The Problem with Calling Women Girls

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March 24, 2017 by Rua Lupa

Mayim Bialik posted the following video that women are widely applauding, but some women, and a lot of men, are perplexed and dismissive about what Mayim addresses.


Having shared this video I received some of those responses. A common one goes along these lines,

“…guys call other guys “boys” or “the boys” or “the guys” all the time…”

Yet, do men refer to someone in a crowd or in an office is as “boy”? “That boy over there.” “Ask the boy behind the counter.” It is not used in the same way. This sort of men calling each other “boys” or “the boys/guys.” is typically only used among friends or from parents whose children and their child’s friends are now grown. It is a term of endearment, and like most terms of endearment, using it on strangers is obnoxious and rude.

Another point was made that shows the overlap of this issue – ageism.

One person commented that they say, “”the kid” until they’re older than me and then I say “the man”; women I typically would say “the girl” until they’re older than me, and then “the woman”…”

And how many people do you know appreciate some stranger referring to you as a kid or boy when you are in your 20’s and up? I believe I can comfortably say not many. I never did, and many people I know don’t like it either. The only people I and most people tolerate it from is from parents, because we are their kid. Otherwise it is terribly belittling, and it is far more common for women to be talked to and about this way than for men. The first part of the video explains why that is not a good thing in clear way. There really is no excuse for calling an adult a child, it is ageist at the very least, and if you only do it to women, its sexist.

A few men were adamant about it not being a big deal and that a confident woman should just let it slide. Normally, when I encounter this kind of ageism and sexism, I merely eye roll and carry on, especially as I mostly directly hear it from elderly people who are pretty set in their ways. But it is prevalent and does convey a subconscious hierarchical standard of treatment. My experience growing up was that you only really started being called a woman once you were married or a seen as a spinster = value according to relationship with men.

Our words have more influence than we often like to acknowledge, especially if we are using them and are not intending the consequence that is pointed out to us. If we want a society that treats everyone as equals, then lets speak that way too. By insisting to continue speaking this way about others after having it being pointed out, it is willfully choosing to not treat people as equals.

 

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