The Lancet and the problem with women

26 September 2021

8:37 AM

26 September 2021

8:37 AM

Quite soon, the word ‘women’ could be considered so dangerous as to be unutterable. That may seem hyperbolic, but Steerpike can see which way the wind is blowing. Even our most distinguished scientific voices are now shunning the w-word:

Screen_Shot_2021-09-25_at_17.33.26.pngThe Lancet’s controversial front cover

‘Women’ are out. That hateful word has been consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs — next to mod clothing and freedom of speech. All hail the Bodies With Vaginas (BWVs). And the Lancet can’t even offload the blame for this one on to the article in question.

Sophia Davis’s actual article, which reviews an exhibition on the history of menstruation at the Vagina Museum of London, actually uses the w-word four times. But the Lancet, being the innovative medical journal it is, knows the direction the winds are blowing and has decided to get out ahead — and, as chance would have it, drum up an enormous amount of free publicity — by talking about ‘the anatomy and physiology’ of BWVs. That’s called science.

One University College London professor and retired psychiatrist has gone online to announce he was cancelling his subscription over the quote. But the key word there is retired.

To quote the scientist and body with a penis Max Planck, the truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents but by waiting for them to die. Science marches on, bigot.

Still, Steerpike confesses that all this change creeps him out a tad. W-words used to be so interesting. Now, they are just a chapter in an anatomy textbook. In its effort to be inclusive, Lancet ends up sounding like a serial murderer who enjoys reducing his victims to their meaty appendages. For American killer Wayne Adam Ford, w-words really were just ‘bodies with breasts’, which he enjoyed cutting off to sew into his clothing. Suddenly, Steerpike is spooked by the implications of the Lancet’s name.

Setting all the linguistic nonsense aside, how is the Lancet’s title quote even true? Were w-words’ anatomies really blotted out of history until one brave London museum finally turned the tide in 2021? Out of sixty books in the Hippocratic Corpus of classical Greek medical treatises, seven are dedicated exclusively to medicine for, ahem, ‘bodies with vaginas.’

De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem, the first ever comprehensive human anatomy textbook, has a lengthy section on the specific anatomy of vagina bodies. This sounds like a sort of perpetual cycle. Feminism takes more joy from obtaining equality than actually experiencing it, and feminist allies must perpetually pretend that until this very moment w-words were living in the most vile state of inferiority and servitude. Without a patriarchy to overthrow, life rapidly loses any direction.

Sometimes, this manifests in very silly ways. Two years ago, Marvel’s Captain Marvel was treated as a Very Important Film because it was, apparently, the first major film starring a body with a vagina ever made. As America’s Vox said at the time:

‘Captain Marvel has to make enough money to prove that movies starring [bodies with vaginas] can do well, so that studio executives will make more of them. It has to be good enough to make up for decades of movies that relentlessly focused on the narratives of straight white [bodies with penises]. It has to give [bodies with vaginas] a superhero role so they can see themselves and their lives.’ 

Meanwhile, more normal people thought: ‘Wait didn’t Wonder [Body With A Vagina] come out just two years ago? Didn’t The Wizard of Oz star a body with a vagina?’

Banish such thoughts. The revolution has only just begun, and it will continue even though its subject has been abolished.

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