Should the American Cancer Society have used the word ‘women’ in their directive instead of 'individuals with cervixes'?


Fact Box

  • The American Cancer Society (ACS) was founded in 1913 with the goal of “raising awareness about cancer if progress was to be made against this disease.”
  • CNN first reported the ACS’s updated cervical cancer guidelines on July 30, 2020, which sparked a backlash by utilizing the ACS’s language of “individuals with a cervix.” 
  • The ACS statement on cervical cancer refers to the same “individuals” as “women” later on in the same paragraph. 
  • This echoes JK Rowling’s June 6 tweet controversy in response to the company Devex using the phrase “people who menstruate” as a stand-in for “women” for the purposes of inclusivity. 
  • Human reproductive anatomy is observed/assigned male or female at birth 99.98% of the time. These distinct anatomies exist to aid in reproduction through the combination of sperm and ova. 

Zoe (No)

Trans men and non-binary individuals may have a cervix, but do not identify as women. As a result, the language 'individuals with cervixes' is used to include these groups. This language exists not to alienate cis women, but rather to be more inclusive of everyone. In this case, using inclusive language is necessary because the American Cancer Society statement was general, meant to be read by any potential patient. In a personal medical consultation, it is not necessary or appropriate for the doctor to refer to a cis woman with gender-neutral pronouns, just as it is not necessary or appropriate for the doctor to refer to a trans man or non-binary individual with feminine pronouns. However, in a blanket statement such as this one, the language is designed to encapsulate every person for whom the information may be relevant.

Trans people often face discrimination in medical spaces, and as a result, are less likely to seek help even when it is desperately needed. A 2010 Ontario study showed that 21% of participants avoided the emergency room when they needed medical attention because they were trans. A similar US study showed that 22.8% of trans individuals surveyed reported avoiding healthcare due to anticipated discrimination. Thus, using inclusive language is a positive step towards encouraging trans people to seek medical attention when necessary.

In essence, not only would using the term 'women' in this case ignore the existence of trans and non-binary individuals, it would discourage these individuals from seeking treatment, which may be vital to their health. 

Stephanie (Yes)

It was downright inappropriate and insulting for the American Cancer Society to use the term 'individuals with a cervix' instead of 'women' in their most recent health update. All political correctness aside, one cannot deny basic biology in that women have cervixes, and men do not – plain and simple. The recent verbiage is almost certainly a result of the transgender movement, which seeks to call trans' women' female when their anatomy is partially or fully still male.

Medically speaking, it was highly irresponsible, as the American Cancer Society has a responsibility to provide medical information that can be lifesaving to women, specifically, through early detection and screening. It is simply wrong to potentially confuse people about women's health issues simply because the organization does not wish to offend anyone. In this attempt at 'inclusion,' it's natal women who are being erased. Men and transgender 'women' should be relieved that they will never risk this form of cancer. Suggesting transgender women are somehow 'left out' of this equation is insulting to women who have suffered from cervical cancer.

The idea that 'trans women are just as much women as cis women' is simply delusional. Recently, author J.K. Rowling has been slaughtered by the media with claims that she is transphobic for speaking up about her feminism to triumph natal women. Though many bring up intersex individuals—who reinforce and do not negate the sexual binary—biological sex, by definition, is an exclusive categorization. People are born as either male or female, and not on a spectrum as some argue about gender. Such a concept may offend some, but it is an immutable fact.

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