Women or Menstruators

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I like reading all comments on my social media posts. Two of my recent posts gave rise to many passionate comments that span a full spectrum of opposite convictions.

These comments came in response to two different posts: the first wove stories a grandmother might tell a 5-6 years old girl, beginning with: ‘I am a Woman, I have a Womb’. The second explored being Lunar versus Solar, referring to Menstruators and Non-Menstruators respectively.

These comments evoked a thought process in me, which I am inspired to share here to spark a dialogue with you. I would love to hear your thoughts!

– “Not every girl has a womb”

– “Every human being came from the womb and that is something to honor”

– “I’m not so excited about conflating being a woman/girl with having a womb. What about women who have had hysterectomies? About transgender women and girls? Or transgender men/boys who do have wombs but aren’t women?”

– “Women are so much more than their womb. This is reductionist and this is also biological essentialism.”

– “Being able to create life is not reductionist, it is a key function of women and girls. It doesn’t mean all women will become mothers, but our life giving capacity is what’s celebrated… You can’t have a life without a body, but we are more than just a body”

– “Actually, patriarchy reduces us to our wombs and has seen us only as vessels for birthing children… Not to mention there are women who do not have the ability to give birth, do not have a uterus”

– “Just waiting for extreme transgender activists to swoop on the language used and claiming it as transphobic. That’s what J K Rowling was about.”

– “Too bad for the degrading dehumanising use of the word “menstruators” rather than women or girls”

– “Women, girls, and menstruators are all ways to describe sections of humanity. There’s nothing dehumanising about any of those words”

– “I don’t really like the term menstruator. We who menstruate are female, women and girls. WOMAN – let’s never erase us “

Women or Menstruators? Neither word-choice made everyone happy… which is both an age-old state of things, as well as a sign of our times.

We are living in times of transformation

Peoples’ bodies and identities transform, and so does the language, which is needed to holds these transformations.

When I begun working with Menstrual Empowerment, in the early 1990’s, the language was straight forward. The use of ‘Woman’ and ‘Girl’ was not offensive or exclusive, as far as I was aware.

The journey I inwardly took, and gradually came to teach others, was that of moving from a culturally-induced shame about my Womanhood, my Body, and my Menstrual Blood — to Reclaiming, Embracing, Honoring, and Taking Pride in my Woman’s Body and my Cyclicity.

My own journey evolved to taking women on similar healing journeys: letting go of PMS symptoms, honoring their monthly need to rest and renew, celebrating the Rite of Passage they never received when they begun menstruating, and passing new traditions to their daughters..

With women whose womb was surgically removed – this became a journey of honoring years of cycling and reclaiming their still-potent Etheric Womb.

And one day I realized my language made people uncomfortable.

The same language
that was empowering for a couple of decades,
now made people feel left out.

A new, inclusive language was called for,
and new terms were born…

In a menstrual context, the word Woman was replaced by Menstruator. This indeed felt inclusive to non-binary folks, yet many cis-gender women feel great unease by it (as you can see in the comments above).

On the continuum between cisgender and transgender – it appears that we haven’t yet found one set of terms which feels good to all.
And herein lies the irony:

Why would we want to force One Set of Terms
on a Continuum of Human experiences?

Instead of laboring to find one language that fits all, wouldn’t it make more sense to mirror the Human Continuum with a Linguistic Continuum?

Instead of attempting to invent a language that covers-all, and failing, could we show inclusiveness by Accepting words that don’t necessarily pertain to our own experiences?
Rather, can we let go of feeling hurt or excluded, and instead realize – generously – that we can live with a language that works for someone else, because there are other words that fit us fully?

Which words do You feel most comfortable with?

And how tolerant are you willing to be with people using terms that aren’t exactly You, but are important to Them?

10 Responses

  1. It has honestly filled my heart so much that you have presented these ideas here and suggested “could we show inclusiveness by Accepting words that don’t necessarily pertain to our own experiences?”

    Feminists will never reach a consensus and never have. Identical views and experiences have never been a reality and we can’t expect that of feminism. We have to accept that we won’t all agree.
    My fear of exclusion (such as those who dislike the term “menstruators” or hold trans-exclusionary views) is that it isn’t just about disagreement – it is about people’s dignity and safety. We can’t advocate views that put trans women in danger (and the stats shows that cis women as far less in danger of trans women than some TX feminists claim).
    So we need to be able to honour differing views – yet do so in a way that doesn’t jeapordise people’s safety – and right now trans women need that protection.

  2. Woman- at the end of the day, it’s how we self identify. The world needs to stop getting Vaughan up on verbiage. Not every word needs to be re-written to accommodate everyone’s feelings. We will in a Society that everyone needs to walk on eggshells, for fear of not being politically correct. For all those people who identify as female, be it transgender, or someone who doesn’t menstruate. All should be welcome. I find that it boils Down to the simple tomAto, tomato debate. Why can’t we all just get along. We are all Human.
    Oh wait….. can I not use that word either?

    Am I open to others using different words to describe themselves, or how they identify?
    Absolutely, the doors to my red tent are always open and I am always inclusive at my events.

    Much love all

  3. Woman, and definitely, the reason people want to change the term “woman” for something else is because they’re denying their womanhood, thinking it’s shameful or bad or ugly or not great. If they only re-discovered what it means, then they could take pride in being called a woman again..

  4. I want to be free to use the terms that apply to me. I am a woman and I want others to use the language that is important to them.

    I want my daughter to know it’s wonderful to be a young woman who menstruates. If she chooses different language to describe her experience… I will support her fully.

    I love being a woman and I am proud and protective of my cyclic nature that empowers me with wisdom and opportunity to change. Green Blessings ALL.

  5. Yah- you are on to it! We must first and foremost become observers and be able to speak openly regarding the biology of human beings – which has been cloaked with shame and confusion. Women and Men who did not easily fit into one gender identification or the other; and, not easily into one gender role or the other ( marriage and child bearing, reproductive sexual activity, cultural assets- these people have always been there and sometime in smaller groups and histories they might have been exposed at birth, or just given a creative role in the tribe, or sometimes they became Nuns and Priests- joinng an asexual community- or simply becoming a “Maiden Lady School Teacher” and this person’s condition was never known. Nor was it politely discussed. the advent of medical transformation which was the 50 and 60’s gave some families the opportunity to try and ‘fix” their child at birth as best as they could- and this did work with fair results sometimes- and sometimes it was a hasty decision. what seemed ;ike a small penis was actually a larger clitoris. etc.
    What about my friends daughter who was by all accounts a lovely young woman and when she did not menstruate, it was found that she had no womb and was subsequently, likely given a few supplemental hormones to help her continued development. But she was very feminine already. Does she have a place at the table? We could become a very small, wrong group without spending time learning about sexuality because the current Justice nominee has already called homosexuals- people who exercise ” preference” while I trust women who tell me that they have never had a bonding thought about a man- to be biologically predisposed to that choice. And others may be flexible in their decisions because they are more in the middle of the spectrum. I bond to men and I am feminist- they do not question me. Red Tents has a big job to be a healer or not.

  6. I just left a comment and I have an idea that we might have some events on the calendar which are particular to particular groups of women and to what they are needing- and I do not think any one should be excluded.

  7. WOMAN! Gender identity may be fluid, but our sex is physical & real. Red Tent is based on our experiences as women by our shared biology. Of course we welcome anyone to share their experience with their menses, but I am content to be a woman & I do not wish to be reduced to “cis” or a “menstruator”, a subset of my own sex. You will notice men are not asked to be labelled “prostrate havers”, so why must we accept “persons with a cervix”, etc. to accommodate the “feelings” of approx..5% of “menstruators” who are the exception to the rule by their own non-identification with being a woman? I, too have “feelings”. I reject this trend in language; it is NOT healing, for me, it is slippery slope.

  8. Woman. I will never consent to being erased or be referred to as a bodily function or body part. I will not be silenced or shamed because I use woman in describing my experiences or my own body and female health issues.
    As far as trans-women being more vulnerable than real women, thousands of real women are killed by men every year.
    I will not allow or accept the primal feminine and divineness to be called hate speech or intolerance. I will not give up my hard fought and hard won sex based rights and protections. I will not indulge misogyny under the guise of ‘wokeness’.

  9. WOMAN, because it was because our womb and our presumed capacity of being able to get pregnant that over centuries woman have being treated as 2nd class humans and everything concerned about womanhood has been seen as inferior. Gender is a hierarchic category in which masculinity is always found as better as femininity. It has been taking a lot to love our menstruations, our wombs, our cyclic processes and to be in peace and even love what it make us woman, to suddenly now, that womanhood has more acceptance, we are not allowed to use our own word. Being called menstruator is deshumanazing, and being Cis woman too. We are women, because we born female. Sex is an actual category, as we are mammals who species reproduction is sexual. We are WOMEN, and we owe to defend and be proud of it to our female ancesters, to the other women that preceded us…those that didn’t have life very easy precisely for menstruating, for havind uterus, for born with a vulva. It would be super sad if we lost such a beutiful place like the red tent to an mysoginistic trend.

  10. I came here because I was curious to see how transwomen fit into a Red Tent gathering. I am a CIS woman. I embrace the CIS as much as I embrace the Trans id for those women.

    As to language not needing to change, I would point out that not many of us like to be called by pejoratives that were once quite common. Why is that an okay language change while CIS is not?

    After reading the comments, I was gladdened by some and felt pushed aside and diminished by others. That is MY response to their language. I don’t make a judgment on whether or not their language was intended to shame.

    I would point out that those born with a vagina and a uterus but have had those (and breasts) removed would apparently be welcome in a Red Tent by some despite their now acknowledging their gender as male. But a person born with a penis and testicles, who similarly chose to change their body to match their own gender id, would be excluded.

    I assume this varies based on the community in which the Red Tent is set. I will ask my local coordinator, but I do not leave here feeling safe about my transwomen friends within this community as a whole.

    Perhaps we need a Purple Tent where we can celebrate our womanhood as we each present it to the world. I just want a safe place for all of us. Those who are being exclusionary would even be welcome. So long as they kept their opinions about other people’s choices to themselves.

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