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‘Woman,’ ‘womxn’ or ‘womyn’: Campus feminist groups opt for alternative spelling

Practice meant to ‘shed light on prejudice’

Campus feminist groups across the United States are increasingly adopting an alternative spelling of the word “woman,” replacing it with variants such as “womxn” and “womyn” in part in order to avoid spelling the word “man” or “men.”

The University of Iowa’s Women’s Resource and Action Center utilizes the spelling of “womxn” in their “Womxn of Color Network.” Simone Fernandes, the operations coordinator of the university’s Women’s Resource and Action Center, told The College Fix that the alternative spelling was inspired by the website Everyday Feminism.

“Womxn removes the sequences of m-a-n and/or m-e-n from the term ‘woman/in’ that sheds light on the prejudice, discrimination, and institutional barriers womxn have faced, but to also show that womxn are not a subcategory of men, while providing active resistance to transphobia to include transwomen, trans*femme, and other gender non-conforming womxn,” Fernandes said.

She told The Fix that, in spite of the new spelling, the word is still pronounced “woman.”

The Undergraduate Womxn in Economics Society at the University of California, Davis also opted for the alternative spelling “womxn.” Undergraduate programs supervisor Anya Gibson told The Fix via email that the spelling is meant to “be more inclusive to all students who may identify as women.”

“The spelling signifies that we acknowledge as the many ways in which a person may identify as a woman, beyond biological sex,” Gibson said, stating that the group chose the spelling “womxn” over the alternative “womyn” because the former is “more inclusive of transgender identities.”

Gibson said that the group pronounces the spelling “women-x.”

The Womxn of Worth Initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says that spelling “woman” with an “x” acknowledges the “history of exclusion in many second-wave feminist organizations” and “signals its welcome to all woman-identified individuals, regardless of assigned sex at birth.”

“As an organization promoting womxn’s success and femininity, the motivation stems from the strives that womxn have made in the past to declare independence from men,” program assistant Kamesha Chalmers told The Fix over email.

“We chose to use ‘womxn’ instead of ‘womyn’ to promote an inclusive environment for transwomen, who were oftentimes excluded for not being a ‘real’ woman. Thus, the x represents the non-binary, independence of gender identity from assigned sex at birth,” Chalmers added.

Texas State University’s “Womxn of Color” website states that “Womxn is the non-standard spelling of ‘women’ adopted by some feminists in order to avoid the word ending with ‘-men’ in efforts to be more inclusive.”

The University of Richmond’s Connecting Women of Color Conference, meanwhile, recently restyled itself as the “Connecting Womxn of Color Conference” in order to “emphasize anew our dedication to inclusivity.”

MORE: UK college groups use ‘womxn’ in place of ‘women’

MORE: UC-Santa Barbara’s ‘Womxn of Color Conference’

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About the Author
Maria Lencki -- Franciscan University of Steubenville