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Should the word ‘woman’ be dropped from reproductive healthcare?

As the world progresses further, many have been debating whether gendered terms such as ‘male’ and ‘female’ should be limited or dropped completely. At the moment, there are mixed opinions but I wanted to share mine.

What are gendered terms?

I don’t think we really need to explain this, but I will. For me, gendered terms are words that could describe an individual’s gender. I’m making this very clear - their gender, not their sex. Although, I probably have the same opinion on sex-based terms, such as ‘male’ and ‘female’

This includes the obvious words, but also terms that we have gendered such as ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘brother’, ‘sister’, and so on. When we hear the word ‘brother’, we imagine someone who is physically male.

Are gendered terms a problem?

Well, I think so - especially in healthcare.

As a female (she/her), I get SO VERY FRUSTRATED when I read a letter addressed to my very heavily female work office with ‘Dear Sirs…’

Just imagine attending a healthcare service of any sort and your doctor continually refers to you as a male, when you identify as a female. It’s something that would annoy anyone, and one in which I imagine a lot of people would correct there and then.

The problem with using gendered terms in reproductive healthcare is that you’re shutting out people who WILL use your service or support your work.

Not everyone who has an abortion identifies as a woman.

Not everyone who has a smear test identifies as a woman.

Not everyone who has a miscarriage identifies as a woman.

You get the point. It isn’t helpful at all to make some people feel excluded from your service or campaigning for the sake of one word. Instead, we are easily able to make services inclusive by using better language.

Scrap the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and replace them with inclusive, friendly terms, such as ‘individuals’, ‘people’, ‘clients’ etc. There are so many alternatives to choose from that don’t involve shunning people from using vital services, or supporting important campaigns.

Some may argue that by removing gendered terms, women (ie. people who actually identify as women!), will feel isolated and removed from the service. As a woman myself, I don’t feel like this as all.

I would not feel any different hearing myself referred to as a ‘client’ compared to as a ‘woman’. But I would feel pushed out if I showed up to my smear test and everyone referred to me as a ‘man’ because I’m not.

Isn't the whole point of campaigning to make things better? To make them more progressive and inclusive. We need to prioritize those who are not heard. In no way should we be prioritising the ideas of those who want to continually want to push out members of our society.

I will always try my best to use inclusive, diverse language when fighting for further freedoms. The world is changing. Don't be left behind.

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