Margaret Atwood fans furious as she shares op ed lamenting gender neutrality

Feminist writer criticised for not being intersectional

Helen Elfer
Tuesday 19 October 2021 20:28
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Margaret Atwood has angered many of her Twitter followers by reposting an article titled Why can’t we say “woman” anymore?

The opinion piece, written by Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno, joined the debate around the use of gender-neutral terminology, and argued that the word ‘woman’ was becoming unacceptable.

“‘Woman’ is in danger of becoming a dirty word … struck from the lexicon of officialdom, eradicated from medical vocabulary and expunged from conversation” she wrote, continuing: “It shouldn’t leave well-meaning people tongue-tied, lest they be attacked as transphobic or otherwise insensitive to the increasingly complex constructs of gender.

“There’s more than a whiff of misogyny to it. Why ‘woman’ the no-speak word and not ‘man’? Why not ‘persons who urinate standing up’ or ‘people who eject semen’?

She added: “Certainly there are words — they are slurs mostly — that are no longer acceptable. ‘Woman’ shouldn’t be one of them.”

Ms Atwood shared the article, prompting furious discussion about the views put forward in the piece.

Erica Ifill wrote: “Good morning to everyone except Margaret Atwood. These second wave feminists need to find the exit if they can’t be intersectional.”

Others said they were disappointed in The Handmaid’s Tale writer, given her work’s longstanding feminist themes.

“Good news, we still can! big fan of your fiction on the dangers of enforcing extremely rigid bio-essentialist ideas about gender btw,” wrote one commenter.

Another posted the response: “Heartbreaking to see someone with a vast imagination & stellar language skills failing to use both. I guess it’s easy to dismiss the “tiny portion”* of affected people when you don’t care about them *1.4m trans adults and 1.2m non-binary people (in just the US)”

Ms Atwood responded to some of the comments by directing them to read the article before disagreeing. “‘Read her piece. She’s not a TERF,” she posted.

Meanwhile, other Twitter users supported the article’s views and congratulated Ms Atwood for sharing them, comparing the writer to JK Rowling, whose views on transgender issues sparked heated controversy last year.

Colin Moriarty wrote: “It should perhaps be no surprise that two of the world’s most famous living female authors are asking similar questions about the ‘defeminisation’ of language. There are many who will pretend it’s not happening, but it obviously is, and I applaud you for speaking out about it.”

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