Washington Post ditches “pregnant women” for “pregnant people”

April 13, 2022 • 12:00 pm

As I’ve always said, I don’t mind using whatever pronouns someone wants to be known by, but the buck stops for me when transgender women are considered as full biological women—and by that I mean women who produce (or have the potential to produce) large and immobile gametes. It’s not the word “woman” I object to; it’s the implicit conflation of biological women with transsexual women in every possible way: the equation of biological women with biological males who consider their gender to be female and may or may not take action to change their bodies. (I don’t care if they “transition” physically or not; I’ll be glad to use their pronouns.)

In this case, however, the gender transition is reversed: the Post uses “people” instead of “women” because they are catering to the other class of transsexuals: biological women who transition to the male gender—”transmen”. For this group the saying is “transmen are men.” Since transmen can get pregnant if they retain their female organs, but are prohibited from being called  “women”, then they are lumped together with biological women as simply “pregnant people”.

Ergo, the Washington Post has caved to this tendency by issuing the following headline (mentioned in the latest Substack column on Bari Weiss’s site); click to read:

In her piece about feminism at Weiss’s site, Zoe Strimpel said this:

“Pregnant people at much higher risk of breakthrough Covid,” The Washington Post recently declared. This was in keeping with the newspaper’s official new language policy: “If we say pregnant women, we exclude those who are transgender and nonbinary.”

That is explicitly obeisance of the mantra “trans men are men”, which is correct in terms of moral or legal treatment, but isn’t biologically true. In fact, the word “woman” appears only once in the article:

The researchers measured the risk by analyzing the records of pairs of fully vaccinated patients from the same part of the country. In each pair, one patient had the condition that was being measured, and the other did not. The patients were not matched by age, and the pregnant people could have been matched in the analysis with a man or a woman.

Why are they even admitting that there’s a dichotomy between men and women? (Indeed, there must be, for the very concept of “transsexual women” recognizes that there are classes of “men” and “women”.)  But of course there is a dichotomy—biologically. For all practical purposes, biological sex is a binary. The words “pregnant people“, however, appear six times. They can’t say “women” because transsexual men can sometimes get pregnant, and trans activists consider that this is the case of a man getting pregnant.

As I said, I’m happy to recognize someone’s self-assignment of gender, but I’m not willing to say that a transsexual male is a “man” in the biological sense—and getting pregnant is something that only biological women can do.  If this continues, so that language is tweaked to conform to the wishes of “progressive” activists, will we eventually lose the words “man” and “woman” altogether? Why not, if the Post‘s policy be sensible? It’s no wonder that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was reluctant to answer the question “What is a woman?” (She punted, but I think she should have answered as I would have, drawing a distinction between women as a biological class and women as a gender group).

I was sent the Post link by a woman reader who had enough of the paper when she read this headline and of the Post’s new policy. As she wrote me:

I knew my subscription to the Post could only last so long once I was forced to cancel the New York Times, and this is it. I told them if women don’t exist, neither do I–and if I don’t exist, I can’t possibly subscribe to The Washington Post.
LOL! It’s a good reason.

60 thoughts on “Washington Post ditches “pregnant women” for “pregnant people”

  1. So bizarre

    At least it makes it clear how consequential language is. It isn’t just words all strung together, … I mean, that’s the fundamental idea, right? Use a different word, it fixes everything?

  2. …[ adding to currently invisible comment ]

    … and words can be interpreted, literally I argue, as a form of music. McWhorter alludes to this occasionally. Music sung out loud to an audience – we want music to express feelings, emotion, etc. That’s the clearest I can make of it.

    1. The Woke use words, sentences, paragraphs, and monographs as if they were magical spells, so much hocus-pocus.

      1. Except that if you are working a spell, the correct words matter. So these woke idiots aren’t going to get the correct results with their magic, either. Magical thinking doesn’t produce magical results, you have to work with nature & reality. Ask any WISE WOMAN.

  3. In the UK, there’s a new campaign “Respect my Sex if you want my X” in which women are threatening to not vote for political parties that cannot/will not recognise the existence and rights of (biological) women.

    1. Oops, I meant to add that the erasure of women through phrases like “pregnant people” is exactly the kind of nonsense that inspired the campaign’s foundation.

      1. What about the whole notion of addressing anyone as “pregnant”/”with child”/etc.?

        Maybe it is Bad to say ANYONE is pregnant (facetious)!… actually, isn’t that a modern trend?..,

      2. OK

        The thing I hesitated to write is – and I’m not sure if this is sarcastic, satirical, half-serious, and to what end, or what :

        All pregnant people are victims of Y chromosomes!

        Bizarre, maybe. But I mean to press on how this language play helps true victims of male abuse – a serious problem.

  4. … the mantra “trans women are women” (or “trans men are men”), which is correct in terms of moral or legal treatment, but isn’t biologically true, …

    In the majority of situations, nowadays, it doesn’t really matter whether someone is a man or a woman. In such situations, it isn’t so much true that “trans women are women”, it’s more that it doesn’t matter who is a woman.

    But, are there situations where it does matter whether someone is biologically male or biologically female, and “trans women are women” is actually true?

    1. Well, by definition, Coel, that can never be true. But it comes closest in sexuality.

      When I, as an XY-unmutilated, self-styled trans woman who is (still) sexually attracted to women, and therefore identifies as lesbian, want to intimidate an XX-lesbian into having sex with me, I need it to be true that I am really a woman, because then I can accuse her of homophobia specifically and hostility to women generally when she refuses my advances (as she will.) Vilifying her as a woman-hating homophobe inflicts more damage on her in her lesbian-feminist Twitter community than merely calling her a transphobe, because most XX-lesbians nowadays are cheerfully transphobic anyway. However the trans goons have much more lurid and colourful hate messages in their repertoire, so a good dose of both is in order if my goal is to induce a fragile young XX-woman still working out her sexuality to commit suicide. In that scenario, trans women are a special class of women entitled to multiple avenues to express hate.

      If, on the other hand, I was always attracted to men but was too homophobic to ever come out as gay, after “affirming” my heterosexual female identify I can now go looking without cognitive dissonance for (very) open-minded male partners. To sustain the suspension of disbelief, it may be necessary for both me and my sexual partner to believe that I am truly a woman…with a penis. Or perhaps in a perfectly blessed union, neither of us cares at all.

    2. That’s the origin of the conflict between gender critical feminists and trans-activists. Feminists have taken us a long way towards abolishing traditional gender roles in society because they pigeon hole women and press them, but without gender roles, the only thing left to define women as a class is biology and everything that stems from that. Trans activists need to reinforce gender roles because they can’t be actual women and gender roles are all that’s left.

  5. I still think Life of Brian had it right:

    LORETTA: It’s my right as a man.
    JUDITH: Well, why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?
    LORETTA: I want to have babies.
    REG: You want to have babies?!
    LORETTA: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.
    REG: But… you can’t have babies.
    LORETTA: Don’t you oppress me.
    REG: I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb! — Where’s the fetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!
    LORETTA: [crying]
    JUDITH: Here! I– I’ve got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can’t actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody’s fault, not even the Romans’, but that he can have the right to have babies.
    FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.
    REG: What’s the point?
    FRANCIS: What?
    REG: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can’t have babies?!
    FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.
    REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.

    The issue is that Progressives demand we join them in their struggle.

    1. Indeed. So-called self-ID is a misnomer – the aim is for everyone else in the world to recognise that new gender identity.

  6. With all due respect, I think Dr. Coyne has this a bit backward. The WaPo is not catering to biological men who identify as women. They are catering to biological women who identify as men or non-binary. Such persons often still have female reproductive parts and so can become pregnant, but referring to “pregnant women” would exclude them.

    1. Which is exactly why I see no problem with the Post’s new language policy. It isn’t denying biological realities, it’s just affirming people’s preferred gender pronouns.

      Oh noes! I’ve become woke! 😉

      1. It is denying biological realities because transgender women, who are biological men can’t get pregnant. It is catering to the very small number of transgender men who can get pregnant, and how many people have to have such a preference before we go changing language? 1 person? 0.5% of the population? Please let me know. Are you now prepared to eliminate “women” from your vocabulary completely? Please let me know that, too.

        I have no problem, as a matter of civility, using someone’s personal pronouns in front of them. I do have an issue with wholesale changes in language to accommodate very small minorities who make demands that language be changed wholesale, and in general.

  7. This is what happens when you let people have their way with language.

    Trans women aren’t women. Trans women are trans women. Either stick to that, or you learn exactly what the adage “give them an inch and they take a mile” means.

    Which is why it’s increasingly common to find deluded people arguing that trans women are actually female.

  8. Until the day that it’s technologically possible for a person to be pregnant without being born with a uterus, ‘woman’ is a perfectly appropriate term to use. Everything else is just labels and word games.

    Emergency: the planet is burning!

    1. For now, culture wars trump climate change. For whatever reason, the threat of climate change gets obscured as not important. I can see how the Ukrainian invasion gets more coverage than climate change, but culture wars and culture concerns like Will Smith’s slap seem to take all the oxygen from other, more pressing issues.

      1. Of the Big Deals you mention, only climate change is a collective-action problem. By definition it has no solution, especially since China and India have finally shown their cards at COP26 as being not interested in helping, choosing instead to pursue their own interests, unrestrainable by the rest of the world. Since problems that have no solution are not really problems, just facts of life, it doesn’t take much to push climate change off the front pages. The fact that you will someday die doesn’t command much of your attention, I wager.

        Climate change is now a newsworthy topic only insofar as it enables a political climate for profitable subsidy-harvesting. In Canada, making progress on emissions (despite never having been able to heretofore and now in a world hungry for Canadian energy) is necessary for the Prime Minister’s exit strategy into a UN sinecure but this is a parochial issue that needn’t concern anyone else.

        1. Damn, I’m sure glad you’re not in charge when it comes to climate change. I don’t mind contrarians, which I’ve gathered is your schtick, but when it comes to climate change, you’re surrender is sad. Where would science be if it took your stance “Since problems that have no solution are not really problems, just facts of life…” I think we’d be stymied with many problems that were deemed “facts of life”.

          1. So what’s your solution to make China and India agree to net-zero by 2050, since they have said they aren’t going to try? (And neither is anywhere in Africa.) And why should they, since one of the reasons they are planning to build many different types of energy systems, including coal-fired, is because we want them to keep manufacturing so much of our stuff for us, including car batteries and solar panels, stuff that used to be manufactured in North America and Europe? And they want to electrify their own rural peasantry, too.

            No one is “in charge” when it comes to climate change. That’s what it means to be a collective-action problem. Those fishing boat captains who, in the interests of sustainability, take fewer fish from a common fishery are played for fools by their competitors who augment their own unsustainable catches with the fish the virtuous ones left behind. The fishery collapses despite the altruistic actions of the virtuous captains.
            Collective-action problems can be solved only when there is an all-powerful sovereign “in charge” who can impose and enforce restraint on all the fishermen using licences and quotas within a zone (e.g. a 200-mile economic zone) over which the sovereign has recognized authority to stop, search and arrest violators.

            Such does not exist for greenhouse gasses. There is no cost for announced intent not to comply at all and there is no cost for cheating/failing to meet targets, which are only self-proclaimed anyway. But there are very steep national costs for compliance, both absolutely and relative to the cheating countries. There is no requirement to even disclose to its citizens how, exactly, a country proposes to meet its voluntary targets and how much it all might cost. The implication is that there ought to be no upper limit to what we would pay to prevent Climate Armageddon but everyone knows that can’t possibly be true, as in acceptable to the voting publics. Hence the targets are imaginary numbers pulled out of the air with no serious intent to meet them, except through the arbitrage of off-shoring your high-emitting (and polluting) heavy manufacturing to China, as Europe has done.

            Climate change is not fundamentally a scientific problem, like figuring out how to use insulin to treat diabetes (100 years ago this month.) Climate science is pretty much settled, at least to my non-technical satisfaction, other than shrinking the error bars. Despite the incentives for groupthink and ideological capture, I am willing to believe the scientists have not succumbed. Rather, it’s a public policy problem in a world where the costs are immediate but the benefits uncertain and remote in both time and place, and where the whole effort hurts only yourself if you can’t compel the cheaters to play by your rules. That makes it insoluble, not the science.

            I like this website because climate change hardly ever comes up. I promise to do my best to keep it that way.

  9. The word “woman” was used so sparingly in the WaPo article because its approved spelling is now “womxn”. In like manner, there will soon be “mxndarin oranges”, large houses called “mxnsions”, and an old Gaelic language called “Mxnx”. Words, including pronouns, are the truest reality, as we are constantly taught by Progressive scholars in the Humxnities Faculty.

    . Could it be that the creators of “Life of Brian” in 1979 were actually time-travelers from the future? Has anyone checked records to see if Graham Chapmxn, John Cleese, and the rest of the Pythons just mysteriously appeared when they did, with no prior records in the 20th century?

  10. Does it help when cis heterosexual couples insist on saying things like “We are pregnant”? No, Buddy. You are not pregnant. Your wife is pregnant. Until you can carry the fetus in your own body, chill with that “we” business.
    As for transmen, as someone pointed out earlier, it is possible for a transman to be pregnant if he still has female reproductive organs & genitalia.

      1. The only time I can imagine finding that locution even passingly tolerable is in making the initial announcement to the paternal grandparents.

      1. I bloody can and will. My son has just announced that his partner is pregnant. She is delighted to be a ‘mother-to-be’, and all three generations of both our families are proud to call her that!

  11. As I’ve noted before, why is it predominantly words that pertain to women that are continuously updated when there are just as many trans men I’m sure? Why are the products used by men not changed for people instead of “for men”? Why is this never in the news? Why are companies not changing those things? Like “Gillette, the best a person can get”. Why not that? Or why aren’t we seeing prostate issues in “Person’s health” instead of “men’s health”? Why isn’t there a big deal made about that?

    1. Absolutely, Diana. “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” as James Brown (or more likely Betty Jean Newsome) noted.

    2. I don’t know if the MacPherson rule is named after you; I suspect it applies here somehow. Expressions such as “parent” (for specifically mother), “pregnant people”, “people who have a cervix” and “chest feeding” all have the effect of diminishing what I will somewhat glibly call the status of women, in the service of some other, higher cause.

      (None of these references is made up; I’ve seen them all in print.)

      Whereas if we referred to “people who have beards to shave”, or “people-scaping” or “people with prostates”, XY-men would feel they are being talked down to. They would rumble to the idea that the company was trying to include XY-trans “women” in their target market and this would be a status-diminishing turn-off for most men. So it’s only men who have beards, hair-covered scrotums, and prostates for commercial purposes.

      I also think in the larger world of trans accommodation and acceptance, it is women who are expected to do all of the accommodating and accepting, at the cost to their status as women. Men can pretty much ignore the whole thing, unless we have a daughter on a swim team or a child who’s been caught up in the cult. Not just in the obvious much-discussed case of XYs who identify as women*, but also in XXs who self-affirm as men. Most begin as lesbian women and even after transitioning, their social supports are mostly lesbian women who indulge them as that idealized sort of man who doesn’t have a penis or a violence-prone body that has gone through male puberty. (In the two cases I know of, their cis-female lesbian partners have stayed with them.)
      Trans-men do not generally attempt to gain admittance to the world of men — they really can’t pass, for the same reasons their female friends accept them — and so it is left to the women in their lives to accommodate and nurture them, too.
      ———————–

      * If an XY-trans lesbian grabs an affirmative-action quota spot at work by ticking 3 boxes, what is that to me? As an XY-cis straight guy I was excluded from the position anyway. It’s the women at the firm who just got screwed, not the men.

  12. Looks like the Washington Post has been doing it for a while, as one can see by going to their web site and searching for the term “pregnant people.” Examples date back at least to December 2020. Also, the original research paper linked in the WaPo article ALSO avoids the word “women,” referring to “pregnant individuals.” On another topic, I’m curious to know how many pregnancies in the sample were actually pregnant trans men as opposed to pregnant biological females. Although the sample was very large (221,290 “pregnant people”), I suspect the number of trans males in this sample was tiny. The proportion of the US population that is transgender (of either sex) is small–about 0.5% (±) (e.g. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5227946/), but only the biological females in this group can get pregnant, and female-born trans people are less common than male-born trans people (by about a 2:1 ratio)(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6626314/). And only a minority of trans men get pregnant. So all this language policing directly affects a minuscule number of actual people who are pregnant and might not want to be called a “woman.”

  13. What are we to do when “pregnant person” comes to mean “pregnant woman” in our common consciousness? Person of Pregnancy? People with Fetus? The Inseminated?

  14. This is GREAT FOOD for the GoP. This kind of nonsense is their bread and butter. It is (like the NRA’s success) an example to the “minority rule” at play – where an intransient, intolerant minority can move the whole system despite its tiny numbers. (See Nassim Taleb’s excellent work in this)

    Herein, today at WEIT, I’m officially coming out as “Look-at-me”. And you’d BETTER respect my self ID or you’re a bigot.

    click click*
    D.A.
    NYC
    *This is my pronoun. It is the Kalahari clicks, NOT the colonialist transphobic Natal/KwaZulu clicks. DO NOT DEADCLICK ME!
    🙂

  15. One thing seems abundantly clear: Viruses don’t care about gender politics, and they never will; they are subject solely to the laws of physics/biology. In some ways, this makes me prefer them to people.

  16. The U.S. government has agreed to allow people to identify as X on their passports rather than male or female. This will end badly, as in someone overseas is gonna need emergency uterine surgery and deny he has a uterus.

  17. What we call things
    What things look like

    There is an effect on the mind, reading/seeing a word on a daily basis – seeing a thing on a daily basis – as a matter of experience.

    A transformed gender would, it seems to me, need such a daily repeating of, say, “male” or “female” as it appears on, say, legal documents like a driver’s/other license.

    By extension, the media one reads on a daily basis would also, probably, have an effect. So such individuals might find better results in, say, WaPo now – whether it is distorted for others or not.

  18. And isn’t it also a serious concern that the Washington Post is likely to be misrepresenting the content of the study? The study that is linked to appears to be a meta-study, evaluating data reported out in various vaccine efficacy studies that themselves most likely reported only “women” and “men”. A little further digging seems to turn up studies that show that women are more likely than men to have breakthrough infections. So the pregnancy part may be a complete or partial red herring: it may be that they simply found that women (including pregnant ones) are more likely to have breakthrough infections. (Note that the study the WaPo is reporting on itself was not peer-reviewed, and is posted to a website archive. I’m not sure whether it’s ethical to be reporting on such studies, as a matter of science journalism, and I’m certainly not sure whether it’s ethical for the WaPo to change the descriptors of the subjects of the study, as that is potentially misreporting the populations actually studied.)

    1. If that study has not been peer-reviewed and published, it’s extremely unethical for any paper to report on it as if the results were vetted by other scientists. If that’s the case here, you can ignore the paper until it’s get published. Back in the old days, scientists weren’t even allowed to divulge the contents of their own papers until they were published.

  19. “I knew my subscription to the Post could only last so long once I was forced to cancel the New York Times, and this is it. I told them if women don’t exist, neither do I–and if I don’t exist, I can’t possibly subscribe to The Washington Post.”

    Jennifer Finlay Boylan in her last regular NYT opinion piece:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/09/opinion/trans-queer-rights.html?searchResultPosition=1

    She assails J.K. Rowling for her Twitter “screed” about women but but can’t be bothered to quote one word of it.

    She says, “But the world contains all sorts of miracles: the wombat and the seahorse and the night-blooming cereus.”

    Perhaps she is employing literary license in her use of the word “miracle.” I see nothing miraculous in the Wikipedia entry on the night-blooming cereus. Same for the wombat. She thinks that the male seahorse gives birth? It seems mouth-brooding fish are not all that rare? That it is a pouch instead of a mouth makes all the critical miraculous difference?

  20. How many women that transed to men actually caught covid while pregnant? It has to be at least one to justify that headline. The article does not mention such a case to eist.

    Actually, for a woman to want to be a man , transition to a male, and then get pregnant sounds as the pinnacle of idiocy to me.

  21. It’s from October last year, but the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has insisted that it will be continuing to refer to women in its materials, saying that “If we cannot clearly articulate that it is predominantly women, rather than people at large, who are affected by this, we will find it much harder to dismantle a framework that today is still underpinned by sexism.” https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/womens_rights/4370437-pregnancy-charity-bpas-rejects-pressure-to-stop-using-the-word-woman

  22. I’ve got it :

    The identity button.

    You set your preferences, then when you pull up a WaPo article, they let you hit your identity button and a script automatically changes all harmful words to cotton candy.

    You’re welcome, WaPo.

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