Are we women or are we menstruators?

Planned Parenthood, as you may know, is the largest single provider of reproductive health services in the United States. The non-profit defines itself as “leading the reproductive health and rights movement,” and has supported millions and millions of women, over the past century, in accessing pregnancy tests, contraceptives, sex education, STD tests, abortions, and more. But do they know how women’s reproductive systems work?

Recent actions leave us guessing.

On September 2nd, Planned Parenthood tweeted, “Menstruators in New York started to #TweetTheReceipt celebrating the repealed tampon tax — but some are still charged.”

Many were left wondering what a “menstruator” was — previous to this, we’d all simply referred to each other as “women.” But it seems that Planned Parenthood’s social media intern is not the only one confused about the fact that literally only female bodies are capable of menstruating.

Marie Solis, a writer for Mic responded to the immediate push back from women, angered at having been reduced, essentially, to bleeders, by explaining, “Not everyone who menstruates is a woman! @PPact is using ‘menstruators’ to be inclusive.”

Inclusive of whom, you might ask? Solis responds, “‘Menstruators’ is meant to include trans men, for example, who may still menstruate.”

Conundrumy! How is it possible for a human being — trans or not — to menstruate if they do not, in fact, have ovaries and a uterus? Well, hold on to your hats, folks — the answer is: it’s not possible. Every single person who menstruates has a female body. Does this make you feel uncomfortable? Apparently it makes Planned Parenthood uncomfortable, which is odd, as they, of all people, should understand these basic facts about women’s bodies, as experts and educators on the very topic of women’s bodies.

Despite the fact that numerous women were kind enough to remind Planned Parenthood that it was ok to acknowledge that women’s bodies are real things that exist and are different from men’s bodies, the non-profit was back at it again the very next day, tweeting, “Purvi Patel has been released from prison, but people continue to be criminalized for their pregnancy outcomes.”

Who are these “people” who “continue to be criminalized for their pregnancy outcomes,” you might also ask. Has a man ever, in all of history, been criminalized for his pregnancy outcome? The answer, of course, is no. That has literally never happened. Purvi Patel was jailed because she has a female body, and that female body, once pregnant, miscarried. Apparently, punishing women based on the way their pregnancies end is ever-popular in the U.S., as well as in many other countries. This practice has put countless women’s lives in danger and contributes to our ongoing marginalization, but hey, no need to acknowledge this reality as a gendered one. Women’s rights are people’s rights, after all.

Oh wait, that’s not right.

You see, the reason patriarchy exists is because men decided they wanted control over women’s sexual and reproductive capacities. Not people’s sexual and reproductive capacities — women’s. Sexual subordination is a gendered phenomenon, no matter how you identify, and for an organization that exists to advocate on behalf of women — due to their female biology (you know, the thing that placed them, whether or not they chose it or like it, within an oppressed class of people) — to erase that is unconscionable.

A woman is an adult female human — it really is as simple as that. And understanding how that reality is at the root of our ongoing oppression under patriarchy is one thing that is not up for debate.

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.