A friend sent me a link to a Tweet recently from CNN in a text message. Noting the source, I braced myself for what might be revealed upon clicking, knowing that this friend would only thus send something with no commentary or preamble because the content was surprising or strange. Well, the Tweet did not disappoint in this regard. Here it is, in all its glorious absurdity:
Clicking through, the story being reported was relatively straightforward and simple: the American Cancer Society has updated its guidance on human papillomavirus (HPV) testing as a means of cervical cancer screening, raising the age at which regular testing is recommended to begin from 21 to 25. I don’t think there’s anything very shocking or disturbing about this: if possibly there is, I would have to plead ignorance upon the question and leave it to gynecologists and oncologists to explain. Nonetheless, the story was shocking: because exploring some of the links, I realized that the “individuals with a cervix” language was not just some nonsensical politically-correct drivel adopted by a CNN reporter: it was taken from the American Cancer Society’s own journal article.
The paper is free online. Blandly titled, “Cervical cancer screening for individuals at average risk: 2020 guideline update from the American Cancer Society,” it does not ostensibly present as matter for great controversy or debate, much less as a place where ideology might be served up alongside science. And yet, there it is, right in the first line of the paper’s abstract: “The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that individuals with a cervix initiate cervical cancer screening at age 25 years.”
Of course, it would be pointless for someone who doesn’t have a cervix to undergo regular cervical cancer screenings; but we used to just call such people “women.” The ACS here is adopting the “Newspeak” of gender ideology and LGBT extremists, trying to be “inclusive” of “trans-men”—i.e., biological females who have “transitioned” to become male but still have cervices and are therefore susceptible to cervical cancer.
Is there really any harm in this, though? Or have these Hippocratic oath-takers become hypocrites in regard to that first principle of doing no harm? I think the second. First of all, anything that further cements and normalizes radical gender ideology and encourages more people (especially young people) to pursue the dangerous path of “transition” is problematic on its face. Secondly, though, traditionally cancer awareness campaigns have always been about being as straightforward and clear as possible, even sometimes to the point of being crass. One can think of examples from breast cancer awareness campaigns, for example, which were far from euphemistic to say the least! But what woman walks around so aware of her being “an individual with a cervix” that such language is as likely to catch her eye as, say, a headline proclaiming: “WOMEN! Pay attention!”? The fact is it is a disservice to women (to say nothing of demeaning and insulting) to refer to them as “individuals with a cervix,” because if the whole point is about letting women know what they need to do to stay healthy they should be appealed to in direct and unambiguous ways.
Unfortunately, directness and dis-ambiguity are, as the citizens of Orwell’s Oceana might say, “doubleplus uncommon” nowadays. The irony, of course, is that these “individuals with a cervix” the Cancer Society is advising are going to go for their screenings and checkups to doctors called “gynecologists”—a word coming directly from the Greek word for woman, gyne (γυνή). How long, one wonders, until this medical title is deemed ungoodspeak, and swapped for the more cumbersome “doctors to individuals with a cervix”? I’d say that seems far-fetched—but then, I’d have said the same about this story five years ago…