How the word ‘woman’ became taboo

Julie Burchill, The Spectator, UK.
27 February 2022, 3:30am.

When I was a little girl, my mum told me that I shouldn’t use the word ‘woman’ – but rather ‘lady.’ ‘Woman’ was just too visceral to her, whereas a ‘lady’ might well be a doll. But by adolescence my shoplifted copy of The Female Eunuch and Helen Reddy bawling ‘I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman!’ had reinforced by belief that my mother was wrong. I never dreamt that the w-word would be taboo again.

How could the word woman become so contentious that the stating of the dictionary definition – ‘Adult Human Female’ – could become a matter for the police? It started with Posie Parker, a disillusioned member of the Labour party member: ‘I left in 2016 – I had been asking online Labour groups this question:

“Does my 11-year-old daughter have the right to use a female-only changing room and not see an adult penis?” and was told I was raising a pervert who stared at genitals and a transphobe. No one agreed that my daughter had the right. On the back of silence from the leaders, I knew my time in Labour had ended.’ In 2018 she hired a £700 billboard for the duration of Labour conference in Liverpool stating this biological fact. A doctor (I wonder how he did in biology?) complained that this was ‘transphobic’ and the billboard company capitulated.

This was the start of the thought-policing of women who dared claim their name. In 2019 Thames Valley Police announced that those responsible for reportedly slapping a few Adult Human Female stickers around in Oxford could be charged with a public order offence and appealed for witnesses. It’s interesting Thames Valley Police are so keen to chase ‘Hate Speech’ on the grounds that (following the half-witted trans-mantra) ‘Words are literal violence’ when the same police force vetted a man known fondly as ‘The Rapist’ by his colleagues – and who would go on to murder Sarah Everard. Words are only literal violence when women use them, apparently.


This w-word kerfuffle has continued for four years now, most insultingly in the NHS, where women have been called ‘cervix-havers’ and ‘chest-feeders’ rather than upset a tiny minority of men with body dysmorphia. (Would the NHS approve of believing anorexics when they say they’re fat? What’s the difference?) But interestingly, the word ‘man’ goes unchallenged. The current awareness campaign by Prostate Cancer UK unashamedly (and correctly) names ‘men’ repeatedly as its target audience; and when complaints piled in, the charity styled it out:

“‘Thanks for your concern. We are of course aware that trans-women have prostates, however we want to reach as many at-risk individuals as possible and have chosen to use the word men to achieve this.’
Everything women won, through suffering and strength, must now be a playground for men.

It’s worth wondering why trans men don’t tend to kick off. Is it because trans women grew up with male privilege while trans men grew up socialised to be people pleasers? Interestingly – and one of the reasons why in my book Welcome to the Woke Trials: How #Identity Killed Progressive Politics I define wokeness as a reactionary rather than a revolutionary movement – campaigns like #BeKind are aimed solely at females, who, looking at the crime statistics, aren’t logically the sex that needs to be nicer.

Being Kind means never saying ‘no’ to incursions on one’s territory or standing up for one’s rights, and as such is completely in line with a political mindset which tells even rape victims that they are practising ‘carceral feminism’ if they seek redress through the law. And Be Kind will accuse women of ‘playing the victim’ if victims of male violence prefer to be assisted only by women. It’s kindness as castration, and the latest in a long line of attacks on women from behind the wokescreen bent on erasing us as a sex. It used to be thought that a lesbian, Storme DeLarverie, threw the first brick at the Stonewall riots; now it’s allegedly a trans woman. The easiest way for a mediocre male athlete to become a champion is to identify as a woman. He may even end up as ‘Woman of the Year’, like Caitlyn Jenner. (Amusingly, as a supreme sports champion who had no need to cheat, Jenner opposes trans-women entering female events.) Women from poor countries act as surrogate mothers for rich men, and then are paid to disappear.

In the arts, women carry the cancellation can. Last year, the writer Damian Barr was one of a mob demanding that Dame Emma Nicholson (who has dedicated her life to public service, especially charities helping children and refugees) be removed from her role as a Booker Prize judge due to her doubts that men can become women and her history of voting against same-sex marriage.

Interestingly, another member of the panel, the Conservative peer Lord Willetts, had voted against gay adoption and the equalising of the age of consent; no pitchforks were waved at him, or indeed at Mr Barr himself when he was revealed as having tweeted a number of jokes concerning ‘trannies’ being suicidal. Because it’s only women who must Be Kind – or else.

Females are being erased from public lavatories as increasingly they become male or unisex. Over at that great stronghold of misogyny the BBC (proudly bearing a sculpture by Eric Gill, rapist of his own pre-adolescent daughters) drag queens are more visible than middle-aged women. (I wonder what sex they identify as when they invoice for payment, as the BBC are notorious for paying women less.)

Everything women won, through suffering and strength, must now be a playground for men. It’s gaslighting to an extreme degree; act hatefully, then accuse your victims of hate speech. We are approaching the point where women are simply not allowed to have nice things – cubicles, careers – without men taking over.

But there’s light at the end of the tunnel and last week two events indicated that the tide is turning against the monstrous regiment of women-erasers. In Scotland, the Court of Session ruled that the definition in the Gender Representation on Public Boards Scotland Act 2018 could only cover biological women – and thus ensure greater gender balance on public sector boards – turning over a previous ruling. 

And one of the most famous residents of Scotland, J.K. Rowling (whose playful Tweet ‘“People who menstruate.” I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?’ hit the woke where it hurts them most – the place where their sense of humour should be) was the subject of an extraordinary New York Times advertisement which encouraged us to try ‘imagining Harry Potter without its creator.’ It was vile, but it was also an own goal. 

That’s the only good thing about the trans-capture of the big corporations – in their echo chamber they hear only each other’s voices, leading them to propose ever more outrageous beliefs, and thus to lose the battle for the hearts and minds of regular people not involved in the culture wars. Indeed, when it comes to the word which defines our biology perfectly well, which names us as a group with protected characteristics and leaves us to get on with all the fun and interesting stuff which has nothing to do with our biology (as opposed to ceaselessly acting out a hackneyed gender-normative pantomime with our little pink brains) I’d wager that even my mum would stand up and roar ‘I am woman!’

SUBSCRIBE Try a month free
Now only £1 a week for a whole year
Plus get your first month free and without commitment. Cancel any time.

Gender Reassignment for Children: Cautionary Perspectives From Science

Med Schools are now denying biological sex

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s