How language is being shaped in culture

At our debate last week we were talking about language and a woman in the audience had this to say:

“I turned 30 last week, I one of the youngest ones here. None of my peers know that I am here, I would be vilified, I don’t mean for this to come across rude, but I think for people who are my peers and younger when you talk about language, it is a completely different scenario. This conversation we are having is almost missing the boat because among the circles I walk in, even talking about biological sex is considered transphobic, so you cannot talk about pregnancy as a woman’s issue, you cannot talk about periods, we do not talk about menopause because no-one is thinking about that yet, when you talk about women’s issues and mention body parts, you cannot do that… obviously I don’t want to cause violence or harm to anybody but we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater when for this situation for example when you’re talking about in the developing world where girls don’t go to school because there aren’t toilets or provisions to deal with their sanitary facilities, well that can be taken as being transphobic because you’re talking about menstruation as a women’s issue, so how can you talk about the body, or gender and the body in a way that is not hurtful, I don’t want to cause violence to anybody or harm but you can’t talk about vaginas as being female, being a woman’s parts or penises. This is people who are feminists, young people who use the internet, people who are very vocal about rights for trans people not to suffer violence, and this goes to the extent of the body being female or a woman. And this is where you have missed the boat, because you’re talking about he and she, well that’s over there. Sara Ahmed has said ‘when we try and define what womanhood is that’s when we run into difficulty’. Miranda talked about the essence of what is means to be a woman. If body parts, if biological sex doesn’t determine what a woman is, if it is all down to identity, then what are the boundaries? Do we have boundaries? Are they useful? I think they are useful, because you can’t talk about perpetrators of male violence if man doesn’t exist? So what is womanhood, what is that thing? Is the essence of womanhood just oppression? Because this is what you come to, when you say trans people are definitely oppressed by violence, by bullying whatever, women are definitely oppressed, the only people that don’t appear to be oppressed are men. Now is that how we define it? This is massively negative!”

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