Bodies With Vaginas & Other Erasures of Women | Sarah Stook


The once-respected medical journal Lancet has not been having a good few days.

In its latest issue, the journal decided to discuss the issue of period poverty and menstrual shame. All very noble until you read the cover:

‘Historically, the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been neglected.’

Bodies. With. Vaginas.

It sounds like an off-market porno.

To the credit of the replies, it seems as though not all of Twitter has lost its sanity. Common sense prevailed as users angrily questioned the language. Men and women alike wondered why on Earth one half of the population had suddenly been erased.

Why exactly did Lancet choose this phrase?

Let’s go with the new media obsession with inclusivity. Everything is about including everyone, fitting everyone into that box. ‘Bodies with vaginas’ includes Trans people without using the W word. It’s all about being open and friendly in this new progressive age.

Except that Lancet is guilty of doing the opposite. Only a few days prior to their tweet, Lancet tweeted about prostate cancer. This time, however, they used the word ‘men.’ It wasn’t ‘people with prostates’ or ‘people with penises.’ It was the word men. 

It seems to be women who are the forgotten ones. You may see the odd comment about ‘people with penises,’ but not with any regularity. Women are secondary, forgettable, erased. We are half of the population, yet we’re disappeared like the characters in Avengers: Endgame.

An NHS trust in Brighton (shocker) decided that new mums should be breast feeders or chest feeders, a term one would associate with B-movie horror. Healthline talked about HPV in men and HPV in vulva owners. Teen Vogue calls us ‘non-prostate owners.’ A Texas Republican called women ‘host bodies’ when discussing the latest abortion ban. 

Heck, even women’s organisations have joined in. The National Partnership called pregnant African-American women ‘black birthing bodies.’ That sounds both horribly sexist and racist, putting black women’s importance in their fertility. So much for a women’s organisation, hey? 

In healthcare, women are often picking the short straw. We usually wait longer for proper health care diagnoses or receive the wrong ones. When it comes to issues with our lady parts or periods, we are ignored. The painful, untreatable condition of endometriosis is often dismissed as bad periods or stress. Women have a series of health issues that men do not have, and men have a series of health issues that women do not have.

Instead of improving health care and diagnosis for women, medical professionals have decided to erase us. Lancet talking about menstrual issues should have been a very positive discussion, but they bombed it by ignoring the people who actually suffer from it monthly.

We are told we are assigned as women. To be assigned as a woman in the world can be terrifying. We are victims of rape, child & forced marriage, infanticide, sex-selective abortion, domestic abuse and dowry abuse. Being a woman can be the worst thing a person may be born as. There could be so much done for victims of rape who have been physically disfigured, for women who die giving birth and those who develop obstetric fistulas. Instead, the medical world pushes us aside. 

It’s easy to promote women without ignoring the fact that there are trans folk. With language such as ‘bodies with vaginas,’ these so-called ‘progressives’ actually sound like incels. 

Also, the terms chest feeders and breast feeders are deeply offensive to pregnant women in that it ignores pregnancy. I’ve never been pregnant but I know it’s hard- nine months of mental and physical change, having to avoid lifestyle choices such as alcohol, not having certain medicines etc. Women are amazing, we’re hardcore, we give life. That’s a pretty amazing thing, whether you want kids or not. We don’t have to be reduced to that, nor should it be ignored.

I’m pretty tired of my womanhood being erased. I’m proud of my gender. I’m also aware of its hazards. We cannot change hundreds and thousands of years of languages just to suit a current change. I don’t want to be a ‘person with a vagina’ or a ‘person with a vulva.’ 

My worth does not amount to my genitals.


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