Moral panics

There’s a piece going around about erasing women from pregnancy, which is definitely an interesting read:

When I wake up in the middle of the night because I’m having excruciating stomach pain that could possibly be a placental abruption—but could also just be a fart—I need the Internet search results to tell me the difference between the two using straightforward, accurate, widely-accepted and easily understood language. The potentially fatal nature of pregnancy leaves no room for gender ideology in language. It doesn’t matter that a tiny handful of self-identified transgender men give birth every year. Their doctors know what a woman is, and so do they.

If this movement continues to encroach on online pregnancy discourse, millions of biological women will be denied clear, easy-to-understand terms that describe what is happening to their bodies, at a time when they need that help most. It is already infiltrating conversations between practitioners and their patients, and there are accounts of nurses struggling to maintain gender neutrality during birthing classes. In Canada, a nurse has been facing an endless, Kafkaesque ordeal at the hands of her regulator for saying what everyone knows to be true.

Of course, if this gender-ideology nonsense is exasperating and confusing to privileged knowledge workers like me, imagine how it strikes truly marginalized members of our society. What the hell is a “birthing person” or “menstruator” to a non-native English speaker; or to someone who hasn’t been exposed to college sensitivity training sessions, and is simply looking to buy pregnancy-related drugs at Walmart?

The number of biologically female individuals that identify as men and are capable of pregnancy, and actually pregnant, is exceedingly small. I don’t think any sane person would be for discriminating against them, making their lives even harder, being rude to them or refusing to call them by the pronouns they wish to be called by.

That said, these people represent an incredibly rare edge case; removing simple terminology and playing word games is going to have serious consequences for millions of women who are uneducated, live in English-speaking countries but don’t speak English well, or those with various cognitive disabilities.

It’s not possible to craft an information architecture that works for everyone. There are always tradeoffs. For me the case is obvious that using common, simple and widely known words in medical literature is something that saves lives.

Another article puts this into perspective:

[R]ather than ask that “women” present themselves for a smear test, NHS letters and poster campaigns might use gender-neutral language and direct the appeal instead to “individuals with a cervix”, the phrase used by the American Cancer Society. This kind of language is feted as “more inclusive”, but the question we should be asking is, inclusive of whom?

Attendance at cervical screenings is at a ten-year low, and late diagnosis hugely increases mortality risk. But, unfortunately, less than 50 per cent of UK women know where the cervix is, and those who do are disproportionately likely to have more educational qualifications and be native English speakers. The costs of confusing public health messaging are suffered more by some groups than by others, but this can all too easily be forgotten by progressive elites in the rush to signal inclusiveness.

Word games cost lives.

And more to the point:

The psychologist Rob Henderson has coined the term “luxury beliefs” to describe, as he puts it, “ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class”. For instance, a member of the bourgeoisie can elevate his status by proposing to “defund the police” with little fear of negative consequences for himself if this policy were ever enacted, since those most affected by crime are poor people who can’t afford to move away from dangerous areas.