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What’s wrong with the word ‘woman’?

Sir, – I was surprised to read in your letters page (April 5th) of the removal of the word “mother” from seven Acts of Irish legislation and the omission of the words “women” and “mother” from proposed pieces of legislation affecting women: the Organisation of Working Time (Reproductive Health Related Leave) and the Free Provision of Period Products Bills.

I’m wondering why it’s through your letters page I’ve learned of this? Is there not one TD or one Senator alert enough to the text of these Bills and to the implications of the erasure of “woman” and “mother”from Irish legislation?

By neglecting or indeed by being complicit in this process of erasure, they are all – Government, Opposition and Independents – doing a disservice to half, at least, of the Irish electorate. – Yours, etc,

MICK HANNIGAN,

Cork.

Sir, – If the 124 male TDs elected to Dáil Éireann were faced with being described as “people with penises” in legislation and on Government websites, some of them may think more deeply before agreeing to remove references to women and girls from legislation. I cannot account for why any of the 36 women TDs would agree to remove references to women and girls from legislation. If they cannot name us how can they advocate for us? – Yours, etc,

SANDRA ADAMS,

Baldoyle,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Euphemisms for menstruation were common when women’s reproductive business was considered unmentionable and slightly shameful. It’s good that we’ve matured to the point of recognising the significance and importance of openly and correctly naming things for what they are. However, something else is happening which is quite sinister. The euphemisms have moved from the word “period” to the word “woman”. The word “woman” does not appear once in either of the Bills. It is replaced by “anyone”, “everyone” and “people”. None of the female Fianna Fáil or Labour Senators contacted seem to know why or where the word went, although it must have been deliberately excluded. Labour’s Ivana Bacik had no difficulty referring to women and girls in 2019 when she raised the issue of period poverty in the Seanad as she used both throughout her speech. When contacted, neither she nor any of her female Seanad colleagues answered my question – why are you deliberately excluding the word “woman”?

Women need the word women. We are a distinct biological and political class who are oppressed on the basis of our sex. Language matters. Labour and Fianna Fáil must do better. – Is mise,

IMELDA BROPHY,

Knocknacarra,

Galway.

Sir, – I want to add my voice to that of Clodagh Moran (Letters, April 6th) in objecting to the insidious removal of the words “women”, “mother” and “girls” from Government Bills and State publications.

I find it interesting and somewhat worrying that the HSE, when pressured, opted to change the Cervical Check material to add the word “women” rather than replace the phrase “people with a cervix” .

I am unaware of any people other than women and girls who experience miscarriage, undergo IVF or have periods. Are we now to look forward to material referring to “people with a prostate”? It’s time to stop this nonsense. – Yours, etc,

MARY HINDS,

Maynooth,

Co Kildare.

Sir: – For years women and girl were taught that the natural biological processes they lived with were shameful and dirty, that they were among the reasons why women could not and should not be as present as men in public life, and that they should not be mentioned in polite company. Given that we’re finally moving beyond this extremely harmful silliness, it’s very difficult to understand why the words “women” and “girls” cannot be used in discussions about these same natural biological processes. Is it now shameful to mention women and girls in these discussions? If so, why? Some clarification from the relevant State and Government bodies would be really appreciated. – Yours, etc,

DEIRDRE NUTTALL,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Clodagh Moran expresses her consternation over the replacement of the word “woman” with “person” or “persons” in recent legislation. Inclusive language and practices will always be met with alarm and performative outrage by those who perceive inclusion as a threat to the structural order of advantage and privilege. Typically it is the beneficiaries of such advantage who are most insulted by efforts to extend its service to more marginal groups. And this coming from a cis-gender man! – Yours, etc,

CONOR MAGUIRE,

Graiguecullen,

Carlow.

Sir, – The HSE description of women as “people with a cervix” fills me with dread. Am I eventually to be known as a “person with testicles”, and will these terms eventually replace the existing fir agus mná signs in public buildings? – Yours, etc,

SEAN FOX,

Dublin 3.

Sir, – We have a Bill circulating which aims to provide free period products to women and girls in need and the authors fail to address the target group by name even once.

There is a definite pattern emerging.

Surely our legislators can see how straightforward it would be to include those with female anatomy who do not wish to be addressed as women without omitting all references to the cohort at which the legislation is, overwhelmingly, aimed.

The question then arises as to why the State has adopted this scorched earth policy in relation to mentioning women. Perhaps we need some transparency regarding the advice sought and given in relation to this issue. – Yours, etc,

JEAN CROSS,

Ballinrobe, Co Mayo.