“Did you hear?” I see on Twitter, or hear at a party, on the breakfast radio show, on the news coming out of the UK every day, “they’re trying to get us to stop calling pregnant women mothers! They’re trying to cancel motherhood!” And I sigh and think, I should really do a comic about that, when I feel brave enough.

That’s this comic.

Changing the language you use when you’re talking about pregnancy and giving birth is easy – if you want an example, just read back through the How Baby archives! I started making this comic in 2014, before inclusive language had really caught on, but while I was already clearly struggling with gendered language and the expectations thereof. If a comic about motherhood can start using inclusive language, anyone can!

Mother isn’t a dirty word. I put a lot of work into earning an uneasy peace with the word, and also because motherhood – raising a kid while being largely read as a woman, whether I like it or not – is a key facet of who I am and my role as a parent, and how I move through and interact with the world.

One of the recurring themes of How Baby is the inherent tension of that experience, of how being a mother is a mask that becomes the only thing other people see in you. Everything people expect people who’ve given birth to be – natural, feminine strength, earthy, goddess-like, gentle, patient, organic, self-sacrificing, a woman, ultimately consumed by this powerful, fateful role – is projected on that mask, blocking out everything the person underneath actually is.

Inclusive language doesn’t exclude anyone, and it doesn’t disrespect the powerful, sacred, necessary, often thankless work of motherhood. It only opens up the conversation – and the support – to people who are doing the same work but under a different name.

It’s wild to hear the argument that inclusive language “erases” motherhood, or whatever the transphobes are saying these days. It’s right there in the word. Sure, there are times when you’re only talking about women, but on the whole? If you’re talking about people experiencing pregnancy-adjacent things? Inclusive language is almost always better.

So, that’s my piece. I’m just adding my voice to the chorus asking for more deliberate language, and sending this comic out into the world – maybe it’ll help someone in your life understand, too.

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