With countless news stories buzzing regarding the overarching issue of human rights, its easy to forget small changes** in our everyday lives, or for us to begin using new dictation without fully understanding the meaning behind it. One such example of this is the more frequent cropping up of the word ‘womxn’ in place of the greater known ‘women.’ This new spelling of the word is slowly gaining traction and becoming more widespread, with big cities like Seattle naming its share of the March on Washington the ‘Seattle Womxn’s March.’ It’s great that this word is beginning to take over; but it is important to not only speak correctly, but to also understand the meaning behind the words you are using.
The word ‘woman’ has evolved from its initial spelling of ‘wifmann’, meaning ‘female human.’ What some may notice, is that the word ‘man’ then simply meant ‘human,’ implying that wifmann were an extension of men. Overtime, this word developed from Old English into its modern day spelling of ‘woman,’ which as we can see (much like modern day bridal traditions) still holds its roots in patriarchy, a system that gives men accessibility to positions of power from which womxn are excluded.
The new change in spelling of the word ‘womxn’ is done in an effort to emphasize the idea that womxn are their own separate people, capable of operating on their own and without a man to aid them. The new spelling is also seen as intersectional, as it is meant to include transgender womxn, womxn of color, womxn from third world countries, and every other self identifying womxn out there.
Some people claim that the change in spelling is a minor adjustment that doesn’t do anything significant or meaningful; but just as micro-aggressions work to subtly enforce racist ideals and tendencies among people, the word ‘women’ subtly enforces the idea that womxn are second to men. As it is a new word, bringing it up in conversation can also lead to opportunities to open a discourse regarding the barriers womxn face and have faced globally for years. It takes courage to begin using a new word that you’re not quite sure everyone around you will understand, but next time try calling yourself a womxn as an opportunity to educate others and help this small change become an everyday habit.
**Authors Note: I would like to clarify and emphasize that I do not believe that changing the spelling of the word ‘woman’ to ‘womxn’ is in any way an enormously important issue that needs to be addressed ahead of other’s such as the Black Lives Matter movement, refugee crisis, transgender rights, etc. I simply wish to shed some light and share my opinion on a smaller issue that I believe in and have not seen popularized in the media.