SHE is one of the world's most popular authors, perhaps best known for her classic novel, The Handmaid's Tale. But Margaret Atwood has found herself in an online firestorm for seeming to support the word ‘woman’.


What’s happening?

The 81-year-old Canadian author and poet, whose first novel, The Edible Woman, was published in 1969, posted a link on her Twitter page to an article in the Toronto Star newspaper online, headed, "Why can't we say 'woman' anymore?”


So she made no comment herself?

Not as such, she simply linked to the piece by the paper’s columnist, Rosie DiManno, which essentially calls for the word “woman" to be supported and protected.


What does the article stay?

Quotes include: “‘Woman’ is in danger of becoming a dirty word…struck from the lexicon of officialdom, eradicated from medical vocabulary and expunged from conversation…There’s more than a whiff of misogyny to it.” It adds: “Why ‘woman’ the no-speak word and not ‘man?’ Why not ‘persons who urinate standing up…?’ Certainly there are words - they are slurs mostly - that are no longer acceptable. ‘Woman’ shouldn’t be one of them.’”


And what happened to Atwood?

Her post sparked a backlash from many, with comments including, “Heartbreaking to see someone with a vast imagination and stellar language skills failing to use both. I guess it’s easy to dismiss the…affected people when you don’t care about them” and “Please don’t give aid and comfort to transphobes”. Another wrote: “Might as well say that NASA referring to ‘crewed spaceflights’ instead of ‘manned spaceflights’ erases men somehow.”



As usual in Twitterland, opinion was split. One of her two million followers said: “I’m so glad you tweeted this. I know you’re getting stick for it but it matters that you tweeted it. As someone who has been asking this question for a while I am so very glad you are now asking it too.”


Atwood is regarded as a feminist writer?

An example would be the over-riding message of her novel, The Handmaid's Tale - published in 1985 and now a hit TV series starring Elizabeth Moss - which is that political control of women's bodies and reproduction is wrong. 


Did Atwood respond online?

Referencing a remark saying “Ugh, not you too,” Atwood said of the DiManno article: “Read her piece. She’s not a TERF.”



A ‘trans exclusionary radical feminist’. Harry Potter author JK Rowling has also been branded a TERF after responding to an online article last year that included the phrase “people who menstruate” by saying: "'People who menstruate'. I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?'"


It comes…

….just days after a Scottish Government information campaign designed to encourage a higher uptake of smear tests failed to include the word “woman” and instead said "people" were "urged to attend” stating "cervical screening is offered to anyone with a cervix aged between 25 and 64."