The Wellcome Collection museum in London has been forced to apologize after its efforts to be ‘inclusive’ by using the word ‘womxn’ instead of ‘women’ backfired and caused outrage on social media.
In promotional material for a four-day programme which aims to “challenge archives, change narratives and amplify new voices,” the museum said it wanted to beginning a conversation about “how womxn can challenge existing archives”.
The choice of word was intended to be inclusive — but to who? According to a tiny fraction of society, it appears that the word “women” is seen as exclusively referring to white, straight and cisgender women. In other words it is (apparently) racist and transphobic.
The word ‘womxn’ seems to be a spin-off from the word ‘womyn’ which was adopted by some feminists during the 1970s women’s movement. Unfortunately for the Wellcome Collection, however, today’s women (and men — or is it mxn?) were not too pleased with the new iteration of the word — and they let the museum know about it on Twitter.
Absolute 100% instablock and an actual hex for anyone using “womxn” in my vicinity.
— Juliet (@Jsoosty) October 10, 2018
Nobody outside of a very narrow circle of narcissists and misogynists will even begin to understand what you mean by “womxn.” The word woman doesn’t need to be edited or to apologise for itself. Please compare with your approach to speaking about men and amend.
— Spook Spookfare 🐒 (@spookwarfare) October 10, 2018
One of the great lies of our time is that PC language is “inclusive”. It isn’t, it’s exclusive — used exclusively by a handful of cranks who have somehow been elevated to positions of cultural power. Nobody even knows how to say the word “womxn” out loud… https://t.co/7y6EFTsJGL
— Fraser Myers (@FraserMyers) October 10, 2018
How do you pronounce womxn? The same way you pronounce bollocks.
— suzanne moore (@suzanne_moore) October 10, 2018
One user noted that in its effort to be inclusive, the museum had strangely divided the world up into “men and other things,” while another suggested that using an ‘x’ looks like an effort to make woman and women interchangeable, as though some women now “identified as plurals”.
This would be defensible (if a bit student union) if they’d done Mxn and Womxn.
As it is they’ve divided humans into the recognised classes of MEN and OTHER THINGS. Dumb.https://t.co/VdnTjt0vR6
— Willard Foxton Todd (@WillardFoxton) October 10, 2018
Who exactly is this meant to include? Trans women call themselves women, non-binary people don’t call themselves women at all. The only thing that comes to mind is that this could be to include both “woman” and “women”, which implies there are women who identify as plurals.
— Sam Baxter (@szbnahl) October 10, 2018
This is bonkers. Women aren’t even allowed to have an undisfigured word to denote them. Please be consistent and refer to men as mxn.
— Gregory Norminton (@GDRNorminton) October 10, 2018
Responding to criticism, the museum tweeted to explain that “womxn” creates a space for “diverse perspectives” — but soon realized that wasn’t going to cut it. The Wellcome Collection later released a statement apologizing for having used the word.
“We should have put more thought into whether this was the right term to use when communicating about the event. We made a mistake, and we should not have used it. We’re sorry that we made the wrong call,” it said.
Women’s organization Her Stories, which is sponsored by fashion brand H&M, also came under fire this week for using the word ‘womxn’ repeatedly in a promotional email about an art exhibition to support refugee and migrant women in London.
Twitter users lashed out at H&M, with one suggesting that what was truly racist was any suggestion that the word women does not include women of color.
I have just received a press release that says “womxn” 15 times.
It’s about a campaign “for womxn, by womxn” to help refugees, sex trafficking victims + “pregnant womxn”.
It’s sponsored by H&M. @hm
— Lucy Bannerman (@TimesLucy) October 10, 2018
— Hannah (@Chailatte2020) October 10, 2018
On top of Wellcome, more of this “Womxn” utter bullshit, this time from H&M. How DARE they suggest that the word “Women” excludes people of colour (for a start)? https://t.co/RDIoZOoiag
— Claire King (@ckingwriter) October 10, 2018
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