Women or womxn?

Francesca Tyer discusses the recent backlash surrounding the spelling of 'woman'/'women' with an x or a y.

At the beginning of October, the BBC published an article titled ‘Should women be spelt womxn?’ This piece discussed the recent backlash directed towards the spelling of ‘women’ with either an x or y. The comeback was particularly prevalent on Twitter, following the use of the altered word by a London museum and library. Following this news piece, I decided to ask other students for their opinions on the matter.

The quotations used below are comments from students whose names have been excluded.

“Changing the spelling is completely unnecessary. This is a completely redundant move solely destined as some power play on the part of the feminist movement. It will in no way affect or help women around the world suffering from actual issues such as sexual assault.”

The idea has been particularly identified with feminists but some have also linked it to trans-phobic ideas. However, many uses of the word have been made in order to be more inclusive. Variations of the spelling were initially created due to objections that the roots of ‘women’/’woman’ stem from the words ‘men’/’man’. 

“If we choose to see that ‘woman’ was taken from the word ‘man’ and that it doesn’t stand as a word on its own, why can’t we equally choose to see that perhaps ‘man’ was taken from the word ‘woman’ and equally doesn’t stand on its own? Either way it doesn’t matter much, does it?”

Several of the posts made on Twitter in response to the London museum and library suggested that the changed spelling was perhaps more degrading and offensive than the original one. Some of the responses I received felt that there are far greater issues relating to gender than this altered spelling.

“I feel like we should concentrate on paying women the same as men first. Also woman/women is a lot easier to say.”

“I think there are far bigger gender issues we should be focusing our attention on than changing words like this, especially as the majority of people won’t use it anyway even if it is officially changed.”

Oxford Dictionaries Online define ‘womxn’ as: the non standard spelling of ‘women’ adopted by some feminists in order to avoid the word ending -men. 

“‘Women’ is fine as it is, and how would you even pronounce ‘womxn?’”

“Of course, this is merely my opinion, but I don’t personally believe changing the spelling would serve any purpose, and as far as I can tell is being ridiculed by both men and women alike.”

The responses I received were only taken from a small percentage of people. Whilst these generally revealed an aversion to the idea, there are of course people who support and advocate the altered spelling.

“I believe that there are more pressing issues surrounding the oppression of women than the simple spelling of a word. Yes, the word woman contains the words man, so what? Man or woman, we’re all human beings. I don’t see why it needs to be made into a problem.”