University accused of ‘replacing women’ after smear test study invited ‘people with cervixes’

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The wording by researchers in Manchester left activists fearing the exclusion of women by the use of ‘highly-politicised language’

University accused of ‘replacing women’ after smear test study invited ‘people with cervixes’

Manchester University has been accused of “replacing women” by inviting “people with cervixes” to take part in a study about smear tests.

Researchers from the university’s Division of Cancer Sciences urged people to take part in the study exploring “opinions on cervical screening” and the possibility of a self-service test in the future.

However, the wording has left feminist and LGB activists fearing that women are being excluded by the use of “highly-politicised language”. 

Milli Hill, a leading childbirth author and self-described “champion of female biology”, called it “lunacy”, saying: “Example after example gets sent to me where the word women gets replaced and it’s not in there at all.”

The LGB Alliance campaign group said they feared some people could misinterpret the wording, which could lead to them being prevented from accessing “medical treatment that could well save their lives”.

Meanwhile, free speech champions have accused the researchers of “siding with trans rights activists” to the detriment of the university’s biologically female students. 

Senior Obstetrics and Gynaecology Trainee Dr Jen Davies-Oliveira is leading the research with Professor Emma Crosbie.

Manchester Uni advert
The advert that was posted by researchers that has worried feminist and LGB activists CREDIT: Triangle News

The Manchester University PhD student, who identifies as she/her, wrote in a Twitter post: “Are you aged 18+, identify as #LGBTQIA+ and have a cervix?

“Researchers [at Manchester University] want to know your opinions on cervical screening and the possibility of a self-test in the future.”

A poster attached to Dr Davies-Oliveira’s tweet read: “Do you have a cervix? Are you part of the LGBTQIA+ community? Help us!

“Only two in three people attend a cervical screening. In the LGBTQIA+ community even fewer attend.

“Not attending screening increases the risk of cervical cancer.”

In the declaration of interest form for the research, it is also stated: “The study aims to find out what people from the LGBTQIA+ community feel about alternative self-sampling methods for cervical screening.”

Ms Hill told The Telegraph that the study’s wording was another example of “erasing the word woman and mother from day-to-day language”.  

The Positive Birth Movement founder said: “Language is malleable and alive and not fixed so if you keep changing a word and replacing it with a different word then we will lose that word and the word will fade.

“The other sense in which this is powerful is that it’s allowing an ideological belief to take hold – that women are being called a person with a cervix – because that’s being driven by an ideology that wants to replace biological sex with the nebulous concept of gender identity.”

‘Cervical cancer affects women and women alone’

Kate Barker, managing director of advocacy group the LGB Alliance, said: “Meaning matters, and never more so than in a medical context.

“Cervical cancer affects women and women alone, and many students (especially those from overseas) may not realise that they are ‘people with cervixes’.

“This is yet another example of highly-politicised language that actively excludes people and potentially prevents them from accessing medical treatment that could well save their lives.”

Toby Young of the Free Speech Union added: “Manchester University probably thinks of this language as neutral since it’s inclusive of both women and men with cervixes.

“But in allowing for the possibility that men can have cervixes, Manchester is siding with trans rights activists against gender-critical feminists since that’s precisely the issue they disagree about.

“So the question is, why is Manchester taking the side of a tiny minority of political activists, a majority of whom are men, and not their female students, who make up more than half the student population?”

It is understood that a research project operating out of the university issued the survey, rather than the University of Manchester directly.

The Manchester Cancer Research Centre at the university declined to comment regarding the study. 

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