not Womyn: Womb-one

It’s a bit ironic that MichFest was the first large national event/organization to use the spelling of “women” as “womyn”. This was not done just to be clever, edgy or rebellious–spelling the word differently just to be different. The “e” was changed to a “y” to remove the word “men” from within the word referring to female humans. We didn’t want “men” involved–even in our name. Perhaps that’s one point: MichFest has ALREADY changed its name (long before the Trans controversy) to mean something other than “regular woman”. So Fest could be construed to not be implying that Trans aren’t women–just that they are not womyn.
Personally, I think that instead of WBW we should begin spelling womyn as womban/womben–pointing out the major significant difference between the sexes. We can get pregnant. That fact has shaped my existence in a male-dominated system from my earliest experiences–not just “femininity” or my resistance to it, and not just rape, but also the potential consequences of the rape I have suffered. I understand that “womyn” was chosen over “womban” or “womb-one” because in the 70s we were fighting to NOT be reduced to just our wombs. By choice, I have never given birth nor do I ever expect to use my womb–but the fact that I have one has shaped my experiences in both negative and positive ways. Being a carrier of a womb is a particular way to be human that transcends gender. It is an aspect of embodied sexuality that can’t be reduced or reproduced by reassignment or performance.
It also clarifies questions of genuine intersexed individuals. The question would be, “did you grow up believing you had a womb?” And living among the class of individuals who believe they had a womb (whether this turns out to be false or not) even if this womb is later removed or lost due to health or injury (as opposed to rejecting yourself as a member of the class of humans who carry wombs) would be the relevant issue. Not “womb checks” but the expectation that we would be honored for our unique experiences and given the dignity to meet together with others who have shared those experiences as womb bearers.
But, as womb bearers are the most denigrated humans on the planet, I don’t see much hope of ever being given this respect by those who grew up to either (a) believe they were/are inherently better than anyone born with a womb; or (b) hating being in the denigrated class of wombed individuals so much they choose to have themselves surgically removed from that class.
But, perhaps, it is time that WE step up and give ourselves the honor we deserve for carrying the responsibility of bringing new humans into the world or carrying the responsibility of choosing NOT to bear new human life. Either choice is made in a human heart, with a complex balancing of ethical ramifications. Just being female, we carry that huge responsibility: to bear new life or NOT to bear new life.  Perhaps it’s time we respected ourselves for it.

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One Response to not Womyn: Womb-one

  1. Dumby says:

    I think we are very very lucky that Mich Fest is an enduring thing with a history people remember. This is why I look up to radical lesbians- they are elders who have maintained a political presence so that the history of women’s struggles are part of the present tense, already imbued in what they do- making is hard to simply bully them out of their politics. If we can make radical feminism inseparable from our institutions/projects we’re going in the right direction. I think Deep Green Resistance is doing this as well as Mich fest by upholding the “for women only spaces” thing despite TONS of pressure from liberals. Respect to them.

    And I think you are right. Removing the relationship of women to womb has made it possible for men to come in and say “hey! being a woman has nothing to do with that! I am a woman.” ,or alternately, “I can get plastic surgery to create ‘womanhood'” despite the fact that all of women’s reproductive organs are an interconnected system that, yes, includes a uterus. This is very important! Women need their uteri! They are not simply for making babies, although that is one function they perform.

    The uterus provides structural support for the spine, bowel and rib cage. It performs cardiovascular protection, is involved in providing blood flow to the lower extremities, controls urinary and fecal incontinence, performs sexual functions, interacts with the whole nervous system and is hormone responsive. Keeping all that in mind, you can see why hysterectomy is an extremely serious traumatic injury for women who undergo it. And why over half, 53.7%, of women who have a hysterectomy become suicidal. The uterus is an important site of women’s oppression because it is an important part of women.

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