Bette Midler, age 76, actress and avid poster of normie liberal memes, marked this holiday weekend with a warning to the WOMEN OF THE WORLD (capitalization hers). The announcement concerned common language, or changes thereto, in the hotly debated area of gender and sexuality. “Women,” as a category, are being erased, Midler breathlessly reported.
Those in the trenches of the culture war can instantly recognize this as an entry point for anti-trans ideology, one to which older, supposedly tolerant types are all too susceptible. The argument doesn’t directly vilify trans people, instead positing some nefarious “they” who are meddling with the most elementary parts of speech — and, it would seem, policing how others speak, forbidding certain words, installing others in their place, censoring or disrupting the normal flow of verbal communication. Once enough Twitter users had explained to Midler that she was carrying water for hateful transphobes by repeating this patent bullshit, she clarified that she didn’t mean it that way and she loves marginalized people, linking to a New York Times op-ed that also claimed — without basis — that the word “women” is now “verboten.”
This style of column, which tries to paint trans-inclusive but by no means mandated terms like “birthing people” as an evil on par with the right-wing project of stripping away women’s bodily autonomy by means such as overturning abortion rights, has been unavoidable at least since the Toronto Star published a piece last year titled “Why Can’t We Say ‘Woman’ Anymore?” Despite the headline negating its own premise, The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood shared the column, sparking a similar outcry from readers and followers more tethered to, you know, reality.
What’s extraordinarily pernicious about the myth that gendered vocabulary is being suppressed at a systemic level — nobody’s going to arrest you for calling a nonbinary person “he” or “she,” either — is that at this very moment, the trans community is facing an actual legislative assault. All they want is a safe, peaceful existence with the guaranteed rights and access to health care that everybody deserves, and while they fear for their freedom and very lives, women are accusing them of some shadow plot to rewrite the dictionary. Even if this were part of the “trans agenda” (again: it isn’t!), it would have to be quite low-priority right now. That this community has often found useful, comprehensive expression in more fluid or less archetypal semantics has absolutely no effect on the Atwoods and Midlers of this world. And it sure doesn’t amount to the extinction of women, an absurd outcome the editorial writers all vaguely hint at.
Go on, then. Say “women.” Shout it from the rooftops, let it echo through every hill and dale! See how much pushback you get, or whether anyone is confused about what demographic you mean. Then, when you’re still not silenced, you can go ahead and be mad anyway, as ever.