Social Justice Usage
Source: Wikipedia, entry “womyn”
The word womyn is one of several alternative spellings of the English word women used by some feminists. There are other spellings, including womban (a reference to the womb) or womon (singular), and wimmin (plural). Some writers who use such alternative spellings, avoiding the suffix “-man” or “-men”, see them as an expression of female independence and a repudiation of traditions that define women by reference to a male norm. Recently, womxn has been used by intersectional feminists to indicate the same ideas, with foregrounding or more explicitly including transgender women and other marginalized women, such as women of color.
New Discourses Commentary
“Womyn” means “woman,” except with the “man” removed as an act of symbolic feminist activism (see also, strategic resistance and wimmin). 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.” This belief is supported further by the identification (mostly antiquated now) of “man” with “mankind,” meaning all of humanity. 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.
Though this line of thought isn’t limited to Derridean analysis, it is very much the kind of thing feminism would do after having taken up with Jacques Derrida’s concept of phallogocentrism. This idea proceeds from the poststructuralist belief that words only obtain meaning in their relationships to one another (see also, discourse). Derrida pointed out that words often tend to receive most of their meaning by their tendency to appear in hierarchical binary pairs (like “man” and “woman”), wherein one word is “privileged” over the other, perhaps by being considered the default against which the other word is but a defining comparison. Phallagocentrism makes the case that when sex and gender are relevant to these binaries, that which is considered male or masculine is privileged while that which is considered female or feminine is not. Much feminist (and queer) activism since has proceeded upon this assumption and the corollary belief that disrupting phallagocentric assumptions will minimize or unmake the power dynamics produced and upheld by the discourses in which they obtain meaning (see also, discourse analysis, close reading, structuralism; queer Theory, and gender studies).
See also, wimmin, woman, womban, womxn.
Binary; Close reading; Derridean; Discourse; Discourse analysis; Feminism; Gender; Gender studies; Man; Misogyny; Patriarchy; Phallogocentrism; Poststructuralism; Power (systemic); Privilege; Queer; Queer Theory; Sex; Strategic resistance; Structuralism; Wimmin; Woman; Womban; Womxn
Revision date: 11/9/20