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Gender-Neutral Language for Menstruation?

critic is right to be concerned, but for the wrong reason

Forum: WMST-L
Date: 01/23/2013

On Wednesday, January 23, 2013, Sheila Joy Jeffreys wrote:

There is something a bit problematic going on in menstruation politics. It seems we are required, for sake of politeness to male-bodied transgenders, to pretend that men menstruate too.

This paragraph is from a book review in the Sex Roles issue that Irene helpfully publicised on list.

"Perhaps most profoundly, radical menstruation activists have changed the language of menstruation to talk about 'menstruators' rather than 'women who menstruate.' This choice of language not only reflects a commitment to a more inclusive (including trans people) movement but also demonstrates the political importance of gender neutral language and dismantling the narrowness and restrictiveness of gender binaries (Chapter 5, "Radical Menstruation").


I actually agree that there is something very problematic about the notion that menstruation should be viewed as a gender-neutral phenomenon or experience, but Sheila seems to be mistaken about the reason why some people might be pushing for it.

Nobody is demanding you to pretend trans women (people Sheila is calling "male-bodied transgenders") menstruate. If that was the goal, there is no need to change the language because the word "women" already includes trans women.

The real issue is that trans men, genderqueer-identified people and others who do not consider themselves "women" do sometimes menstruate. The suggested language is (in part) an attempt to be more inclusive of these "female-bodied" transgender people, not "male-bodied" ones, in our discussions about menstruation.

Emi Koyama