Ok, so I’m a grad student in literature, and I have several classmates who are fond of using the “womyn” spelling; I am obliged to correspond with them in school (online class). I personally find the whole idea absurd.

Given that I do not accept the ideas behind radical feminism, I spell the word normally. Spelling it her way implies adherence to an ideology which I strongly reject. But I sometimes think that I should go along to get along, and respect her ideas, just as I would in spelling G-d in writing to a orthodox jewish freind. Maybe if I’m more polite, I can be more persuasive.

I’m not interested so much in the “rightness” of the word, as I am in the etiquette of the matter.

IMHO, it’s pretentious. :smiley:

But as to the “etiquette”, well, that’s really your call, isn’t it? How much do you want these people to like you? If you don’t give a rodent’s derriere what they think, tell them it’s pretentious. If you care what they think, keep your mouth shut.

Being pretentious doesn’t hurt anything, and actually when it’s college students doing it, it’s par for the course. All part of growing up, etc. :smiley:

Spell it the way you normally would, and don’t correct her. If the subject of the spelling comes up, say that “womyn” may be an good slogan, but you doubt it’s a very effective at changing anything. That accepts her use of it, and establishes that you don’t particularly agree with it without demanding that she change.

When I was in my philosophy degree, a lot of what I read used “she” or “her” for an anonymous third person pronoun, rather than “he” or “him”. This was surprisingly effective–the first couple times you read it, you think “why does it matter that it’s a woman?” After a while, you realize that it’s not used to specify a woman, it’s used identically to the male pronoun, as an indicator of an unspecified third party. That makes you aware that the use of a male pronoun is arbitrary but consistently sexist–a man is a general class of human being in the language, while a woman is a specific case.

It doesn’t affect the content of the text, but subtly makes an effective point. That’s an excellent use of “politically correct” language to reveal and correct an unconscious defect in most people’s minds. “Womyn” is just too strident.

This is what I’ve been doing, and that’s probably what I would say.

I often use she and her. I figure it’s a small concession, and it doesn’t cause confusion. I still use mankind, etc.

I have never been able to understand why its offensive to some to write God.

I write Buddha. I write Allah. I write God.

They are words. They are the names of “entities”.

I don’t use these words to offend. So why is it not nice to write them?

For very religiously observant Jews, it is forbidden to write the name of God anywhere that it may be destroyed – on a chalkboard, on paper, on magnetic media, anywhere. You either write G-d, so that you’re not writing the full name (therefore not running the risk of it being destroyed) or you refer to the entity with another word, such as calling him “The Almighty” or “HaShem” which literally translates as “The Name.” For Jews who do it, it’s considered a matter of respect for God, for those who do it when writing for a predominantly or exclusive Jewish audience, it’s a matter of respect for that audience’s beliefs.

Matter of courtesy and personal ethics.

If you feel that “women” has some particular significance that you find it important to stand by, then use it in all circumstances. If, like me, you think that it’s a minor issue but want to respect the values of others, including the feminists who find it sexually demeaning to be referred to by a word formed by prefixing a clipped version of “wife” to “-man, -men,” then you use the common form “women” in most normal conversations and “womyn” in dialogue with those who do have issues. And if you yourself do feel that it’s important to stress how demeaning “women” is, then always use “womyn.” Simple as that.

Is this the bar? I do not regard it as a major issue, but I also think that acceptance of the spelling implies acceptance of the ideas of deconstruction as credible intellectual positions. I do not.

I tend to think it’s rather like going to the temple of another religion. If they tell you it’s customary to remove tour shoes upon entering, you will do so as a matter of courtesy. If they tell you it’s customary to bow down and say “All glory and honor to the divine Frangipard,” you might object.

I’m just undecided as to whether “womyn” is the first or the second.

You know, it sounds to me like you respect the opinions of others, even when they’re not the same as your own. This should easily come across in any discourse with another person no matter HOW you spell WHAT. Hopefully, that respect is mutual and you should be entitled to your own opinion in the same way you think others are entitled.

Even with very radical feminists, I think your opinions on more serious issues hold more weight. For example, if you let them know that you think women should be forced to stay home and be baby factories, but spell women with a “y” it really doesn’t make much difference. But if you’re an “equal pay for equal work” type of guy who spells correctly, then who can fault you? I’m pretty feminist and I wouldn’t.

In general, in conversations I try to refer to people the way they wish with respect to gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. But this is a bit different, I think. If your alternative term for them was something truly offensive (bitch?) then that would be one thing. But referring to women as women can hardly be construed as anything belittling.


Remember that you’re not in a temple, no matter how much some of the more militant members of your department would like it to be so. You’re in a place where they can use their preferred spelling and be understood, and so can you.

As SexyWriter said, if your attitude is basically respectful of their ideas in general, then it shouldn’t matter as a point of ettiquette that you copy their spelling. Also, to do so would misrepresent your own ideas, which is patronizing to them, as if they’re children who can’t abide the presence of someone who won’t join their club.

Bravo! That’s what I was thinking, but I couldn’t manage to put it in words. I think being patronizing is the WORST kind of disrespect.

At my particular college, we had the Womyn’s Alliance. Then the school paper ran an event notification or something from them, but ran it as “Women’s Alliance”, possibly because of spellcheck, or possibly because it arrived to them that way. Anyway, there was a huge fight about it, especially when half the members decided that spelling it differently was just stupid. So it became the Wom?n’s Alliance. That was just dumb, so they gave up entirely this year and renamed themselves using “Ladies”.

Moral of the story: shrug probably something about never trying to fight the power of Microsoft Word.

(the one that really gets me is people objecting to “history”, because if you look up the entymology of the word, it’s from languages where “his” and “story” aren’t words, and is therefore clearly not a sexist construct)

LOL thinking about using this in class and watching the eyes bug out. “Virginia Woolf was this bitch who…”
Excellent point, Hansel. I think that decides it for me.

Myrr21, I’m surprised. Many of the same crowd also dislike “lady.” (Bourgeousie, I suppose)

I hate that word! It brings to mind being told to “sit like a lady” in church! I never use it myself. Then again, if someone else uses it, I don’t tend to notice…


Absolutely true. Y’know, SW, you’re a real credit to your sex.



  • ::: g, d & r… really fast :::*

When I was in high school (an all-girls school, btw) I had a (male) English teacher who encouraged that usage, saying that since women are half the population there’s no reason not to use feminine pronouns as generic – a random person is just as likely to be female as male.

As for man as the generic word for human – I believe this is derived from Old English, in which the word was more or less neutral. (The specific word for a male human was wer – which is where we get the word werewolf.) This is probably putting too fine a point on it, though, and anyway that’s not how it comes across today.

I basically agree with the consensus here. Just spell it “women” and leave it at that. If it ever gets brought up, just say “Oh, that’s just my preferred way of spelling it.” Some say toh-MAY-toh, some say toh-MAH-toh…

…me, I prefer TOH-mah-TOH.


Regarding the use of the third person singular pronouns, hansel, I’m surprised that you’re just recently having the revelation that using “he” is sexist. It’s pretty well been beaten over my head till I’m bloody.

The whole issue of the anonymous third person singular pronouns is a real sticking point in today’s writing. Arbitrarily choosing the masculine version is a bit sexist, but so is arbitrarily using the feminine version, and the feminine version is, as you mentioned, much more likely to jump out at the reader as throwing a philosophical point out where it is totally inappropriate. Trying to compromise by using the “he/she” or “he or she” type of constructs is the worst of all.

In general, I prefer using the third person plural pronouns in these situations. Usually I can construct the sentences so that there is no grammatical issue, e.g. “Clients will know when their bills are due when…” as opposed to “A client will know when his or her bill is due when…” There are times, however, when you’ve just gotta go with the “he or she” thing.


Is “womyn” pronouncd the same as “women” or “woman” or does it have its own pronounciation?

Is “womyn” singular or plural? Either way, what’s the other corresponding word and how is it prounounced?


Well, it was ten years ago. I didn’t get exposed to that usage until I was in university, since it’s a trick that’s most common in academic writing, I believe.

i’m a chick (and a chick who calls herself a chick, at that :p) who uses “he/his/him” for the generic when writing essays and whatnot. i also use “mankind”. and back when i was in my first year at uni, i wasn’t a “freshwoman” or “freshperson”, i was a “freshman”.