Lancet editor apologises for calling women 'bodies with vaginas'

Lancet editor apologises for calling women ‘bodies with vaginas’ on medical journal’s cover

  • The Lancet has described women as ‘bodies with vaginas’ on the front page
  • Critics have accused the medical journal of sexism and dehumanising women 
  • Term initially used in an article titled ‘Periods on Display’ published this month
  • Editor Richard Horton has since apologised to readers who were offended 

The editor of a leading medical journal has apologised for describing women as ‘bodies with vaginas’ on the front page of its latest edition.   

The Lancet was accused of sexism and dehumanising women after its editors used the term, which was written in an article titled ‘Periods on Display’, on the journal’s front cover in an attempt to be inclusive to trans people. 

The medical journal’s editor-in-chief Richard Horton has since apologised to readers who were offended.

He told The Daily Telegraph: ‘I apologise to our readers who were offended by the cove quote and the use of those same words in the review.’

The article, which was published on September 1, examines an exhibition exploring the taboos and history of periods at the Vagina Museum in London and sees the writer use the word ‘women’ but also use the term ‘bodies with vaginas’.  

The quote, which was then used on the journal’s front page, read: ‘Historically, the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been neglected.’ 

However the move to display the quote on the journal’s front cover has been met with criticism, with some academics calling it ‘insulting and abusive’ and a ‘misguided pursuit of woke points’. 

Meanwhile others said they had cancelled their subscriptions with the peer-reviewed medical journal – which was founded in 1823. 

It comes just months after critics lambasted Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust after it told staff to use terms like ‘birthing parents’ and ‘human milk’ rather than referring to ‘mothers’ and ‘breast milk’. 

The Lancet used the term, which was written in an article titled ‘Periods on Display’, on the front cover of its latest edition

Richard Horton, the editor of medical journal The Lancet has apologised for describing women as ‘bodies with vaginas’ on the front page of its latest edition

Dr Madeleine Ní Dhálaigh, who works as a GP, wrote on Twitter: ‘Naming women as ‘bodies with vaginas’ is a new low, all in the misguided pursuit of woke points.   

‘You can be inclusive without being insulting and abusive. How dare you dehumanise us with a statement like this?’

While Prof David Curtis, honorary professor of genetics at University College London, said: ‘Just wrote 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

‘Absolutely inexcusable language to refer to women and girls.’

Elsewhere feminist Claire Heuchan wrote: ‘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.

‘Medical misogyny… exists – and refusing to acknowledge women perpetuates it. 

‘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.’      

Apologising for the wording used on the cover, Mr Horton, who has been the editor-in-chief of the Lancet for over 25 years, wrote in a statement: ‘I would like to thank all those who have responded to the words on this week’s Lancet cover and understand the strength of feeling it has provoked.

‘The Lancet strives for maximum inclusivity of all people in its vision for advancing health.

‘In this instance, we have conveyed the impression that we have dehumanised and marginalised women. Those who read The Lancet regularly will understand that this would never have been our intention.’ 

Mr Horton said the article was a ‘compelling call to empower women’ but he wanted to ’emphasise that transgender health is an important dimension of modern health care, but one that remains neglected’.    

Earlier this year critics lambasted Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust after it told staff to use terms like ‘birthing parents’ and ‘human milk’ rather than referring to ‘mothers’ and ‘breast milk’. 

The hospital unveiled a blizzard of ‘gender inclusive’ phrases in a drive to stamp out ‘mainstream transphobia’.

Other changes included replacing the use of the word ‘woman’ with the phrase ‘woman or person’, and the term ‘father’ with ‘parent’, ‘co-parent’ or ‘second biological parent’, depending on the circumstances. 

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust was the first in the country to formally implement such a radical overhaul for its maternity services department – which will now be known as ‘perinatal services’. 

 

Medical experts and activists accused The Lancet of sexism and dehumanising women after editors used the term

Earlier this year critics lambasted Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust after it told staff to use terms like ‘birthing parents’ and ‘human milk’

Last year law firm Clifford Chance said it was removing all mention of ‘she’ and ‘he’ from its legal documents.(Stock image)

But author and film writer Dougie Brimson and editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, was among critics to hit out at the new terminology.

Mr Brimson tweeted: ”Chestfeeding’ and ‘human milk’…. Someone within this trust is no doubt being paid a fortune to come up with this kind of utter nonsense.

‘Think about that the next time you’re whining about the #NHS being underfunded.’ 

Last year Tedx London, a volunteer-led organisation that holds regular events with TED-style talks, was left facing fierce criticism after replacing the word woman with ‘womxn’.

The organisation used the term on social media posts announcing its forthcoming programme of autumn events, and later said the word had been used because it’s ‘more inclusive and progressive’.

However, the decision sparked a swathe of negative comments, with critics saying not using the term woman was ‘misogynistic’.

The phrase is thought to have been originally devised by radical feminists who wanted a term for women that wasn’t defined by the word men. In more recent years, it’s been used as a term that includes women who aren’t cis-gender. 

In the same year law firm Clifford Chance said it was removing all mention of ‘she’ and ‘he’ from its legal documents in favour of ‘they’. 

MailOnline has contacted The Lancet for comment.

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