At the beginning of this month, Twitch, the game streaming platform, released a video via a Tweet celebrating their female users during Women’s History Month. Their use of ‘womxn’, instead of ‘women/an’, stirred up backlash over twitter with many finding the word opposite of inclusive.
The wording was used to include transgender and non-binary people under an umbrella term as a positive step towards inclusivity, but instead did the reverse with many Tweets saying that “Trans women are women” and “There’s a perfectly good word that includes trans and cis women. It’s just ‘women’. Thanks”.
Since the Tweet, Twitch have apologised, stating that “While we originally wanted to use a word that acknowledges the shortcoming of gender-binary language, after hearing directly from you, including the members of the LGBTQIA+ community on Twitch, we will be using the spelling ‘women’ moving forward.
We’re still learning. Our intentions don’t always equate to positive impact, but we’re committed to growing from those experiences, doing better, and ensuring we’re inclusive to all.”
This isn’t the first time a company has had to apologise for using ‘womxn’. Back in 2018, The Wellcome Collection – a museum and library in London – used the word in a Tweet promoting an event. They received backlash over social media and in return apologised alongside creating a new Tweet with the word ‘woman’ instead.
Even though ‘womxn’ has been used in seemingly positive circumstances, especially by intersectional feminists, it doesn’t come without its controversy. Having been coined from around 2010, the BBC say it “stems from a longstanding objection to the word woman as it comes from man, and the linguistic roots of the word mean that it really does come from the word man”. In short, dropping the ‘man’ gives independence to women and patriarchal linguistic normalities.
There’s a possibility it could be getting confused or entwined with the spelling ‘womyn’ which was adopted in 1975 by feminists to demonstrate their independence from men. It is associated with a radical feminist festival called Wolf Creek Womyn’s Festival, which later became WoLF Fest, which has the policy: “womyn-born-womyn”. In doing so, this excludes the transgender community, and the spelling has since become associated with feminists who do not view trans women as women (a TERF – a trans-exclusionary radical feminist).
Whilst ‘womxn’ has been used to create a sense of inclusivity for brands targeting their consumers, social media has shown that it is becoming a negative term. Twitch failed to do their research, and in doing so, potentially offended their consumers. Ultimately they apologised but, like many other brands, they have shown that they are learning how to interact with the ever changing world.
Twitch’s latest push for the visibility (and inclusivity) of female gamers has been unveiled with the launch of the Twitch Women’s Alliance. Sexism has become the ‘norm’ with some women gamers receiving sexist messages from male viewers whilst streaming. Let’s hope Twitch will address that in the future with their drive to grow women creators on their platform.
What are your thoughts on the use of womxn?