Am I am menstruator? GN language in a medical setting

(29 Posts)
BlueBlazerBlack Thu 03-Jun-21 15:44:44

Hello everyone

This is my first post on feminism but I have commented before on other threads regarding the use of GN language. I think I have possibly found the worst example to date - worse even than "swimming vagina havers".

There is a female doctor (pronouns are she/her, so I think it's ok to call her 'female') who has launched a survey about the effects of the covid vaccines on the menstrual cycle, after experiencing changes in her period after receiving a covid vaccine.

The problem is, when inviting contributions to the survey, she refers to 'people who menstruate' or 'menstruators', and to be honest, when I saw this last night, I was baffled. Despite being a biological female, I am not currently a 'menstruator' (I am breastfeeding and on a type of contraception that stops periods. I also am less than a year postpartum, so that could be relevant).

The doctor later clarified that the survey she is compiling can, in fact, be filled in by anyone who has ever menstruated before, so it does include women who are lactating, or on contraception, peri- and postmenopausal women, transmen, etc.

Still though, I had a moment of utter confusion last night wondering whether any of these findings applied to me because I wouldn't call myself a "menstruator" at this particular time (or frankly, ever).

I understand the reasons for GN language in some settings, but it feels like in this case, it has created a whole load of confusion (see twitter replies). Moreover, in a medical setting, there is usually a requirement for language to be clear, concise and unambiguous - which this is not.

I mentioned this to my DP who said to comment on twitter, but there is no way I am going to open that can of words.

I've noticed since that other news outlets reporting on the survey have simply said "women".

Surely, GN wording should and could have been avoided in this case?

OP’s posts: |
CovidCorvid Thu 03-Jun-21 15:50:20

This is why if they feel the need to use such language people need to keep the word “woman”. So if she had used the phrase “women and people who menstruate” she would have been clearer. Women would have known it meant them, tsomeone who is biologically a woman but doesn’t identify as a woman would have been included.

AlwaysColdHands Thu 03-Jun-21 15:52:11

This is a really good example of the problem with this language: attempting to be all inclusive can cause confusion and potentially exclusion confused

UppityPuppity Thu 03-Jun-21 15:57:10

It’s back to the ‘leg in cubicle 3’.

That’s not allowed, but referring to women by their biological functions -well that’s A OK.

Easy to forget there is a whole human being that surrounds that particular biological function.

Still waiting for people who ejaculate to become common parlance.

WithLargeTableMouse Thu 03-Jun-21 16:01:17

I didn’t bother filling out she/her’s survey as she/her blocked me on Twitter for questioning the use of the word menstruator. She/here’s not actually interested in ordinary women’s opinions and experiences, she/her only wants to hear from women who don’t want to admit they’re women. It’s just a load of virtue signalling rubbish as far as I’m concerned and she can shove her discriminatory survey up her gender neutral jaxsie smile

EmbarrassingAdmissions Thu 03-Jun-21 16:05:01

For clarity, Clancy is an American biological anthropologist who specialises in reproductive health. I like her work but wanted to highlight that she isn't a medic, nor does she interact with people in these contexts.

BlueBlazerBlack Thu 03-Jun-21 16:31:17

@AlwaysColdHands it is indeed exclusionary - I assumed it didn't apply to me because I don't menstruate [shrug]

@UppityPuppity I wouldn't hold your breath about 'ejaculators' hmm

@WithLargeTableMouse good on you for challenging her smile

@EmbarrassingAdmissions the fact she specialises in reproductive health makes it worse confused For all the surgery and hormones in the world, you can't identify into a different reproductive role from the one you were born into wink

The more I think about this, the more preposterous it seems, because the inclusion criteria mentions transmen, and I am not sure why it would be less triggering for them to be called 'menstruators'?! Surely most transmen don't even have periods anyway [shrug]

So basically we have a biological anthropologist specialising in reproductive health who thinks 'menstruators' = biological women, even though many, many women responding on Twitter had to ask if they could fill in the survey because they no longer menstruate.
What a mess...

OP’s posts: |


BlueBlazerBlack Thu 03-Jun-21 16:34:02

From Twitter "if you have menstruated before and got the vax, take 15 min to tell us your experiences!"
It's almost comical the lengths some people will go to, in order to avoid using the word 'woman' [clown]

OP’s posts: |
NecessaryScene Thu 03-Jun-21 16:34:33

Menstruator, and other words that rhyme with 'hate her'

if you wish to be inclusive
please amend your language usage
'woman' has now been disabled
this is how you shall be labelled:

ovulator, menstruator, gestator, incubator
procreator, lactator, child-curator, care-taker
homemaker, meal-maker, vacuum-cleaner-operator
titillator, conciliator, erotic-roleplay-stimulator


BlueBlazerBlack Thu 03-Jun-21 16:36:02


From Twitter "if you have menstruated before and got the vax, take 15 min to tell us your experiences!"
It's almost comical the lengths some people will go to, in order to avoid using the word 'woman' [clown]

Someone replied:
"I just got my first vaccination on Monday and should be starting my next cycle tomorrow. Would you want me to take the survey within the next week? Or is this for people who get their vaccination while menstruating?" grin

OP’s posts: |
BlueBlazerBlack Thu 03-Jun-21 16:42:23

More replies:
"I see that it includes people who do not currently menstruate but no mention of hysterectomy. Is this only for people with uterus?"

Nope, language is definitely not confusing, nothing to see here...

OP’s posts: |
BlueBlazerBlack Thu 03-Jun-21 16:43:39

Lots of deleted tweets, so I'm guessing not everyone is loving the label 'menstruator' shock

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334bu Thu 03-Jun-21 16:50:46

All those tweets asking whether they can fill in the survey, would have been avoided ,if researcher had just asked all women or even all female people to fill in her survey. It is obvious from her answers that every woman is included , even post menopausal women. What an unnecessary waste of time and how many women didn't fill it in because they thought their experience was not wanted.

BlueBlazerBlack Thu 03-Jun-21 16:59:18

Exactly, how is a postmenopausal woman supposed to know it applies to her if it says 'menstruator'?!?

OP’s posts: |
Ifyourefeelingsinister Thu 03-Jun-21 17:09:52

Ugh such obfuscation of language. No I won't be completing this. Interesting to note the lack of negative comments - I guess they are all deleted, so not very inclusive.

Cattenberg Thu 03-Jun-21 17:30:02

So if she had used the phrase “women and people who menstruate” she would have been clearer.

It’s a bit clearer, but it’s still odd and ambiguous.

Women and people who menstruate - implies that women don’t menstruate

Women and people who menstruate - implies that women aren’t people

How about, “women and trans men”?

JellySlice Thu 03-Jun-21 19:33:39

But, Cattenberg, what about NBs? And if she said “women, trans men and NBs" she would still have to say something along the lines of "who menstruate, or have menstruated, or are likely to menstruate" in order to avoid using the f-word.

What a shame there isn't a simple, universally understood, collective noun that covers all adults with female biology.

Cyw2018 Thu 03-Jun-21 19:47:26

From the menopause policy at my workplace...

"Sometimes in these sections we refer to
‘women’ – this is because the majority
of people experiencing the menopause
are women and sometimes it gets clumsy
if we try to list everyone affected every
time but please bear in mind that other
staff could be affected too!"

So it's clearly not hard to be inclusive without pissing off the vast majority of women.

TheWeeDonkey Thu 03-Jun-21 20:27:20

I see most of the comments are from people confused about if they are eligible to answer the question. If only there was a collective term for people with female biology.

Muddydoor Fri 04-Jun-21 01:44:37

I want to see which men go through the menopause if the majority of people going through it are women.

Andthenanothercupoftea Fri 04-Jun-21 06:20:33

What's really annoying is that stuff like this is why sex-based medical research is so important.

If the experiences in the thread are representative then I'm sure all women would appreciate a heads up that their period might be heavier/return so they can take relevant precautions.

However by using menstuators, how many on the pill or who have had hysterectomies or are post menopausal might not see this? Inclusive language my arse.

Also transmen (who have female biology, but probably aren't currently "menstuators" if on hormones) would appreciate it more than most, as I imagine the dysphoria from a period returning could be quite traumatic.

How about -

"We are looking into the impact of covid jabs on female biology, particularly the menstrual cycle, (including those on the pill/other hormonal medication, who have had hysterectomies or who are peri/postmenopausal)."

You could even add something like "please share with women, transmen and NB people"

sashh Fri 04-Jun-21 06:30:37

By not using the word with the legal definition ie 'woman' she is going to get information from the beetroot tampon up the bum blue haired brigade.

FannyCann Fri 04-Jun-21 06:49:42

This one of the problems with not using the word Sex in health care settings. Gender is appropriate where there is a need to know gender either to be polite and respectful or for data monitoring purposes. However many NHS computer systems are from USA and either use gender as a euphemism for sex or use it interchangeably.

I was thinking about how it adds to confusion due to having recently had dealings with someone who identifies as female. Our department referral forms ask for Sex. (male). And don't ask gender although the referrer kindly gave the information so that we would not make a faux pas.
So on other parts of the system where the question is gender, and I know they mean sex as they have used the word interchangeably not because they are asking gender as well as sex, one is left wondering how to answer. The gender is female but the information required was really sex.

It's not just annoying it means totally inaccurate information is being recorded.

PaleGreenGhost Fri 04-Jun-21 06:50:59

Exactly. There was no need for the word female to have been taken too. If it had been allowed it would have been the perfect word to use for, well, females. A biological term for occasions when it is important to group half the population by their shared biology.

Pretending that the word female means anything else leads to dangerously obfuscating and dehumanising language as with this example. The effects of this have the potential to harm all females, of any or no gender ID.

I wonder why the people pushing for this obfuscation /dehumanisation aren't concerned by the fact the terms "men" and "male" remain largely left alone?

BlueBrush Sat 05-Jun-21 08:19:33

Yes Cyw2018 and Andtheanothercupoftea. Some really good examples/suggestions of how you can be inclusive without losing clarity and without being demeaning to women.

Am I right in thinking - and I am completely happy to be challenged on this, particularly if there are any trans men or non-binary people reading - that the whole move to usage such as "menstruators" and "people with a cervix" is not really about being inclusive to trans men. I imagine this is pretty uncomfortable language if you have dysphoria. Isn't the aim really to decouple female reproductive biology from the word "woman"? I.e. It's really about prioritising the feelings of trans women over the feelings and needs of women AND trans men.

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