class. If saying womxn reminds transwomen that they are not women, then the same argument can be applied to every trans-identifying term. Even the mantra, trans women are women, is either exclusionary or redundant. Yet some sort of term is still required. One cannot claim, for example, that trans women are more oppressed than cis women, if you lose the terms to separate them.
Speaking of cis women, elsewhere there is less inclusion to be seen. As the term woman is being widened, to include anybody who fancies a swing at it, the terms deemed acceptable for referring to biological women are being narrowed. Women, once a well-defined and cohesive group, is now a mish-mash of overlapping groups; people who have periods, uterus-owners, pregnant people, cervix users, vagina monoliths. The potential for women to identify themselves as a political group, with its own needs, is being deliberately removed. It’s hard to present a unified political force when you need a medical dictionary to discover what you have in common.
The fallen womxn is a lesson in how important it is to protect the trans community from any reminder of reality, while allowing women to define themselves only in ways which reduce them to basic biological functions, and exclude women not at the same stage of their reproductive lifecycle. The chances are that in the next few years we’ll see trans women, and trans itself, go the way of womxn, and be denounced as exclusionary terms. Maybe even cis will go, although it hits all the important targets of being unappealing to women, sounding scientific, even though it’s being used incorrectly, and carrying an air of undesirability and wrongness.
Ultimately, the masters of gaslighting will redefine woman. It will turn out that it’s always been a term for everyone who identified as a women and that only TERFs think that it ever had some other meaning, and then we’ll have lost something.
Women, for a start.