Social Justice Usage
Source: Kerr, Breena. “What Do Womxn Want?” The New York Times. March 14, 2019.
What Do Womxn Want? Maybe not to have the word “man” in their word anymore!
While hard to pronounce, “womxn” was perhaps the most inclusive word yet, using an “x” to tinker with the word’s literal approach to gender in a similar way as “Latinx,” which has become an ungendered alternative to words like “Latino” and “Latina.”
New Discourses Commentary
“Womxn” means “woman” (and is pronounced like “wuh-minx”), except with the “man” removed as an act of symbolic feminist activism (see also, strategic resistance). Distinguishing it from another similar term of art, “womyn,” the x signals fealty to queer Theory ideas and ideals (deconstructing a “literal approach to gender”) and thus intentionally seeks to forward transgender, nonbinary, and other gender nonconforming identities (particularly femme-identifying genderqueer) under the broad umbrella that normal people would spell “woman,” when those people wish to identify as such.
As with the change from “woman” to “woman”—even though the etymology of “man” and “woman” doesn’t reflect this claim—there is a trope that insists that “woman,” being a word that clearly contains “man” within it, implies that “women” is a classification derived from, and thus lesser to, “man” (see also, phallogocentrism). This belief is supported further by the identification (mostly antiquated now) of “man” with “mankind,” meaning all of humanity (see also, humxn). It is therefore an act of resistance to male dominance (patriarchy) and misogyny to deliberately remove the “man” from “woman” by changing the a to another letter. In the case of “womxn,” there is the additional signal that the term is meant to be inclusive of gender minorities who may at times (but not necessarily always) want to identify as a human female, regardless of their biological sex, thus “resisting” transmisogyny and transphobia as well.
The way this alleged improvement to inclusion is meant to be achieved is by challenging the idea that “man” is an essential part of what it means to be “woman” while at the same time indicating that the usual male/female (or masculine/feminine) binary is too simplistic to capture the entirety of possible gender expressions. The reader will note that this is a wholly symbolic bit of activism that, in seeming, achieves nothing, particularly given the trans rights activism slogan “trans women are women,” which does not make use of the “womxn” notation. The lack of consistency aside, the reason for taking up this kind of activism is because the underlying Critical Social Justice Theory (and here, queer Theory) operate upon an assumption that the discourses (including words and how they are represented) are the proximate site of social production and thus activism (see also, gender performativity, discourse analysis, structuralism, poststructuralism, and Derridean).
See also, woman, womyn, humxn.
Binary; Critical; Deconstruction; Derridean; Discourse; Discourse analysis; Feminism; Femme; Gender; Gender identity; Gender nonconforming; Genderqueer; Humxn; Identity; Inclusion; Latinx; Man; Misogyny; Nonbinary; Normal; Patriarchy; Phallogocentrism; Poststructuralism; Resist; Queer Theory; Sex; Social Justice; Strategic resistance; Structuralism; Theory; Trans Rights Activist (TRA); Trans women are women; Transgender; Transmisogyny; Transphobia; Woman; Womyn
Revision date: 11/6/20