What do you think about the use of the word “girl”?
Over the years, I’ve had some pretty strong opinions about words used to describe, explain and categorize women.
Recently, I watched a video from Mayim Bialik (Amy Farrah Fowler on Big Bang Theory) where she went on a bit of a rant about women being called “girls”. She felt it was a term for female children and it implied that women were inferior to men.
I had to chuckle because she reminded me of me back in the day.
Two thoughts have been playing in my mind since I realized I can no longer be on that bandwagon.
- Do we perhaps have more words for the male gender than the female? Men, gentlemen, fellas, guys, gents, chaps, dudes, lads, mates… (vs) women, ladies, miss, gals, dames, lass
- Have we women spent such a lot of time and energy dispensing with all terms gender-specific that we no longer have terms or words? Or that we now get bent out of shape when men don’t have words either and resort to whatever comes naturally.
Looking at my list of words for males, I dislike the word ‘guys’ because it is used too often as a form of address for groups of men and women and I’m not a guy. ‘Chaps’, ‘lads’ and ‘mates’ are all rather British sounding and feel funny coming out of my mouth. ‘Dudes’ is a little too ‘gansta’. Personally, I find ‘gents’ and ‘fellas’ my most common term of address and reference for men and have had no one complain to date.
From the list of words for females ‘women’ is probably the most obvious; ‘ladies’ seems a reference to ‘the fairer sex’, possibly more delicate than I’ve ever been; ‘miss’ suggests young; ‘gals’ works for me but is it too close to ‘girls’ for Mayim?; ‘dames’ sounds like a 40s gangster movie; and ‘lass’ is the British equivalent of ‘lads’.
So what’s a person to do? Is it the old story that blondes can tell blonde jokes but others can’t? gays can exaggerate limp wrists and straights can’t? Jamaicans can do Rasta and the rest of us can’t? Because I certainly address my women friends as ‘Girls’ when we’re in a group. I tease a female friend by calling her ‘girlfriend’. ‘Girls’ so often rolls of the tongue so much easier (and certainly more affectionately) than ‘womanfriend’ or ‘my female friends’ or ‘women I know’.
While I’m ruminating about this subject, it has also occurred to me that I grew up with brothers and they were always “the boys”. They still are even though they are nearing 70 – no insult meant. I can only presume the same might be true of families with several girls.
At some point in time (say I from the comfort of my advanced years) I think we need to put less emphasis on the words (except for some, of course) and more emphasis on how they are said. And… there are other terms for both women and men currently in common usage that I find much more derogatory and belittling that need to be addressed.