After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, many are using more inclusive language when talking about abortion in a post-Roe world to reflect the reality that women aren’t the only people who have abortions. But for some, such as actress Bette Midler, attempts to be inclusive are seen as erasing women, an anti-trans sentiment that’s getting a lot of pushback online.
Midler, who tweets pretty regularly about political issues, has been vocal in her disdain for Roe v. Wade being overturned with a steady influx of posts about the decision, the harm it will cause, and the harm abortion bans used to cause before Roe was enacted. (She even participated in the “we will adopt your baby” meme by posting a photo of her Hocus Pocus character.) On July 4, Midler expressed outrage over the fact that some people are using words and phrases other than “women” to talk about abortion.
“WOMEN OF THE WORLD! We are being stripped of our rights over our bodies, our lives and even of our name!” she tweeted. “They don’t call us ‘women’ anymore; they call us “birthing people” or ‘menstruators’, and even ‘people with vaginas’! Don’t let them erase you! Every human on earth owes you!”
The argument that trans people—as well as anyone who uses inclusive language about abortion in order to include trans men, nonbinary people, and intersex people who have a uterus when discussing abortion—are trying to erase women from conversations about abortion is one that’s popping up more frequently in anticipation of and in the wake of Roe being overturned.
Anti-trans rhetoric was already commonplace in British media, but it’s also starting to appear more and more in American publications, and not just in conversation with abortion; some of that work is being cited to support laws that aim to deny trans people gender-affirming healthcare. Last month, The Atlantic published an article that took progressives (and organizations like the ACLU that use inclusive language) to task for not using the word women when discussing abortion. A New York Times op-ed published over the weekend attempted to equate the far-right’s rampant misogynistic agenda with the far-left not using the word “women,” which led to its own backlash.
Midler’s tweet went viral, largely in part because people—including cisgender women—took Midler to task for her anti-trans tweet and for using arguments that try to pit women against trans people and blame the latter for oppressing the former. As many women told Midler, using inclusive language doesn’t make them any less of a woman or affect their womanhood, and the fight against trans rights and women’s rights are two sides of the same coin.
As people criticized Midler, a clip of singer Macy Gray appearing on Piers Morgan Uncensored also went viral after she expressed that she doesn’t believe that “as a woman, just because you go change your parts doesn’t make you a woman,” a sentiment that got a seal of approval from J.K. Rowling.
While Midler hasn’t responded to any of the criticism directed at her, Gray is addressing some of the people who took issue with her statement.
“There is no bigger admirer of lgbt community than your truly,” she said in response to a since-deleted tweet. “it takes real balls to be honest about who you are. ‘woman’ is a title that you earn and become. just like ‘man.’ there are plenty of females who aren’t women yet and every girl gets that.”