Feminism at GW needs an intersectional makeover

In the past month, abortion rallies have taken place all over the country in response to a Texas law, passed in September, that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. At most of the protests I have been to, like the 2018 and 2019 women’s marches and the rally for abortion rights in 2021, I saw many “I’m with her” posters, mostly held by men to show that they stand with the women in their lives. Actions like these are supportive in theory, but “I’m with her” posters insinuate that women or people who use she/her pronouns are the only people affected by the patriarchy.

Including nonwomen in feminism is crucial because anyone who has been treated, seen or experienced life as a woman suffers from the sexist and discriminatory views of our society. I have attended several meetings for feminist organizations on campus that have failed to include gender inclusive language in their dialogues. Though the culture of protesting for equality is prevalent at GW, students’ understanding of feminism could benefit from intersectionality. 

Intersectionality acknowledges that multiple identity factors overlap and contribute to unique discrimination a person suffers from, according to the Center for Intersectional Justice. There are more people than just those who identify as women that are affected by reproductive justice. People who have a uterus and ovaries, but do not identify as a woman, need access to abortions and other reproductive rights as well. Transgender men, non-binary folks and other genders all fall into this category of people with uteri and ovaries.

Abortion access is limited throughout the United States and on top of that, only 23 percent of clinics provide transgender-specific care, according to pro-choice policy institute Guttmatcher. Noncisgender people have even less access to abortions, showing that their identity contributes to overlapped and increased discrimination against them.

Nonbinary and transgender people already face immense discrimination in the health care sector because there is a lack of medical knowledge for these people. Nearly half of all transgender people have reported experiencing mistreatment at the hands of a medical provider.

Mistreatment can include misgendering, refusal to care for a transgender person or even verbal harassment and physical roughness. These experiences often discourage transgender folks from seeking out the care they need. When noninclusive language is used when discussing abortion rights, it further perpetuates this lack of safety in the health care sector for nonbinary and transgender people. In an effort to include trans students and faculty members at GW in the dialogue about abortion rights and reproductive rights, feminist students and organizations need to be aware of gender neutral language when speaking about these issues. 

Instead of using “women,” gender neutral language like “people who can get pregnant” or referring to people anatomically, like “those with uteri,” creates a safe and all-encompassing dialogue. This kind of language should be included in presentations given at meetings, newsletters that are sent out to members and announcements to the public.

Professors who teach topics concerning women’s rights or health care should also include transgender and gender nonconforming people in their discussions. I have witnessed class debates concerning abortion rights, with the term “women” being used for everyone who is affected. Not only can professors use and encourage gender neutral language, but they can further point out the unique discrimination nonwomen suffer from due to their perception as women, informing students of intersectionality. Using inclusive language in the classroom both validates and acknowledges trans students while also providing all students every perspective of the reproductive justice issue. 

To broaden their scope of advocacy, protests like the women’s march and abortion rallies should also adopt gender neutral language. When GW students attend these protests, as many do, they should bring posters that support people of all genders.

Using gender neutral language, or the advocacy of using gender neutral language, is not intended to take away from the women’s movement or the cisgender women who are indeed the ones primarily affected by abortion bans. But including others in your fight only makes it stronger. Advocacy work, student organizations and class discussions at GW should be intersectional. There is no justice for all if we ignore the most marginalized.

Moving forward, activists, professors and student organizations at GW should include intersectionality in their feminism. People of all genders deserve access to reproductive justice which cannot happen while we continue to use gender-specific language and mistreat nonbinary and transgender people in the medical field. Feminism is for everyone.

Riley Goodfellow, a freshman majoring in political science, is an opinions writer. 

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