Bette Midler called out for tweeting antitrans concerns about the word 'women'

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NEW YORK, NY — 9/26/19: Bette Midler, who has a role in the upcoming Netflix series "The Politician" produced by Ryan Murphy, stands for a portrait on Thursday, September 26, 2019 in New York City. (PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL NAGLE / FOR THE TIMES)
Bette Midler in September 2019. (Michael Nagle / For The Times)

Bette Midler became the center of a heated debate after tweeting a message for the "women of the world" about the inclusive language used when discussing reproductive healthcare.

The actor and singer, who is known for being active and vocal on Twitter, took to social media on Monday to express her ire that "women" are seemingly no longer called "women."

"We are being stripped of our rights over our bodies, our lives and even of our name!" tweeted Midler. "They don’t call us 'women' anymore; they call us 'birthing people' or 'menstruators', and even 'people with vaginas'! Don’t let them erase you! Every human on earth owes you!"

Although Midler did not specify exactly who she meant by "they," it appears to include anyone who uses inclusive language such as "pregnant people" or "patients seeking abortions" in conversations around reproductive rights. Responses from those denouncing Midler's assessment of the use of such language was swift.

"Derry Girls" actor Siobhán McSweeney succinctly responded, "This isnt true," while "RuPaul's Drag Race U.K." alum Crystal explained, "The fight for women’s rights INCLUDES trans people — trans rights do not erode women’s rights."

"We’re all fighting this together and this trans-exclusionary rhetoric does NOTHING to help that," tweeted Crystal. "Bette Midler is a woman. Some other people who give birth are not women. That’s ok!"

Professor and author Chanda Prescod-Weinstein tweeted that Midler's assertion is "heartbreaking" because "The point of the anti-choice movement is to try and control the bodies of people assigned female at birth, including trans men, and force gender identities and gender roles on *all* of us.

"Cis women have nothing to lose and everything to gain by acknowledging the links between the anti-abortion movement and transphobia, which are all about attacking bodily autonomy in support of patriarchal supremacy," Prescod-Weinstein added.

Abortion rights advocates and organizations including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union have moved toward using more inclusive and accurate language around reproductive healthcare to recognize that trans and nonbinary people also seek such care. Organizations such as the Trans Journalists Assn. have noted that "it is important to remember that people who are not women do get pregnant and do get abortions" in their best practices on language used in news coverage.

Some of those opposing the use of inclusive language argue that phrases such as "pregnant people" exclude women because the word "women" is not used or that it reduces people to their biology, with some insinuating this "erasure" is just as egregious as denying people their reproductive rights.

Others who also expressed their support of Midler's comments include those who push for antitrans language and policies because they believe a person's sex assigned at birth is the only thing that matters.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.