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Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood branded transphobic in brawl over gender-neutral language

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Margaret Atwood, author of Handmaid’s Tale, is branded a transphobic for sharing newspaper reports that use gender-neutral language to replace the word “woman”

  • The 81-year-old author retweeted an article in The Toronto Star on Tuesday
  • The headline of the article was, “Why Can’t We Say ‘Woman’ Anymore?”
  • Atwood’s best-known book, The Handmaid’s Tale, is about a dystopian world where men control women’s bodies and critics noted what they saw as irony
  • “Big fan of your fiction about the dangers of enforcing extremely rigid bio-essentialist ideas about gender by the way,” one person tweeted
  • The controversy had echoes of that engulfing JK Rowling, who in June 2020 mocked the use of the phrase “childbirth” instead of women










Canadian writer Margaret Atwood has been labeled a transphobic for sharing an article on Twitter complaining about gender-neutral language.

Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tail, shared a Toronto Star op-ed on Tuesday titled, “Why Can’t We Say ‘Woman’ Anymore?”

Columnist Rosie DiManno argued that adopting gender-neutral language leads to an “erasing of women,” causing “well-meaning people to keep their mouths shut, lest they be attacked as transphobic or otherwise impervious to the increasingly complex constructs of gender.”

DiManno claimed that “woman” “threatened to become a dirty word.”

She said the word ran the risk of being “expelled from the lexicon of the civil service, disappearing from the medical vocabulary, and being dropped from the conversation.”

The 81-year-old shared it without comment, but the article sparked immediate reactions.

Margaret Atwood, pictured Oct. 6 receiving the Lattes Grinzane Special Prize in Alba, Italy, sparked controversy on Tuesday with a tweet sharing an article on gender identity

Atwood shared an article by columnist Rosie DiManno, which sparked a furious response

Atwood shared an article by columnist Rosie DiManno, which sparked a furious response

Cosmologist Katie Mack replied, “No one forbids the word ‘woman’.

‘Many organizations choose – rightly so – for precise language when it comes to matters related to biological characteristics rather than gender identity.

“It’s not an attack on femininity to NOT equate gender with specific biology.”

Her tweet has been ‘liked’ more than 11,000 times.

Another person referred to Atwood’s most famous work, the Booker Prize-winning Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985. In the dystopian book, a group of women are reduced to fertile machines, controlled by men.

When asked by Atwood why the word woman should no longer be used, he replied: ‘Good news, you can still do that! big fan of your fiction about the dangers of enforcing extremely rigid bio-essentialist ideas about gender, by the way.”

Critics of Atwood pointed out that her Booker Prize-winning novel, The Handmaid's Tale, explored a male-controlled society where your gender dictates your entire life

Critics of Atwood pointed out that her Booker Prize-winning novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, explored a male-controlled society where your gender dictates your entire life

Journalist Amanda Jette Knox told her 69,000 followers, “I’m disappointed you’re sharing this because it’s actually not true.

“We can still say ‘woman’ and we can also say ‘people’ if it makes sense to use more inclusive language.

‘I am non-binary. I also menstruate and gave birth to 3 children. Saying ‘people on menstruation’ includes women AND me.’

Fellow author Abbie Karlish said: ‘You can say woman or women or ladies or girls whenever and however you want.

“We also just recognize that when we talk about reproduction rights, biology and many other things, saying ‘women’ is often imprecise or outright exclusionary.”

Ecologist Karen James said, “This is *exactly* how many men reacted when feminists advocated gender-inclusive language like ‘congress person’ or ‘he or she’.”

Another added: ‘What??? You can say woman AND you can also say transman and non-binary person, or if you want to put it all in one word, you can say pregnant.

“Incorporating more people is NOT removing someone.”

The row bore echoes of what engulfed JK Rowling in June 2020.

The Harry Potter author responded to a headline on an online article about ‘people who menstruate’ by writing in a tweet: ‘I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me. wumben? Wimp? Woomud?’

Critics accused her of being transphobic, but Rowling said she stood by her comments, saying it’s “not hate to speak the truth.”

She was criticized by some of the film’s biggest stars, including Daniel Radcliffe, Eddie Redmayne and Emma Watson.

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