The Lancet medical journal has been accused of sexism after describing women as “bodies with vaginas” on the cover of its latest edition.
A tweet of the front page prompted a wave of criticism, with academics cancelling subscriptions and resigning as reviewers, doctors condemning the phrase as “dehumanising” and activists suggesting the term was “unhelpful” for broader debates about inclusivity.
The cover refers to an article, titled “Periods on Display”, that reviews an exhibition at London’s Vagina Museum on the history of menstruation. The writer refers to “women” four times in the piece, but uses the phrase “bodies with vaginas” once.
It is a quote including this latter phrase that The Lancet’s editors chose to use on the front page. “Historically, the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been neglected,” it says.
While the language seems to be an attempt at inclusivity, it has prompted a backlash, with some academics suggesting they will never work with the journal again.
“Just wrote [to] The Lancet to tell them to take me off their list of statistical reviewers and cancel my subscription and never contact me about anything ever again,” Prof David Curtis, a retired psychiatrist and honorary professor of genetics at University College London, wrote on Twitter.
“Absolutely inexcusable language to refer to women and girls.”
Dr Madeleine Ní Dhálaigh, a GP, added: “You can be inclusive without being insulting and abusive. How dare you dehumanise us with a statement like this?”
Others suggested that the journal has double standards, flagging a Twitter post on September 20 in which it referred to the 10 million “men” living with prostate cancer and pointing out they have never seen it use the phrase “bodies with penises”.
Dr Katie Paddock, a lecturer in education psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “Considering, as the replies highlight, that The Lancet has recently published work on prostates and refers to men, I don’t think the decision to use ‘bodies with vaginas’ is an attempt at inclusive language.”
Women Make Glasgow, a campaign group, said it had logged a formal complaint “about the dehumanising and straight up sexist cover story”.
Claire Heuchan, a feminist blogger, called the term “utterly shameful and totally regressive”. “This framing makes it sound like a coincidence that ‘bodies with vaginas’ have been neglected by medicine, as if it were not the product of a discrimination and oppression specific to the female sex,” she said on Twitter. “Until [the Lancet starts] writing about ‘bodies with penises’, dehumanising and neglecting research specific to men, I’m going to call this erasure out for what it is: sexism.”
There were also concerns that the language undermined inclusivity amid increasingly toxic debates on gender. “There is absolutely a conversation to be had about trans-inclusive language, but ‘bodies with vaginas’ is not the one and doesn’t do women, trans men or non-binary people any favours,” Sarah Graham, a freelance health journalist covering medical biases, said.
She wrote on Twitter: “It IS possible to be inclusive AND accurate AND acknowledge medical misogyny (& transphobia) all at once, without reducing anyone to their anatomy.”
The Lancet has not responded to requests for comment.
Most Viewed in World
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article