But now ‘women’ as a category is canceled too, for the crime of failing to include vagina-havers who don’t consider themselves as such. ‘Female’? Same deal: it’s not the language but the entire notion of sex as an identifying factor that has been problematized.
It’s hard to overstate what a weird coda this is to the history of medicine as an institution, in which women’s bodies were often the object of fear, suspicion, and harmful ignorance. From superstitions about menstrual blood, to Freud’s disavowal of the clitoral orgasm, to a medical establishment that turned a blind eye to the ways that female physiology and biochemistry differed from men’s, the healthcare system (of which a journal like the Lancet is a part) has been riddled with biases that continue today. For decades, women were seen as a sinister other, their bodies too dark and dangerous to explore, a no-go zone on the map of humanity.
But then, at least we made it on the map.
The new rubric, on the other hand, leaves nothing to point at, no territory of our own. It’s all casual dehumanization (‘bodies with vaginas’), decategorization and language that leaves us with little room to discuss the common biology, anatomy and experiences of the group that once called itself ‘women’.