Friday, December 9, 2022

Bette Midler says trans-inclusive language erases women – The Hill

Story at a glance


  • Bette Midler has fired back on the use of transgender-inclusive language in conversations about abortion, claiming cisgender women are being “erased.”

  • Midler’s comments were met with backlash and disappointment from transgender people and LGBTQ+ advocates, who reminded her that people who do not identify as women require access to reproductive health care, too.

  • Some studies have suggested that using gender-neutral language in medical research could negatively impact the health of cisgender women, while others have argued that excluding people like transgender men and nonbinary people can be just as damaging.

The actress and singer Bette Midler on Monday said women are being “erased” from society as LGBTQ+ activists highlight the need for gender-inclusive language abortion discussions.

In a message posted to Twitter addressing “women of the world,” Midler, 76, wrote that cisgender women are being “stripped of our rights over our bodies, our lives and even our name!”

“They don’t call us ‘women’ anymore; they call us ‘birthing people’ or ‘menstruators’, and even ‘people with vaginas’! Don’t let them erase you! Every human on earth owes you!,” Midler wrote.

In June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had established the constitutional right to an abortion. Midler was among many celebrities to criticize the court’s ruling.


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Backlash to the actress’ comments, which are typically critical of conservative viewpoints and lawmakers, was swift, with transgender and LGBTQ+ advocates calling for Midler to recognize that women are not the only people who may become pregnant.

“No one is trying to erase women with inclusive language about people who need abortion care,” the author Roxane Gay tweeted in response. “No one is calling you anything but what you prefer. You should extend that courtesy in return.”

“Don’t fall for the anti-trans panic fake nonsense,” Panti Bliss-Cabrera, an Irish drag queen and LGBTQ+ rights activist, tweeted at Midler. “No one is erasing women. In a few small healthcare cases where appropriate they are using trans inclusive language. That’s all.”

Nicole Maines, who in 2018 became the first person to portray a transgender superhero on television, said inclusive language is crucial to ensuring transgender people are able to access the medical care they require.

“That language is reflective of the reality that simply not just cisgender women menstruate or have need of reproductive healthcare,” she tweeted in response to Midler’s comments. “It takes away nothing from anyone to update and use accurate terminology as our understanding evolves.”

Maines, who is transgender, in 2014 successfully sued her school district after she was barred from using the girls’ restroom. The case, which was taken to the Maine Supreme Court, gave transgender people in the state the right to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

Some compared Midler’s remarks to those made by the author JK Rowling, whose views on transgender issues and identities have been accused of being transphobic. In 2020, Rowling mocked the headline of a news article about “people who menstruate.”

“I’m sure there used to be a word for those people,” Rowling wrote on Twitter at the time. “Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

But not all reactions to Midler’s remarks were negative.

The writer Katherine Brodsky tweeted that terms like “birthing person” or “vulva-haver” are “dehumanizing.”

“It’s not that hard to be inclusive by saying women AND…,” she wrote. “No one is erased or ignored, problem solved. And yet…”

The controversial right-wing social media account Libs of TikTok also chimed inasking: “Who’s ‘they’ that are changing these terms?”

Some studies suggest that replacing words like “women” with gender-neutral language in medical research could negatively impact the health of cisgender women by reducing their visibility and autonomy.

But others have argued that leaving people like transgender men and nonbinary people who can get pregnant out of mainstream research or policy discussions can be just as damaging.

“There is no benefit to women when we obscure or hide this scientific fact; many women have experienced the acute harm that comes from receiving inaccurate information about our bodies,” the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) wrote in a 2015 statement on gender inclusive language. “We understand the fear of erasure. But we don’t win the fight for women by erasing others who also lack a place/name/voice.”

Published on Jul. 05, 2022

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