In Praise of Older People Bodies With Vaginas

Some transgender men get bottom surgery, right?

Well, no, it IS female. The word “female” does still have some actual meaning.

“Biologically female” is often used by transphobic people in an attempt to avoid calling transmen men (a similarly for “biologically male” and “women”) . So it kinda has a bad rap right now. I don’t think “anatomically female” carries the same baggage, especially when used in medical contexts.

But there’s a place for “people with uteruses”. For instance, when I was looking into hormone replacement therapy for menopause symptoms, I did a lot of reading of medical texts, and they are all very careful to distinguish between people who have a uterus and people who don’t, because a lot of women who were born with a uterus have had it removed by the time they reach menopause, and the medical treatment is different depending on whether the person has a uterus or not.

I didn’t read the Lancet article about “bodies with vaginas”. And that is an odd turn of phrase, unless you are dealing with bodies and not with people. Maybe it was a bad choice. Honestly, it’s hard to know without knowing the context. If it was a morgue dealing with vagina-related issues, it would be completely reasonable wording.

When you aren’t talking about medical issues pertaining to those body parts, it is generally more appropriate to just talk about “women” and “men”, and realize that you are almost always referring to people’s social and gender identity, and not to their body parts.

Also, the Economist does some good reporting on a lot of issues, but they’ve had a weird transphobic thing going all year. I subscribe to the magazine, because some of their covid reporting has been excellent. As a result I’ve been reading a lot of their stuff, and wow has a lot of their reporting on gender issues been cringe-inducing.


But more importantly, how often do you inquire about the sexual bits of people you know? If you aren’t their doctor, and you aren’t going to see them naked, it’s really none of your business what bits someone has.

Except that goes against common usage. Most of the time when “female” is used in real life, it refers to gender, not sex. If you say that “female-dominated jobs tend to pay less than male-dominated jobs”, you are talking about gender.

And it’s offensive to trans people because it’s an end-run around acknowledging the importance of their gender.

Yes, but the wording would therefore not apply to them.

You are arguing against a claim I never made. I never said that “female” is only ever used to refer to biology. However in situations such as that covered by The Lancet there very much is a long history of using “male” and “female” to refer to phenotypical biological sex.

Remeber, we are discussing The Lancet, not “Hello” magazine.

And words and usage change, that people have chosen to conflate sex and gender is not helpful. In situations that require reference to innate biological traits shared by the vast majority of one side of a binary I think “female/male” or “biologically female/male” works perfectly well and would be perfectly well understood in the situation to which The Lancet refers.

Many? I think you mean “some” Do you or anyone else in this thread think that referring to people as “female” is dehumanising? Do you think that the respected scientiic journal “The Lancet” is dehumanising people when it uses the word or concept of being female?

If you are using “female” to refer to biology then that is an assertion that I don’t accept. According to you they may retain the full set of biological and physiological traits “traditionally considered female” (a phrase that is a huge problem in itself) and yet not actually be a female in the biological sense.
Do I have that right?

This is a nonsensical position to take. For 99.9% of people sex is binary, The chart of phenotypical sexual expression is not some smooth population curve where people are distributed evenly along it.
Do you think “bipedal” is a useless term seeing as a tiny proportion of people are born with less than 2 legs?

“standard” by who’s reckoning exactly? How many people would have to disagree with you for you to accept that such terminology might be a problem?

The people/bodies conundrum is not the problem and is not the part that people find dehumanising. The essentialising of 50% of the population into a single, narrow medical feature is a problem. The article is talking about periods primarily and the issues surrounding them which are inextricably linked to how people who “posses a full set of biological and physiological traits traditionally considered female” have been treated.
A vagina could be added to a male body and the article would not be relevant to them, a vagina could be removed from a female body and yet the article still apply.

Well, then it ought to have referred to people who menstruate. If we are talking about a medical journal discussing menstruation, they should use language that doesn’t include girls, post-menopausal women, and transwomen. “Female” would be inappropriate. So is vagina-having.

If you’ve seen the actual Lancet article, it might be helpful to link to it. Not having seen it myself, i ignored that Economist piece as just another in their series of articles trying to drum up transphobia.

I think that would be equally as, if not more, offensive and exclusionary as the original headline and certainly more so than a reference to females.

Here’s a link to the article.

(Apologies, it is dropped into a tweet) It strikes me that many potential headlines could have been chosen for their cover blurb. That they chose the wording they did seems out of keeping with the intent of the article and the group of people to which it speaks.

Never, I think, and I agree.

Who is the medical article trying to address? If it’s something about, say, toxic shock syndrome, then they should say “people with vaginas”, rather than “women and transgender men”. If it’s something about menstruation, then it should be “people who menstruate”, because lots of women and transgender men don’t menstruate. If it’s about pregnancy then it should be “people who are pregnant or may become so”, etc.

“Women and transgender men” is not really specific enough, right? It also leaves out intersex people, agender people, etc.

FWIW the article mentions the use of the phrase “people who menstruate” and implies even those who do would prefer to be treated as humans, and not secretions.

I would agree that “vagina-having people” or whatever is a clunky replacement for “woman”. I could complain about the awkwardness, and then I could say we need to tolerate awkwardness for the sake of inclusion.

Personally I tend to zoom out even further and say “is this categorization necessary at all?” For example… not everyone has feet. Do we need a special word to categorize people based on their foot-having status? No. We talk about foot disorder treatment, not foot-haver treatment. We talk about the mechanics of walking and standing, not the mechanics of foot-having-bodies. We talk about wheelchair accessibility, never about footless-people-accessibility.

I guess there does exist the very specific term “foot amputee”, but are there really that many scenarios where we need to identify an entire person as a foot amputee, instead of just talking about what we’re trying to do for that person? I would argue we could do the same with “people who menstruate”. We don’t market “products for people who menstruate”, we market menstrual products. If it applies to you, buy it. If not, don’t.

IMO this is the shift we should be making. Instead of picking the perfect words for unnecessary categories, revisit the necessity of such terms entirely.

Thanks for the link. Warning to others, it’s a link to a tweet with an image of the article, not an actual link to the article.

As i guessed, the Economist article takes an appropriate phrase out of context, in order to trumpet the evils of trying to be inclusive.

It’s an article about a museum exhibition about menstruation, at “the museum of the vagina”

Here’s the entire sentence:

Historically, the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been neglected – for example, the paucity in understanding of endometriosis and the way women’s pain has been seen as more likely to have an emotional or psychological cause, a hangover of centuries of theorizing about hysteria.

Bodies with vaginas may not be the most elegant turn of phrase, but it’s talking about the anatomy of bodies and uses the word “women” in the very same sentence to refer to how people react to other people.

Could they have said “women’s bodies”, or “female bodies” in that sentence? Yes. I’d argue that “women’s bodies” would have been the most appropriate phrase, since it’s the second-class status of women that’s led to less research into our bodies. But it’s a minor linguistic sin. And the authors of Lancet articles often DO need to specify which type of bodies they are discussing, as with menopausal hormone replacement therapy, where the presence of absence of a uterus is a critically important determinant to proper treatment. So it was an easy flub for them to make.

If you want to take offence, go for it. But if you do, I’ll think you are overreacting and either can’t stand new phrases or are a at least a little transphobic.

The general complaint has nothing to do with The Economist specifically but more that the problematic phrase was being used by The Lancet on its front cover. That was how they chose to introduce the subject.

The general complaint, based on a quick Google search, is completely off-base, and accuses the Lancet of “dehumanizing women by referring to them as bodies”.

The article never once referred to women as bodies with vaginas. It criticized the lack of medical study of those bodies, referring to women as women in the very same sentence.

Did the Lancet make a bad choice of what to put on its cover? Yes. But anatomy is a study of bodies, not of people. The firestorm of criticism is driven by transphobia, IMHO.

And that was what was being criticsed, not the content of the article itself (to the best of my knowledge)

There’s a huge difference between a racial slur and a perfectly fine, descriptive term for 99.4% of the population that is NOT a slur. That’s what’s at issue here.

This whole trans naming business is getting ridiculous. So what are these people with vaginas who aren’t women, but aren’t men then? And why aren’t we calling them that, instead of going through these absurd language gyrations to try and not mislabel a microscopic segment of the population?

What I’m talking about is the language equivalent of rounding. The overwhelming majority of people with vaginas ARE women (99.4%), so it’s reasonable to use “women” as a shorthand for them. It’s not meant as offiensive, and it’s not a slur either. And it’s not bigoted either. It may not be what that five people in a thousand may not prefer to be called, but it’s a reasonable thing for people to do in everyday life.

Are people going to stand up in front of crowds and say “People with vaginas, and dong–holders”, or are they going to say “Ladies and Gentlemen”? I’m sure somehwere someone is offended by that, but that too is absurd and ridiculous.

What gets me in this whole thing is that the Lancet is not trying to tell others what to say, how to refer to anyone’s gender or anatomy or biological particulars.

What is happening instead is others are insisting on how the Lancet and others should refer to other’s gender, anatomy, and biological particulars.

And for some reason, those who are insisting that others use their terminology are the ones who are claiming that they are the ones who are being told what to say.

Seems a pretty disingenuous argument from the beginning, and the doubling down on it even more so.

Yup. There’s literally nothing wrong with the Lancet article. It, ohnoes! refers to bodies when talking about anatomy, in an article that’s all about people and that uses a wide variety of perfectly acceptable terns for people, including “women”. No where is anyone in the article suggesting that people should be referred to as bodies, or by their parts.

The Lancet, being a medical journal that routinely discusses details of bodies, made a choice with bad optics by putting the bit that was most medically oriented (and mentioned bodies) on the cover.

And the conservative universe has lost its collective mind over this.

The people we should be attacking are the ones intentionally misreading the article to make inflammatory and untrue statements, like, “the woke left wants to reduce people to their body parts”. It’s just bad journalism intended to upset people.