Out of all the productive conversations that have emerged from the Supreme Court's Roe V. Wade reversal, Bette Midler and Macy Gray taking a gender essentialist stance on outrage over abortion rights being stripped isn't one of them. The Broadway star and singer have come under fire for comments they made taking issue with inclusive language surrounding women's rights.
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"WOMEN OF THE WORLD! We are being stripped of our rights over our bodies, our lives and even of our name!" Midler tweeted. "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!"
\u201cWOMEN OF THE WORLD! We are being stripped of our rights over our bodies, our lives and even of our name! They don\u2019t call us \u201cwomen\u201d anymore; they call us \u201cbirthing people\u201d or \u201cmenstruators\u201d, and even \u201cpeople with vaginas\u201d! Don\u2019t let them erase you! Every human on earth owes you!\u201d— bettemidler (@bettemidler) 1656948480
Having been a vocal supporter and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, Midler's comments were not only surprising but disheartening for fans to see. "Really disappointed in this as a trans man and a Bette Midler fan," one person wrote. "Bette, including trans men in the conversation about reproductive health does not harm women. We have the same organs, and even greater vulnerability, as cis woman."
\u201c@BetteMidler Really disappointed in this as a trans man and a Bette Midler fan.\n\nBette, including trans men in the conversation about reproductive health does not harm women. We have the same organs, and even greater vulnerability, as cis woman.\u201d— bettemidler (@bettemidler) 1656948480
Author Roxanne Gay echoed the sentiment, pointing out on social media, "No one is trying to erase women with inclusive language about people who need abortion care. No one is calling you anything but what you prefer. You should extend that courtesy in return."
Following the initial backlash, Midler addressed the controversy by saying that there was "no intention of anything exclusionary or transphobic in what I said." She went on to reference a New York Times opinion piece that also argues the use of inclusive language is somehow resulting in the erasure of women but also pointed to her years of vocal support and activism.
She tweeted, "It was about the same old shit women – ALL WOMEN – have been putting up with since the cavemen. Even then, men got top billing. But seriously, folks, if anyone who read that tweet thinks I have anything but love for any marginalized people, go to Wikipedia and type in my name."
In the same thread, Midler went on to say, "I have always supported and adored, so be it. But the truth is, Democracy is slipping through our fingers! I’m all in on trying to save Democracy for ALL PEOPLE. We must unite, because, in case you haven’t been paying attention, divided we will definitely fall."
\u201cIt was about the same old shit women \u2013 ALL WOMEN \u2013 have been putting up with since the cavemen. Even then, men got top billing. But seriously, folks, if anyone who read that tweet thinks I have anything but love for any marginalized people, go to Wikipedia and type in my name.\u201d— bettemidler (@bettemidler) 1657065425
\u201cI have always supported and adored, so be it. \n\u00a0\nBut the truth is, Democracy is slipping through our fingers! I\u2019m all in on trying to save Democracy for ALL PEOPLE. We must unite, because, in case you haven\u2019t been paying attention, divided we will definitely fall.\u201d— bettemidler (@bettemidler) 1657065425
As highlighted by the Los Angeles Times, the rise of inclusive language in conversations about reproductive health isn't meant to be a way to dehumanize women, but has been part of a more concerted push by abortion rights advocates and organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU to make sure trans and nonbinary people aren't overlooked.
"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," the publication reported.
Along similar lines, Gray has been getting flak for asserting that you have to be born with "boobs" and a "vagina" to be a woman. During an interview with Piers Morgan (which should have been an immediate red flag), she said, "Everyone’s gonna hate me, but as a woman, just because you go change your [body] parts, doesn’t make you a woman, sorry. I know that for a fact. Like if you want me to call you a ‘her,’ I will, ‘cause that’s what you want, but that doesn’t make you a woman just ‘cause I call you a ‘her’ and just because you got a surgery."
Gray went on to clarify that she still supports trans rights, except when it comes to competing in sports, but recognized she would likely face a bit of backlash for her comments. "I don’t think you should be called transphobic just because you don’t agree with, you know," she told Morgan. "There’s a lot of judgement and throwing stones at people for just saying what it is."
As if someone had lit the TERF Bat Signal, J.K. Rowling naturally came running to show her support for Midler and Gray. The Harry Potter author who has made her transphobic stance abundantly clear through a bunch of open letters, personal essays, newsletters and even a book about a man in a dress that kills people chimed in on the conversation with a tweet supporting Gray, writing, "Today feels like a good day to ensure I’ve bought @MacyGraysLife’s entire back catalogue."
Like Midler, Gray initially responded to the outrage over her comments, telling Entertainment Tonight, "I have nothing but love for the LGBTQ+ and transgender community and have been a supporter since day one. My statement on Piers Morgan was grossly misunderstood. I don't hate anyone. I respect everyone's right to feel comfortable in their bodies and live their own truth."
However, the singer followed up that statement on social media with a more candid take. "all of you coming on my page, threatening me and calling me names," she began. "just becuz i said something you don't agree with - be whatever you wana be, and fk off."
Photo via Getty/Kevin Winter
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