Why CNN’s ‘Individuals With A Cervix’ Controversy Matters

On July 30, CNN’s official Twitter account ran a story about cervical cancer with the accompanying tweet saying, “Individuals with a cervix are now recommended to start cervical cancers screening at 25 and continue through age 65, with HPV testing every five years as the preferred method of testing, according to a new guideline released by the American Cancer Society.”

The reaction to the framing ranged from disgust to mockery. It was seen as the latest example that women are being de-womanized in the name of social justice and fun was had at CNN’s expense through things such as #CervixASong.

In response CNN communications head Matt Dornic fired back on Twitter, “Imagine feeling so threatened by inclusivity that you’re compelled to write a story bashing another organization for practicing it” and “I’m sorry it’s so upsetting for some of you to acknowledge the existence of transgender men and women. I mean that seriously. It’s very sad.”

Expect, the problem is not that people refuse “to acknowledge the existence of transgender men and women,” but that the definition of transphobia keeps shifting.

Not that long ago just about everybody agreed that sex and gender were synonyms. Sex was the technical term used in the legal, medical, and academic world and gender was the G-rated euphemism for people who, for one reason or another, think that constant use of the word “sex” should be discouraged in polite society.

Recently, as transgender-related issues have become more present in political and cultural discourse, there has been a push to say that sex and gender are separate things. Sex is binary and tied to biology, you are either male or female, but gender is a spectrum. You could be a biological male, but your sense of self leads you to identify as a woman and traditional concepts of femininity, but since you are still a biological man the adjective “trans” gets added before the noun “woman” to differentiate the two and vice versa.

One can debate which interpretation of gender is correct, but under either one, there is nothing that could be considered transphobic about the response to CNN’s tweet.

The cervix is part of the female sex, it is not part of male sex. Synonyms for female include girl and woman. In other words, only woman have cervixes. Even according to the movement’s own logic, saying female and transgender-man are not synonyms should not be a problem.

What CNN and Dornic did was to blow through the “sex is different from gender” argument into a new “anyone can have a [insert sex-specific body part here]” one and to say otherwise is exclusive and exclusiveness is by definition morally wrong. What was considered woke five minutes ago is now insufficiently woke. And they’re not alone in this.

This is important because for a lot of people, including Dornic apparently, one’s wokeness and one’s standing as a moral individual are directly related. But, if the definition keeps changing, nobody, not even the woke can keep up. And they hurt their own cause by promoting such silliness because every three year old can tell you that mommy has different body parts than daddy and no amount of world play can change that.




Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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Alex Christy

Alex Christy

Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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