Twitch kicked off Women’s History Month this March by stepping into hot water and quickly backtracking. The live video streaming platform introduced a new policy on Monday to replace its use of women with “womxn,” a term initially coined in the 1970s with the intention of linguistically distinguishing women from men — and one LGBTQ+ critics were swift to point out is othering to trans people, rather than more inclusive. The misstep became another example of corporate virtue signaling gone sideways, and indicated the muddy waters around so-called feminist language coopted by TERFs to exclude trans and nonbinary people.
“Join us in celebrating and supporting all the Womxn creating their own worlds, building their communities, and leading the way on Twitch,” the Amazon-owned company wrote on Twitter Monday. After LGBTQ+ users criticized the move, calling the company’s use of the term misguided. Twitch posted an apology hours later.
“We originally wanted to use a word that acknowledges the shortcoming of gender-binary language,” the company wrote. “Our good intentions don’t always equate to positive impact, but we’re committed to growing from these experiences, doing better, and ensuring we’re inclusive to all.”
Womxn’s spelling “stems from a longstanding objection to the word woman as it comes from man,” Dr Clara Bradbury-Rance, fellow at King’s College London, told the BBC in 2018. It was also originally meant to be more inclusive of trans and non-binary people, similar to the term “Latinx,” another term intended to allow for gender variation that has drawn criticism of its own.
More recently, TERFs have seized on the term womxn expressly to distinguish themselves from those who are not cis women. As many critics also pointed out in response to Twitch, the use of any special term other than simply “women” inherently implies difference and otherness. “We would generally just write women in the usual way because we feel it’s important for people to recognise that trans women are women,” Jennie Kermode, chair of Trans Media Watch, a British organization committed to improving trans representation in media, told the BBC. “Trans women aren’t a special, separate category.”