226

I feel the need to share this somewhere. Hope this is the right place. I'm a sexuality writer and have been writing for one of the largest online 'sex-ed for adults' platforms for around 2 years. They've adopted the policy of referring to women as "vulva owners" etc., and changed my use of "women" to such terms during the editing process on numerous occasions in the past. I agreed with it for a while because I was still riding the libfem train, but I peaked last summer and finally got so fed up this week that I decided the money was no longer worth it.

I wrote the editor explaining that I find such terms objectifying and dehumanizing and can't use them anymore. She responded a couple days later to say the platform chose to use "inclusive" language like "vulva owner" due to advice from consultants who are "experts" on such matters, but that they understood and respected my feelings. She said, "We'd love to keep you as a writer, so let us know if there are any other options that might work for you."

There is another option, of course. Call women women. (They obviously don't want to do that.) I didn't appreciate the fact that they sidestepped the root of my concerns and put the ball back in my court, putting it on me to come up with alternatives rather than offering alternatives when they're the ones who are policing "gendered language."

I responded with the letter pasted below and have yet to hear back. It feels good to be back in alignment with my true beliefs and I hope more women continue to wake up.

Thank you for your understanding. I appreciate it. I recognize the ideology behind that kind of language as someone who used to agree with it, but my views have changed over time. I would honestly love to keep writing for (name of platform). I have really enjoyed working with you all and believe we share the same basic goals. However, this issue of gendered language is one I've followed for a long time and considered deeply, and I haven't been able to think of a compromise that's likely to satisfy all parties.

One of the main reasons I began writing about sexuality in the first place was to combat the objectification and dehumanization that contributes to female oppression all over the globe. Influences like mainstream pornography routinely reduce women to their vulvas, breasts, vaginas, etc. I feel the kind of language we're currently using at (name of platform), in effect, does exactly the same thing. Women are much, much more in essence than "vulva owners". We are, as I'm sure everyone at (name of platform) would agree, whole people who deserve the dignity of being referred to by more than our sexual parts and bodily functions. I'm sure we both acknowledge and appreciate the fact that the language we use matters and has consequences.

I have a three-year-old niece and would never, ever be able to look her in the eye and refer to her as a vulva owner / uterus bearer / person who menstruates, etc. The same goes for my sister, my mother, and every other woman I know. If a boss or coworker at a job addressed me as a vulva owner or person who menstruates, either directly or indirectly, I would likely go straight to HR and file a sexual harassment complaint. I keep imagining myself, hypothetically, as an alien in another galaxy watching a documentary about human beings. What would I think if I heard David Attenborough narrating a segment about women by saying something like, "And here we see, in their natural habitat, a group of vulva owners." I would be completely caught off guard by the focus on genitalia. We don't even talk about animals in this way. It's so crude, I can't imagine saying it out loud to anyone, therefore I don't wish to put it in writing either.

So unfortunately, I fear we might be at an impasse. I'm quite open to hearing suggestions of alternatives that honor the integrity of whole human beings. However, it's my hunch that (name of platform)'s experts on these matters and I fundamentally differ in our views. They obviously believe this kind of language is acceptable, but I no longer do.

Please let me know your thoughts if you do happen to see a potential way forward. Thank you, (editor's name).

I feel the need to share this somewhere. Hope this is the right place. I'm a sexuality writer and have been writing for one of the largest online 'sex-ed for adults' platforms for around 2 years. They've adopted the policy of referring to women as "vulva owners" etc., and changed my use of "women" to such terms during the editing process on numerous occasions in the past. I agreed with it for a while because I was still riding the libfem train, but I peaked last summer and finally got so fed up this week that I decided the money was no longer worth it. I wrote the editor explaining that I find such terms objectifying and dehumanizing and can't use them anymore. She responded a couple days later to say the platform chose to use "inclusive" language like "vulva owner" due to advice from consultants who are "experts" on such matters, but that they understood and respected my feelings. She said, "We'd love to keep you as a writer, so let us know if there are any other options that might work for you." There is another option, of course. Call women women. (They obviously don't want to do that.) I didn't appreciate the fact that they sidestepped the root of my concerns and put the ball back in my court, putting it on me to come up with alternatives rather than offering alternatives when they're the ones who are policing "gendered language." I responded with the letter pasted below and have yet to hear back. It feels good to be back in alignment with my true beliefs and I hope more women continue to wake up. *Thank you for your understanding. I appreciate it. I recognize the ideology behind that kind of language as someone who used to agree with it, but my views have changed over time. I would honestly love to keep writing for (name of platform). I have really enjoyed working with you all and believe we share the same basic goals. However, this issue of gendered language is one I've followed for a long time and considered deeply, and I haven't been able to think of a compromise that's likely to satisfy all parties.* *One of the main reasons I began writing about sexuality in the first place was to combat the objectification and dehumanization that contributes to female oppression all over the globe. Influences like mainstream pornography routinely reduce women to their vulvas, breasts, vaginas, etc. I feel the kind of language we're currently using at (name of platform), in effect, does exactly the same thing. Women are much, much more in essence than "vulva owners". We are, as I'm sure everyone at (name of platform) would agree, whole people who deserve the dignity of being referred to by more than our sexual parts and bodily functions. I'm sure we both acknowledge and appreciate the fact that the language we use matters and has consequences.* *I have a three-year-old niece and would never, ever be able to look her in the eye and refer to her as a vulva owner / uterus bearer / person who menstruates, etc. The same goes for my sister, my mother, and every other woman I know. If a boss or coworker at a job addressed me as a vulva owner or person who menstruates, either directly or indirectly, I would likely go straight to HR and file a sexual harassment complaint. I keep imagining myself, hypothetically, as an alien in another galaxy watching a documentary about human beings. What would I think if I heard David Attenborough narrating a segment about women by saying something like, "And here we see, in their natural habitat, a group of vulva owners." I would be completely caught off guard by the focus on genitalia. We don't even talk about animals in this way. It's so crude, I can't imagine saying it out loud to anyone, therefore I don't wish to put it in writing either.* *So unfortunately, I fear we might be at an impasse. I'm quite open to hearing suggestions of alternatives that honor the integrity of whole human beings. However, it's my hunch that (name of platform)'s experts on these matters and I fundamentally differ in our views. They obviously believe this kind of language is acceptable, but I no longer do.* *Please let me know your thoughts if you do happen to see a potential way forward. Thank you, (editor's name).*

115 comments

[–] bea 85 points (+85|-0)

the letter was perfect btw

I keep imagining myself, hypothetically, as an alien in another galaxy watching a documentary about human beings. What would I think if I heard David Attenborough narrating a segment about women by saying something like, "And here we see, in their natural habitat, a group of vulva owners." I would be completely caught off guard by the focus on genitalia. We don't even talk about animals in this way. It's so crude, I can't imagine saying it out loud to anyone, therefore I don't wish to put it in writing either.

this part is amazing, i laughed and cringed at the same time. When you think of it that way, it's so ridiculous how people don't realize how dehumanizing this is.

[–] NotCis 54 points (+54|-0)

Also, what does vulva owners mean? Does it mean cats with vulvas? Cows? Does it refer to a man keeping a woman as a sex slave? It's not only crude and offensive, but horribly unspecific.

[–] calming-tea 10 points (+10|-0)

Let's say you put a cervix in a jar. Is that jar a "cervix haver"?? (used cervix because it doesn't work quite as well with vulva)

[–] La 36 points (+36|-0)

I agree. You're a great writer. I could freaking hear Attenborough narrating in my head.

[–] lucrecia 64 points (+64|-0)

Great letter! Please be careful, though; someone working there may recognise it if they somehow happen to read your post here, so if your professional writing is tied to your real name, you may want to be cautious about posting with the same account you've used to post this here for other things.

[–] BellaBoo [OP] 49 points (+51|-2)

Thanks, I appreciate that. I write for them under a pseudonym.

[–] Camberian 4 points (+7|-3)

If they paid you, they have a means to track you.

[–] BellaBoo [OP] 25 points (+26|-1) Edited

They paid me via PayPal, which is connected to an email address that is also not connected to my real name or any of the other work I'm doing.

I'm not afraid of them.

[–] Verdandi 8 points (+9|-1)

What's the point of this fear mongering? She already said she's not afraid, why are you trying to scare her?

[–] Teacup-Tornado 49 points (+49|-0) Edited

Your letter looks very eloquent and sophisticated. Good job!

Also I'm curious to know how they refer to men. Do they get the whole "penis haver" treatment or are they still called men? I find it at least slightly more tolerable when they dole those stupid terms out evenly.

[–] Veneficca 32 points (+32|-0)

Same question.

And the only people who are "experts" on such matters are women. Fuck those consultants. How can anything be considered inclusive when people are telling you straight up that it's hurtful and dehumanizing?

[–] BellaBoo [OP] 30 points (+30|-0)

They do, yes. Men are penis-havers, people with prostates, etc.

[–] Teacup-Tornado 44 points (+44|-0)

Then at least they're fair, I suppose. Still incredibly bizarre though.

Congrats on having the courage to stand up to them btw. We need more women to find the strength to do that!

[–] BellaBoo [OP] 28 points (+28|-0)

I really appreciate that. Making the decision to be honest was hard, but I can't contribute to this kind of thing anymore.

[–] Lilith 34 points (+34|-0)

You should write about this more often! You are very persuasive. I have noticed the dehumanizing effects of this language before, but I haven't ever seen it described quite so well.

[–] BellaBoo [OP] 24 points (+24|-0)

Thank you. I've looked into this recently. A lot of the radfem/GC platforms I follow want contributors to write under their real names rather than pseudonyms and I'm not sure I'm willing to take that step yet. I don't want to put myself in danger. I will likely search for outlets that let writers contribute under pen names.

[–] Ruby 11 points (+11|-0) Edited

Have you subscribed to the Radical Notion? I believe they are soliciting content from US writers currently.

By the way, I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks so much for standing up for women.

[–] Researcher1536 27 points (+27|-0)

I just never thought we'd be going through this. I should have known, but it doesn't make it any less ridiculous or concerning.

[–] BellaBoo [OP] 32 points (+32|-0)

Right? Back when I wanted to support the TRAs, I would still look at this kind of wording and get the worst feeling in the pit of my stomach. The cognitive dissonance finally pushed me over the edge. Let's hope the same happens to others as we continue speaking out about this.

[–] Researcher1536 31 points (+31|-0)

I went through my old Instagram photos recently and came across photos of a pro-Trans rally I attended at my state capitol, before I knew what was up. I remembered that even then, I felt a little uneasy. There were a few trans people there who were clearly unstable and kept randomly SCREAMING as if someone was just going to drive up and shoot us for standing in front of the capitol. I thought, holy shit, these people need serious help. The friends I came with decided to leave early because they were making us feel paranoid and uneasy. I'm in a deeply red state, but no one goes around and kills trans people. I deleted the pictures. I don't want people to get hurt, but misgendering isn't hurting, and women and children deserve to be safe and not medically experimented on because a nefarious group of wealthy people want to get their rocks off. In an age where everyone is so pro-mental health access, people who think they're born in the wrong body or who have an addiction or fetish (AGP), need that mental health access. The fact we say depressed teens need mental health access but if they think they're depressed + trans, go on and transition, it makes no sense. Except it does. They're pawns.

[–] Hollyhock 24 points (+24|-0)

Excellent! If they decide to part ways, I'd suggest using that letter (which shows how professional you are) as an example of policing language of women and see if you can get a major news site to run it.

[+] [Deleted] 24 points (+24|-0)
[–] KissMyOvaries 21 points (+21|-0)

Experts? What experts? My guess is that the experts are woke individuals who have an undergraduate or graduate degree in gender studies.

I do believe that the pushback is going to be great, although it may not come soon enough. At this point, companies will be pulling a “pink news” and will go back and edit their use of “vulva owners” etc. (This is in reference to Pink News editing old articles that used the word “womxn”.)

[–] BellaBoo [OP] 21 points (+21|-0)

Lol yes, exactly. Not sure what "experts" they're referring to, but I'm an expert in being female and can say without hesitation that I don't appreciate being referenced this way.

I did see that about Pink News. Good to see them backtracking. Clue, the period tracker I've been using for years, put this out today on Twitter:

Not all people who menstruate are women. Changing the way we speak about periods can help affirm trans people who get their periods and begin to shift culturally normative views. We do this at Clue by saying “people with periods” instead of making it into a gender thing.

They're getting a slew of backlash. I've now deleted the app.

[–] GCRadFem 20 points (+20|-0)

Beautifully written. How sad that they put you in a position to need to do it. These are the dark ages for women.

[–] BellaBoo [OP] 24 points (+24|-0)

Thanks. I agree. I don't anticipate writing for them anymore and that's fine. I'm freelance and have other clients / sources of income. I just hope they'll think about what I've said and take it into consideration.

[–] NotCis 19 points (+19|-0)

That was very eloquent and I really hope that it has an impact. Every little bit that we can push back among ordinary people we work with has to help.

[–] Avadavat 16 points (+16|-0)

Just out of curiosity...are men referred to as "penis owners" or "scrotum owners" on this sex-ed website? Or, is it just girls and women who are reduced to their sexual organs?

[–] [Deleted] 25 points (+25|-0)

I've seen a few posts on reddit where people said 'penetrators' because 'men' was too offensive. I'm crying with laughter as I type this.

[–] RememberThis 19 points (+19|-0)

Obviously scrotum-havers was too demeaning, they had to pick something more 'mighty' sounding and masculine lol

[–] [Deleted] 9 points (+9|-0)

What does that make us lol. Valprehenders? It does kinda sound like a military word.

[–] Lumos 14 points (+14|-0)

Penetrators is transphobic to trans men, their dildos are valid! 🙄

[–] KBash 9 points (+9|-0)

Also, it leaves out trans women and their soft lady penises which they rarely use for penetration at all!

[–] calming-tea 1 points (+1|-0)

If a dildo is valid, then lesbians can be male?

Also, penetrator can include literally everyone. Nowhere is specified penetrate with what, or even penetrate what.

If you mount a shelf on a wall, you can technically say you penetrated the wall with a screw.

It is totally meaningless

[–] womenopausal witch babe 7 points (+7|-0)

But that's confusing to people who've heard of the mid-00s Canadian metal band Penetrator. (A category of people that mystifyingly includes me.)

Seriously though - that's so PIV-centric, do they even fucking think?

Load more (26 comments)