It happened again. Another company selling menstrual products popped up on my Facebook feed and used the word “person” when describing menstruation. Because apparently using the category “women” is hateful and bigoted and exclusive, and disrespectful of people’s identities – i.e. their feelings.
But what about those women who are feeling hurt at their own erasure? I understand some women don’t mind this erasure, and in fact don’t view it as erasure, but my guess is that they don’t quite grasp the history of women being erased and diminished in Western society.
Freud believed that women were incomplete men, individuals seething with penis envy. Women were never studied in medicine because men were considered to be the default human being. And in nonprofits, there is still a struggle to give women attention away from their children – while men have always recieved resources for the independent category of men. In sociology it is called “disappearing women,” and it is very similar to a woman being referred to as “Mrs. Husband’s Name.”
Second wave feminism had its issues, but one thing it did was name the class of women loudly and clearly – “I am woman, hear me roar!” And despite its flaws, second wave feminism got things done. From reproductive rights to Title IX to the first domestic violence shelters, second wave feminism promoted actual structural change. And they did so by declaring woman as full, CATEGORICALLY DISTINCT human beings deserving of full human rights.
You cannot do this if women are once again being disappeared into the vague category of “person.” This is not being done to men. Men still have their own male category and spaces, because they continue to be the dominant SEX. Not gender, but SEX.
People do not suffer the anxiety and discrimination attached to misogynistic views of menstruation – women do. Not transwomen, not men – but women. And to say “person” instead of “woman” gives the false perception that periods impact everyone equally. They don’t. Bill Clinton didn’t have people refuse to vote for him because of menstrual stereotypes – but Hillary did, despite being post-menopausal. And all over the world, WOMEN and GIRLS suffer isolation and loss of education, even death, due to menstruation.
There is so much empowerment still needed around menstruation, but how can we empower the people the issue impacts if we cannot name these people as a class? How can we challenge the status quo if we put the feelings of the rather miniscule amount of trans individuals in existance over the physical and structural reality of an entire class of people?
And what about our feelings? I reclaimed the category woman for myself to represent strength and power as a way to combat society’s diminishment of females – specifically as sexualized, pornified objects. By reclaiming woman as a category owned and defined by women – as opposed to men – woman have begun to break from patriarchy.
But there is so much work to be done, and women cannot continue with their liberation if we cannot be named.
It is hurtful to once again be diminished.
It is hurtful tp suddenly be unable to categorically name yourself for the means of empowerment.
It is hurtful to LOSE THE LANGUAGE USED TO EMPOWER ONESELF – LANGUAGE USED TO EMPOWER AN ENTIRE CLASS OF PEOPLE.
And for what, the feelings of a few? In this scenario it is clear whose feelings and perceptions don’t matter – women.
And it hurts. It hurts to know that women, despite having unique needs and having unique experiences of oppression specific to being born female, are once again being disappeared as a distinct class in Western society.