Law School Discussion

Off-Topic Area => General Off-Topic Board => Topic started by: CTL on February 20, 2009, 04:49:09 AM

Title: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: CTL on February 20, 2009, 04:49:09 AM
I was thinking that I have a habit of referring to males of my age (mid-20s) as 'guys' and females of my age as 'girls'.  Now, I understand that there might be feminist issues raised here, but referring to a peer as a 'woman' sounds weird (so does referring to a peer as a 'man', mind you). 

What do you guys think of this habit?  Should I change my ways?  Will I eventually reach a point in my life where I can consider peers 'men' and 'women'?  Is this sexist?
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: non parata est on February 20, 2009, 05:35:42 AM
I had this habit for a long time myself.  I think it stems largely from the alliteration in "guys and girls," rather than from a sexist mindset.  All the same, I've been trying to stop saying "girls" for the most part, and I'm at the point now where "women" almost comes more naturally.

Meh.  I'm not sure it's as sexist as some will say, but it's still probably a good idea (and probably more respectful) to try to drop "girls."
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: .......... on February 20, 2009, 05:54:56 AM
I've become more aware of this lately.  I think it's best to get in the habit of saying "woman".  You can definitely make the feminist argument that "girl" infantilizes women bringing them to a lower status.  I think that's true to a point, but not the motivation behind most people's use of the word.  For males we have the words "boy", "guy", and "man".  For some reason we switch over to using "guy" instead of "boy", but we don't do the same for females.  I suppose "gal" is the equivalent of "guy", but it sounds so old fashioned.  I only hear older people use.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 20, 2009, 06:02:03 AM
I have things to say about this later
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: CTL on February 20, 2009, 06:07:37 AM
It seems like a big problem is the formality of calling someone a 'man' or a 'woman'.  Calling a peer of mine a 'woman' or a 'man' just sounds weird.  I mean, I know we are women and men, but it seems too formal...
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: archival on February 20, 2009, 06:32:12 AM
Should I change my ways? 

Yes.

Quote
Will I eventually reach a point in my life where I can consider peers 'men' and 'women'? 

Yes.

Quote
Is this sexist?

Yes.

I have things to say about this later

 :)
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: CTL on February 20, 2009, 06:41:06 AM
Should I change my ways? 

Yes.

Quote
Will I eventually reach a point in my life where I can consider peers 'men' and 'women'? 

Yes.

Quote
Is this sexist?

Yes.

I have things to say about this later

 :)


I guess I should have posed the questions in such a way that they would elicit more nuanced responses. ;)  Would you elaborate on your opinions?
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Matthies on February 20, 2009, 07:19:27 AM
I have things to say about this later

This is no way suprises me.

I just try to use nonloaded terms for everyone: bitchess, hos, honey, you people etc.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 20, 2009, 07:34:41 AM
I have things to say about this later

This is no way suprises me.



I just try to use nonloaded terms for everyone: bitchess, hos, honey, you people etc.

180.

But seriously, I have the same issue. I don't feel old enough to be called a "man," so it feels weird calling females of the same age women, the only other choice is "girl" which is also not age appropriate. Guy is also a littly juvinille, it makes me think of frat boys...

Honestly though, I think it's really just habit, I've never used man or woman up till now, so it's hard to start. I just have to try to change my ways.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: CTL on February 20, 2009, 07:39:29 AM
What is the appropriate way to refer to a group of mixed gender in the plural 'you'? 

You ____?  Guys?  All?  People?  Folks? 

Language is important, but it seems like political considerations have to be weighed against communicative function.   
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 20, 2009, 07:52:38 AM
What is the appropriate way to refer to a group of mixed gender in the plural 'you'?  

You ____?  Guys?  All?  People?  Folks?  

Language is important, but it seems like political considerations have to be weighed against communicative function.  

This is actually a well dialectal difference. It depends on where you're from. West Cost American English (pretty much the standard, THANKS HOLLYWOOD!) uses "you guys" as the informal second person plural, people in other areas use y'all (all y'all in some instances), youse (youse guys), etc. It all stems from a dislike of the second person singular in English, it is mildly insulting simply because of its directness, so people avoid using it. That's actually why we stopped using thou, it became a serious put down to "thou" someone, so everyone stopped. Unfortunately, when the plural form "you" becomes too widespread as the singular form, it gradually shifts to the insulting singular and we have to create a new plural. Thus the shifts: you -> y'all -> all y'all / ->youse -> youse guys, where "y'all/youse" in, some dialects, is the new singular

Just remember, in formal English, the plural is still "you," at least in writing. In speaking, "you guys" seems to have become the standard, "guys" having been extended to a non-gendered descriptor.

Also, political considerations are an important communicative function, being able to communicate the proper level of insult to your barroom opponent is vital, I think.

ETA: The examples you cited, with the exception of guys, would all create an insulting level of distance betweeen you and your audience. Think of the stereotyped response of the angry black man to "you people."
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: archival on February 20, 2009, 07:56:47 AM
What is the appropriate way to refer to a group of mixed gender in the plural 'you'? 

Y'all.

Would you elaborate on your opinions?

No.

Seriously.  I'm close to 40.  It's entirely inappropriate for me to refer to my peers as girls and boys unless I'm being cutsie or comically grody.  And it sounds condescending for me to do so even if the folks I'm referring to (like some of my classmates) still refer to themselves as girls or guys.  I don't care if you're barely 21; if you're in a class with me or if we're working together I will refer to you as a man or a woman.  ETA: Or sometimes fella or dude.

I do recall getting weird reactions from some folks in my early 20s when I referred to peers as "women" or "men" because they assumed I meant somebody much older.  That eventually stops.  I'd say somewhere around mid-20s, depending on your peer group.

And I have nothing more to say about the sexism aspect.  I've never been very good at breaking down the obvious.  It's not a very helpful trait for law school purposes, lemme tell you.  :)
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: CTL on February 20, 2009, 08:01:39 AM
What is the appropriate way to refer to a group of mixed gender in the plural 'you'? 

Y'all.

Would you elaborate on your opinions?

No.

Seriously.  I'm close to 40.  It's entirely inappropriate for me to refer to my peers as girls and boys unless I'm being cutsie or comically grody.  And it sounds condescending for me to do so even if the folks I'm referring to (like some of my classmates) still refer to themselves as girls or guys.  I don't care if you're barely 21; if you're in a class with me or if we're working together I will refer to you as a man or a woman.  ETA: Or sometimes fella or dude.

I do recall getting weird reactions from some folks in my early 20s when I referred to peers as "women" or "men" because they assumed I meant somebody much older.  That eventually stops.  I'd say somewhere around mid-20s, depending on your peer group.

And I have nothing more to say about the sexism aspect.  I've never been very good at breaking down the obvious.  It's not a very helpful trait for law school purposes, lemme tell you.  :)

Hehe, no worries.  I'm just trying to start a discussion.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Matthies on February 20, 2009, 08:15:18 AM
What is the appropriate way to refer to a group of mixed gender in the plural 'you'? 

You ____?  Guys?  All?  People?  Folks? 

Language is important, but it seems like political considerations have to be weighed against communicative function.   

See above "You people" this is espically effective if the group is a diffrent race than you
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: mbw on February 20, 2009, 08:31:16 AM
What is the appropriate way to refer to a group of mixed gender in the plural 'you'? 

Y'all.

Even as an extreme Northern yankee, I find this to be a very effective adoption of Southern-eese.

Would you elaborate on your opinions?

No.

Seriously.  I'm close to 40.  It's entirely inappropriate for me to refer to my peers as girls and boys unless I'm being cutsie or comically grody.  And it sounds condescending for me to do so even if the folks I'm referring to (like some of my classmates) still refer to themselves as girls or guys.  I don't care if you're barely 21; if you're in a class with me or if we're working together I will refer to you as a man or a woman.  ETA: Or sometimes fella or dude.

I do recall getting weird reactions from some folks in my early 20s when I referred to peers as "women" or "men" because they assumed I meant somebody much older.  That eventually stops.  I'd say somewhere around mid-20s, depending on your peer group.

And I have nothing more to say about the sexism aspect.  I've never been very good at breaking down the obvious.  It's not a very helpful trait for law school purposes, lemme tell you.  :)

I agree completely.  Look, it really isn't all that hard to use man/woman.  When I was a kid, African-Americans were referred to as Blacks, then Afro-Americans, and yet I would be hard pressed to ever refer to someone (without their expressing a different preference) as anything other than African-American.  Same thing going from Oriental to Asian.  Once you start using the phrase consistently, you just adopt it naturally.

Of course, there are flexible situations - I replied to two of my women friends on FB this morning with a "thanks, guys".  I will often refer to groups of mixed, or even all women groups, as guys.  It is pretty non-gender-specific for me, and in fact suits my preference that distinguishing gender in language, in and of itself, can lead to subconscious bias.

ETA: [/gender anthro-speak]
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 20, 2009, 08:34:03 AM
guy really has extended a great deal. It's not uncommon where I live to hear people say "hey, guy" to people of both sexes.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: archival on February 20, 2009, 08:38:01 AM
Hehe, no worries.  I'm just trying to start a discussion.

Well it's a good habit to start referring to your peers as grownups.  To a lot of people my age (and somewhat younger), it sounds really, really young to hear folks refer to women as "girls."  ETA: So you end up sounding like the teenaged coffee-fetching intern instead of a colleague worthy of respect.  Not a fantastic impression, but not a huge deal after all.

It may also strike many people--but certainly not everybody--as sexist.  Not in some alarmingly offensive or career-damaging way, but in a "huh this person isn't particularly thoughtful" way.  Which is not an impression you want to give to people you work with, for the most part.  And I wouldn't count on being able to shift back and forth between what you use depending on the age of the person you're talking to.  In my experience, lots of people (especially fellas) in their early 20s aren't very good at discerning when somebody's closer to 30 (or 40) than 20. 

Once you start using the phrase consistently, you just adopt it naturally.

Zactly.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Private David Lewis on February 20, 2009, 08:40:13 AM
I will continue to use masculine pronouns when referring to an indeterminate sex; however, I try not to refer to women in their twenties as "girls." 
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 20, 2009, 08:43:29 AM
in most contexts "they" is the new preferred pronoun for indeterminate sex.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: archival on February 20, 2009, 08:48:09 AM
I will continue to use masculine pronouns when referring to an indeterminate sex;

"Indeterminate"?  :D
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 20, 2009, 08:50:37 AM


I have things to say about this later

 :)


 :)!


I have things to say about this later

This is no way suprises me.


 :P

-

So, I agree with Archival. Who's surprised?! I also agree with mbw for the most part, except I'm not a fan of "you guys." I catch myself using it, but I try not to do it because, even though a lot of people think of the phrase as ungendered and use it as if it is, I find it problematic to use what were/are male pronouns as a default.

So, here's the deal. Using a word that describes female children to refer to female adults is generally insulting and arguably sexist. If you don't use the same construct for men too, it is absolutely sexist...and calling groups of males "guys" is not the same. Women still struggle to be taken seriously in and out of schools, the workplace, etc., and using language that undermines that is seriously problematic. If I'm going to be honest, I probably do it sometimes, but I make a concerted effort not to.

I'm almost 26, and I have a hard time thinking of myself as a woman (it's getting easier with practice...but saying that I'm almost 26 isn't...), but you better believe that if someone I worked with or someone who wasn't a close friend referred to me as a girl in the way that you're discussing I would fall somewhere between mildly annoyed and seriously pissed on the "how humorless is this feminist today?" scale. I don't generaully have a problem with a female friend talking about going out with "the girls," or other similar usage, but other than that...no (I usually use ladies in that context or when addressing a group of women, not girls [ETA: which may have its own baggage. language is hard]).

My general rules of thumb are:

1. Don't use gendered language when it isn't relevant or necessary. If you're talking about a group of people and it doesn't matter one way or the other whether they're male or female, you don't need to use gendered language. This can be awkward/difficult at first, but it gets easier.

2. If you must use gendered language, do so respectfully. Using childish pronouns is not respectful.

With respect to the ease of communication issue...that's pure laziness, imo. It may be awkward at first to change your speech patterns, but that's simply because it's not what you're used to. Get used to using more respectful terminology, and it will feel natural. That's all there is to it.

I will continue to use masculine pronouns when referring to an indeterminate sex; however, I try not to refer to women in their twenties as "girls." 

@#!* you.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Private David Lewis on February 20, 2009, 08:51:16 AM
in most contexts "they" is the new preferred pronoun for indeterminate sex.

Hah, OK. 
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: mbw on February 20, 2009, 08:59:59 AM

So, I agree with Archival. Who's surprised?! I also agree with mbw for the most part, except I'm not a fan of "you guys." I catch myself using it, but I try not to do it because, even though a lot of people think of the phrase as ungendered and use it as if it is, I find it problematic to use what were/are male pronouns as a default.

I completely understand (and I hope, fully appreciate) this, and try and do better.  Part of the problem, I think, is that I come a much less patriarchal culture, and so language, even engendered language (and my language is very, VERY engendered grammatically) does not carry the baggage that it does in Western (and probably Eastern) culture.  But I try and make it a habit to fight these battles for all my sisters.   :)
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 20, 2009, 09:05:05 AM


I completely understand (and I hope, fully appreciate) this, and try and do better.  Part of the problem, I think, is that I come a much less patriarchal culture, and so language, even engendered language (and my language is very, VERY engendered grammatically) does not carry the baggage that it does in Western (and probably Eastern) culture.  But I try and make it a habit to fight these battles for all my sisters.   :)

Totes! I mean, I did it just this morning with my high schoolers (who are supposed to call me Ms. Cadysson, but I couldn't take it, so they call me by my first name). It's a hard one, and I think there's definitely an argument that "you guys" has passed out of gendered-land moreso than a lot of other phrases. That one doesn't really get my goat all that much (on the HHITF scale, the highest it gets me is mildly annoyed)
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 20, 2009, 09:18:59 AM
SBA, I agree with you on the gendered language issues, but it's hard to remove historical artifacts from language. You guys has certainly passed out of the genered relm, for example, I really doubt that even at women's philosophy conference (maybe not at a feminist conference but...) you would have to listen very long to hear "you guys," it's just so wide spread and almost totally grammaticallized (it has no real meaning other than 2p.pl.)

Calling women girls is insulting, just as it would be to call men boys. But there is a gap between ages here. People used to use the term "youths" to refer to males between boyhood and manhood, now we use guys. The equivalent female term would probably be "maiden" and I really don't think that's appropriate. Instead, we substitute a sort of secondary meaning for girls, meaning between girlhood and womanhood. so guy ~ girl in that sense. But I agree it's not perfect, and still has a lot of flaws.

I think a lot of that "girls' night"/"boys' night" stuff is really down to denigrative inclusiveness: by insulting yourself along with everyone else you (one?) create a sort of special group where you feel safe enough to insult yourself. So I think that kind of language is also sort of another issue.

The real question is: how do you refer to your waitstaff?

ETA: wow, I sound like a valleygirl "sort of... so i think... sort of... " yuck, I guess I need to edit my posts better.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: CTL on February 20, 2009, 09:23:35 AM
SBA, I agree with you on the gendered language issues, but it's hard to remove historical artifacts from language. You guys has certainly passed out of the genered relm, for example, I really doubt that even at women's philosophy conference (maybe not at a feminist conference but...) you would have to listen very long to hear "you guys," it's just so wide spread and almost totally grammaticallized (it has no real meaning other than 2p.pl.)

Calling women girls is insulting, just as it would be to call men boys. But there is a gap between ages here. People used to use the term "youths" to refer to males between boyhood and manhood, now we use guys. The equivalent female term would probably be "maiden" and I really don't think that's appropriate. Instead, we substitute a sort of secondary meaning for girls, meaning between girlhood and womanhood. so guy ~ girl in that sense. But I agree it's not perfect, and still has a lot of flaws.

I think a lot of that "girls' night"/"boys' night" stuff is really down to denigrative inclusiveness: by insulting yourself along with everyone else you (one?) create a sort of special group where you feel safe enough to insult yourself. So I think that kind of language is also sort of another issue.

The real question is: how do you refer to your waitstaff?

Garcon (pronounced gar-kon), but only when accompanied by an impatient finger snapping.  I do this to female waiters as well, because I don't understand French. 
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: CTL on February 20, 2009, 09:29:25 AM
SBA, I agree with you on the gendered language issues, but it's hard to remove historical artifacts from language. You guys has certainly passed out of the genered relm, for example, I really doubt that even at women's philosophy conference (maybe not at a feminist conference but...) you would have to listen very long to hear "you guys," it's just so wide spread and almost totally grammaticallized (it has no real meaning other than 2p.pl.)

Calling women girls is insulting, just as it would be to call men boys. But there is a gap between ages here. People used to use the term "youths" to refer to males between boyhood and manhood, now we use guys. The equivalent female term would probably be "maiden" and I really don't think that's appropriate. Instead, we substitute a sort of secondary meaning for girls, meaning between girlhood and womanhood. so guy ~ girl in that sense. But I agree it's not perfect, and still has a lot of flaws.

I think a lot of that "girls' night"/"boys' night" stuff is really down to denigrative inclusiveness: by insulting yourself along with everyone else you (one?) create a sort of special group where you feel safe enough to insult yourself. So I think that kind of language is also sort of another issue.

The real question is: how do you refer to your waitstaff?

In whatever way won't end with "foreign matter" in my food.

Garcon (pronounced gar-kon), but only when accompanied by an impatient finger snapping.  I do this to female waiters as well, because I don't understand French. 

This is not it.

Hah..but seriously, I've witnessed the above far too often (with people just stopping short of saying garcon..).
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: archival on February 20, 2009, 09:32:44 AM
Garcon (pronounced gar-kon), but only when accompanied by an impatient finger snapping.  I do this to female waiters as well, because I don't understand French. 

I like this.  But it'd be better if you pronounced it gar-koh, with a really nasal "o" at the end.  For to be more authentic, see.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 20, 2009, 09:34:04 AM
lol
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 20, 2009, 09:41:25 AM
I don't really agree with your analysis of the guy-girl rough equivalency. Whether or not what you propose is the case (I don't know the I'm qualified to comment one way or the other on its accuracy), the fact of the matter is that women have been and continue to be infantalized in many different ways, and referring to an adult female with the same word you would use to refer to a female child perpetuates that. Even if it isn't intended to do so, as you acknowledge, it is seriously flawed, so whatever arguments you have for why we do it aren't really germane to the question of if we should do it.

SBA, I agree with you on the gendered language issues, but it's hard to remove historical artifacts from language. You guys has certainly passed out of the genered relm, for example, I really doubt that even at women's philosophy conference (maybe not at a feminist conference but...) you would have to listen very long to hear "you guys," it's just so wide spread and almost totally grammaticallized (it has no real meaning other than 2p.pl.)


This is irrelevant to my point. As I have explicitly acknowledged, this isn't my biggest issue, and I agree that it has passed out of the gendered realm to a greater extent than many other phrases. That doesn't mean that I can't be opposed to it from the position that making male pronouns a default is inherently problematic...and that is my argument. This ties into another, larger argument about the ways that we understand maleness to be a default and femaleness to be Other. Whether I say "you guys," or object to other people saying it, isn't the most important aspect of the argument, but it's part of the general issue. Perhaps I didn't make that aspect of my objection explicit; it should be explicit now.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 20, 2009, 09:56:42 AM
I don't really agree with your analysis of the guy-girl rough equivalency. Whether or not what you propose is the case (I don't know the I'm qualified to comment one way or the other on its accuracy), the fact of the matter is that women have been and continue to be infantalized in many different ways, and referring to an adult female with the same word you would use to refer to a female child perpetuates that. Even if it isn't intended to do so, as you acknowledge, it is seriously flawed, so whatever arguments you have for why we do it aren't really germane to the question of if we should do it.

SBA, I agree with you on the gendered language issues, but it's hard to remove historical artifacts from language. You guys has certainly passed out of the genered relm, for example, I really doubt that even at women's philosophy conference (maybe not at a feminist conference but...) you would have to listen very long to hear "you guys," it's just so wide spread and almost totally grammaticallized (it has no real meaning other than 2p.pl.)


This is irrelevant to my point. As I have explicitly acknowledged, this isn't my biggest issue, and I agree that it has passed out of the gendered realm to a greater extent than many other phrases. That doesn't mean that I can't be opposed to it from the position that making male pronouns a default is inherently problematic...and that is my argument. This ties into another, larger argument about the ways that we understand maleness to be a default and femaleness to be Other. Whether I say "you guys," or object to other people saying it, isn't the most important aspect of the argument, but it's part of the general issue. Perhaps I didn't make that aspect of my objection explicit; it should be explicit now.


Which is really interesting considering that whole (xx/xy) thing.

I guess my issue, SBA, is that I am a fairly practical person, and the things you object to don't seem to have solutions. And truth be told, the reason I tried to think about why we use those words the way we do is that it IS germane to understand what the word MEANS when it is used, I give you the example:
(http://6.media.bustedtees.com/bustedtees/mf/2/3/bustedtees.ef270fa215d10509c3fd5a7396959940.gif)
Mostly, that was just for fun, but I think you see my point.

When I refer to the person making my coffee at starbucks as a girl, I don't mean a six year-old, I mean someone too young to really call a woman (indeed I imagine most people that age would look at me weird if I called them a woman), I think everyone would be able to tell from context which usage I mean, so confusion is not an issue.

So while I agree with you that there are some issues with applying the word in that way, since clearly some people take offense, which is not what I want,  I just don't see anyway to communicate the same information as efficiently without being insulting in some other way. (and frankly you're not offering one).

How do I differentiate in my everyday conversation between a 20 year-old woman and a 60 year-old woman?
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Matthies on February 20, 2009, 10:01:56 AM
I don't really agree with your analysis of the guy-girl rough equivalency. Whether or not what you propose is the case (I don't know the I'm qualified to comment one way or the other on its accuracy), the fact of the matter is that women have been and continue to be infantalized in many different ways, and referring to an adult female with the same word you would use to refer to a female child perpetuates that. Even if it isn't intended to do so, as you acknowledge, it is seriously flawed, so whatever arguments you have for why we do it aren't really germane to the question of if we should do it.

SBA, I agree with you on the gendered language issues, but it's hard to remove historical artifacts from language. You guys has certainly passed out of the genered relm, for example, I really doubt that even at women's philosophy conference (maybe not at a feminist conference but...) you would have to listen very long to hear "you guys," it's just so wide spread and almost totally grammaticallized (it has no real meaning other than 2p.pl.)


This is irrelevant to my point. As I have explicitly acknowledged, this isn't my biggest issue, and I agree that it has passed out of the gendered realm to a greater extent than many other phrases. That doesn't mean that I can't be opposed to it from the position that making male pronouns a default is inherently problematic...and that is my argument. This ties into another, larger argument about the ways that we understand maleness to be a default and femaleness to be Other. Whether I say "you guys," or object to other people saying it, isn't the most important aspect of the argument, but it's part of the general issue. Perhaps I didn't make that aspect of my objection explicit; it should be explicit now.




How do I differentiate in my everyday conversation between a 20 year-old woman and a 60 year-old woman?

Simple, on bangability, ones bangable, the other not. This is a simple, non sexist, mature, adult way to look at the womenz
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: CTL on February 20, 2009, 10:02:12 AM
Young woman?
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 20, 2009, 10:03:39 AM
Young woman?

WAY TOO FORMAL, in conversations where I would use the word "guy" people would be insulted if I started using young woman.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: 'blueskies on February 20, 2009, 10:04:41 AM
Lady? Or young lady?
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Jamie Stringer on February 20, 2009, 10:04:44 AM

How do I differentiate in my everyday conversation between a 20 year-old woman and a 60 year-old woman?

"Young woman" or "older woman?"

Not that I'm judging because I use "girl" and "boy" all the time (as I mentioned before).  Not "boy" in the sense of "Come here, boy!" and with all the denotations that come along with that.  Really more like "This girl told me..." or "There's a cute boy that works at Starbucks." 

But I do avoid saying "You guys" so maybe I'm not a lost cause ;D
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 20, 2009, 10:04:55 AM
Fortunately, most of us (except MA, young'un) are at an age where we really need to start using man and woman, so this conversation is really academic.

isn't it?
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Jamie Stringer on February 20, 2009, 10:06:30 AM
Fortunately, most of us (except MA, young'un) are at an age where we really need to start using man and woman, so this conversation is really academic.

isn't it?

LMFAO!

My dear, I'm pretty sure I'm older than you!
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: CTL on February 20, 2009, 10:17:26 AM
meh.  adolescence generally ends at 30.  or with children.  whichever.

I've got six years or until I get someone pregnant?  What a Friday! 
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 20, 2009, 10:18:27 AM
Which is really interesting considering that whole (xx/xy) thing.

I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to here. The othering issue?

Quote
I guess my issue, SBA, is that I am a fairly practical person, and the things you object to don't seem to have solutions. And truth be told, the reason I tried to think about why we use those words the way we do is that it IS germane to understand what the word MEANS when it is used, I give you the example:
[image removed for aesthetic purposes]
Mostly, that was just for fun, but I think you see my point.

When I refer to the person making my coffee at starbucks as a girl, I don't mean a six year-old, I mean someone too young to really call a woman (indeed I imagine most people that age would look at me weird if I called them a woman), I think everyone would be able to tell from context which usage I mean, so confusion is not an issue.

So while I agree with you that there are some issues with applying the word in that way, since clearly some people take offense, which is not what I want,  I just don't see anyway to communicate the same information as efficiently without being insulting in some other way. (and frankly you're not offering one).

How do I differentiate in my everyday conversation between a 20 year-old woman and a 60 year-old woman?

Why do you need a specific word to differentiate between a 20 year old and a 60 year old? If it actually matters, then you can and almost certainly will make it clear in other ways than calling the younger woman a girl. As I said above, clinging to a problematic usage because it's easy and efficient is laziness, pure and simple.

With respect to the germaneness argument...I say that it doesn't really matter to my point because I'm starting from the position that it does do things that are problematic and offensive to some people, which I think you've agreed with. If that's the case, it doesn't really matter to me where it came from. It's really just not what I'm concerned with.

And I am offering a solution: avoid gendered language when it's irrelevant, and err on the side of adult language when it's questionable where a person fits in. It certainly isn't a perfect solution, and nothing will be...language is complicated and full of baggage. But we can make choices that are better than others.

Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 20, 2009, 10:56:40 AM
Fortunately, most of us (except MA, young'un) are at an age where we really need to start using man and woman, so this conversation is really academic.

isn't it?

LMFAO!

My dear, I'm pretty sure I'm older than you!





Sorry, that was HB ;) I get all these beautiful people 'tars mixed up... ::)





Which is really interesting considering that whole (xx/xy) thing.

I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to here. The othering issue?

Quote
I guess my issue, SBA, is that I am a fairly practical person, and the things you object to don't seem to have solutions. And truth be told, the reason I tried to think about why we use those words the way we do is that it IS germane to understand what the word MEANS when it is used, I give you the example:
[image removed for aesthetic purposes]
Mostly, that was just for fun, but I think you see my point.

How do I differentiate in my everyday conversation between a 20 year-old woman and a 60 year-old woman?

Why do you need a specific word to differentiate between a 20 year old and a 60 year old? If it actually matters, then you can and almost certainly will make it clear in other ways than calling the younger woman a girl. As I said above, clinging to a problematic usage because it's easy and efficient is laziness, pure and simple.

With respect to the germaneness argument...I say that it doesn't really matter to my point because I'm starting from the position that it does do things that are problematic and offensive to some people, which I think you've agreed with. If that's the case, it doesn't really matter to me where it came from. It's really just not what I'm concerned with.

And I am offering a solution: avoid gendered language when it's irrelevant, and err on the side of adult language when it's questionable where a person fits in. It certainly isn't a perfect solution, and nothing will be...language is complicated and full of baggage. But we can make choices that are better than others.



SBA I think we agree on everything but what to do about it. I just think we need to differentiate between old and young, male and female, because it helps us clarify our referents to our interlocutors.

Also, (xx/xy) is about chromosomes, when you were mentioning the cultural lean to see masculinity as the default, when really the feminine chromosome is the more common, the one that EVERYONE has, as opposed to the y.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Jamie Stringer on February 20, 2009, 11:02:14 AM

Sorry, that was HB ;) I get all these beautiful people 'tars mixed up... ::)

Pshhh, and here I just thought you were a shameless flatterer ;D

Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 20, 2009, 11:07:02 AM

SBA I think we agree on everything but what to do about it. I just think we need to differentiate between old and young, male and female, because it helps us clarify our referents to our interlocutors.

Also, (xx/xy) is about chromosomes, when you were mentioning the cultural lean to see masculinity as the default, when really the feminine chromosome is the more common, the one that EVERYONE has, as opposed to the y.

Well, I guess I'm going to have to fundamentally disagree with you then. A major part of my feminism/general worldview is the belief that we use and rely on sex/gender based differentiations far more than is necessary, and that this is detrimental because it can serve to reinforce the foundations of sexism (and also a sex dichotomy/gender dichotomy that I don't buy into).

But also, I think I need to note here that I'm not saying that you shouldn't differentiate between old and young, male and female, where it is appropriate or necessary - there are times when that is important context. What I'm disputing is that calling adult women "girls" is a good or needed way of doing that. Sure, it gets fuzzy when someone is in their late teens/early 20s...I favor erring on the side of caution/respectfulness.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Jamie Stringer on February 20, 2009, 11:09:15 AM
Get a sense of humor, Susan B. Anthony!

 ;D
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 20, 2009, 11:10:32 AM
Get a sense of humor, Susan B. Anthony!

 ;D

I WILL NEVER!
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 20, 2009, 11:11:28 AM
So we agree to disagree. Sort of.

Fair enough.


But can I at least get a lol on my genetics comment? I mean come on!  8)
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 20, 2009, 11:21:17 AM


But can I at least get a lol on my genetics comment? I mean come on!  8)

No sense of humor, remember?!

I mean, but really, probably no lol because I...don't see why that's funny? I guess I've spent too much time studying and being annoyed by the way science has relied on erroneous assumptions about women and men that have harmed women (and men, because Patriarchy Hurts Men Too!!!!) scientifically and socially.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Matthies on February 20, 2009, 11:23:04 AM


But can I at least get a lol on my genetics comment? I mean come on!  8)

No sense of humor, remember?!

I mean, but really, probably no lol because I...don't see why that's funny? I guess I've spent too much time studying and being annoyed by the way science has relied on erroneous assumptions about women and men that have harmed women (and men, because Patriarchy Hurts Men Too!!!!) scientifically and socially.

\Yea, since told me womenz don't have tails, but they do, I seen em
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Dreamy Boss Man on February 20, 2009, 01:02:34 PM
Alright, so there's this girl that I like.  There I go, already calling her "a girl".  Anyways, she works for me so I'm in a position of authority.  However, she's quite young and it'd be very odd for me to call her "a woman".  She doesn't refer to herself as a woman and would probably find it odd.  The thing is, I could keep it strictly professional, but we have a thing for each other (I think).  I think that if I added formality, it'd make things even more awkward than it is.  So I'm struggling to adhere by business standards or by our flirtatious relationship.  She's going to go to HYS, does this change how I should approach her?  OH HB COME TO ME!  :-[
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Dreamy Boss Man on February 20, 2009, 01:17:01 PM
Alright, so there's this girl that I like.  There I go, already calling her "a girl".  Anyways, she works for me so I'm in a position of authority.  However, she's quite young and it'd be very odd for me to call her "a woman".  She doesn't refer to herself as a woman and would probably find it odd.  The thing is, I could keep it strictly professional, but we have a thing for each other (I think).  I think that if I added formality, it'd make things even more awkward than it is.  So I'm struggling to adhere by business standards or by our flirtatious relationship.  She's going to go to HYS, does this change how I should approach her?  OH HB COME TO ME!  :-[

I love you.

Who?  "Him" or "I"?  So so so awkward.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: nealric on February 20, 2009, 07:30:20 PM
Imagine how tough people who speak language with gendered nouns have it.

I can just imagine a campaign to change "El agua" to "La agua" and one alter the rule on "Ellas to Ellos" so that a 50% majority of men is required for "Ellos" to apply.


Anyhoo, I can kind of see both sides to the issue. On one hand, our language is the product of a sexist society. On the other hand, because we often don't have an alternative language to rely on, it's often difficult to say what we want to say without relying on certain gender-laden phrases.

My solution: we finally get around to switching to Esperanto for daily conversation.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Pop Up Video on February 20, 2009, 07:41:31 PM
I'm very annoyed when people use the term "boy" to refer someone my age.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Jamie Stringer on February 20, 2009, 07:43:57 PM
I'm very annoyed when people use the term "boy" to refer someone my age.


Does this mean you don't call women your age "girls?"
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Pop Up Video on February 20, 2009, 07:44:57 PM
I make a very conscious effort to avoid calling women over age 16 or so "girls." I slip sometimes though.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Jamie Stringer on February 20, 2009, 07:52:06 PM
You're probably just a better person than me.  I use diminutives for people all the time.  But at least I use it equally...no gender bias here :)

Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Jamie Stringer on February 20, 2009, 09:48:54 PM
Maybe that's why I call people girls and boys instead of men and women?  I'm your gf's age and I feel old when people call me "woman."
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Matthies on February 21, 2009, 08:15:12 AM
I call my girlfriend my girlfriend.  Sometimes I call her "dude"

I call her my girlfreind too, when your not around.  :P
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Jessica Rabbit on February 21, 2009, 10:12:44 AM
I mean, I did it just this morning with my high schoolers (who are supposed to call me Ms. Cadysson, but I couldn't take it, so they call me by my first name).

Being called "girl" by a peer is offensive, but getting called by your first name by minors is not?  Doesn't being called "Ms." recognize your adulthood in the same way being called a "woman" does?
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Jessica Rabbit on February 21, 2009, 10:25:46 AM
Young woman?

Young woman works if you're old enough to call an adult woman "young."  If you're 20, saying young woman is just awkward.  "Young lady" really conjures up images of a child.  "You watch your mouth, young lady, or you won't get any dessert!"

I agree with Susan B that women are infantalized, but I think "girl" has evolved to not have that connotation anymore.  "Little girl," on the other hand certainly still does.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0SSeACInqw

It's like "you" and "thou."  "Thou" was originally the familiar second-person pronoun, and "you" was formal.  The words have evolved so that now "you" is quite informal, and "thou" is considered so formal that it can't be used without sounding pretentious (thanks, King James!).

I think the whole use of girl vs. woman depends on your audience, and in most contexts it is obvious you're not referring to child.  In an informal setting I will tend to use girl to refer to any female not significantly older than me, and will use guy for any man who isn't a young kid.  In a formal setting like in front of a judge, of course I'm going to use woman and man or gentleman.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 21, 2009, 10:27:07 AM
I mean, I did it just this morning with my high schoolers (who are supposed to call me Ms. Cadysson, but I couldn't take it, so they call me by my first name).

Being called "girl" by a peer is offensive, but getting called by your first name by minors is not?  Doesn't being called "Ms." recognize your adulthood in the same way being called a "woman" does?

Yes; no

If I didn't invite them to call me by my first name, it would be a problem - but I did (I'm also not their regular teacher - I go in once a week to teach a class). I'm really not comfortable with a lot of the pedagogical trappings of the classroom. Almost all of my undergrad professors asked us to call them by their first names, in large part because they understood class to not just be about them imparting wisdom, but about all of us having a conversation and learning from each other. And that's how I understand my particular role. So my students calling me by my first name is about a relationship I've established with them, the parameters of which I've defined.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Jessica Rabbit on February 21, 2009, 10:33:01 AM
I mean, I did it just this morning with my high schoolers (who are supposed to call me Ms. Cadysson, but I couldn't take it, so they call me by my first name).

Being called "girl" by a peer is offensive, but getting called by your first name by minors is not?  Doesn't being called "Ms." recognize your adulthood in the same way being called a "woman" does?

Yes; no

If I didn't invite them to call me by my first name, it would be a problem - but I did (I'm also not their regular teacher - I go in once a week to teach a class). I'm really not comfortable with a lot of the pedagogical trappings of the classroom. Almost all of my undergrad professors asked us to call them by their first names, in large part because they understood class to not just be about them imparting wisdom, but about all of us having a conversation and learning from each other. And that's how I understand my particular role. So my students calling me by my first name is about a relationship I've established with them, the parameters of which I've defined.

That's fair.  I still find it odd to be uncomfortable with "girl" yet comfortable with kids calling you by your first name as if you were one of them.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Jessica Rabbit on February 21, 2009, 10:43:18 AM
I struggle with the Mr./Ms. thing.  I find it unnecessary and uncomfortable when people refer to me very formally.  However, as most of you know, I have a job where teach students, some of them older than me and all of them in my age vicinity.  I do feel that maybe it's important to have a level of formality so they don't think I'm their buddy necessarily...  When the children are younger or if you're middle-aged, I feel that you have more leeway since none of pupils could mistake you for their peer.  I'm sort of conflicted.

I think a big part is that society has changed quite a bit with regard to age.  Age used to be respected and embraced.  Now age is an undesirable liability and youth is the ideal.  Many of us who are coming of age have grown to love our youth and want to hold onto it--thus being uncomfortable with more "adult" terms like Ms. and Mr. or sir or ma'am rather than girl, boy, chick, dude, or just your first name.  The more formal labels make us feel old when we want to stay young.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 21, 2009, 10:55:10 AM


That's fair.  I still find it odd to be uncomfortable with "girl" yet comfortable with kids calling you by your first name as if you were one of them.

Well, that's fun for you I guess. I don't see anything odd about allowing 17 and 18 year old students to call me by my name when I've asked them to because it fits in with my goals for the class and the ways I generally interact with people. As I already stated, in that case it's about a relationship that I have defined, and about dropping formalities that I'm not comfortable with for a variety of reasons, both personal and pedagogical.

Whether I'm called a girl or woman by peers is an entirely different issue. I am not a child. I don't understand someone calling me by my first name when I have asked them to to indicate that I am a child, but I do understand someone calling me a girl when there are other, more appropriate terms to indicate that I am not an adult.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 21, 2009, 12:17:35 PM
Alright....

1)  Cady, are there really that many people calling you any sort of "girl" "woman" type words. I can see using it when talking to a 3rd party, "I met this girl at the bar" or "I met this woman at the bar" but I can't imagine calling someone a girl or woman to her face.  The 3rd party stuff is relevant too, but I'm just curious under what circumstances someone has called you either a "girl" or "woman" to your face.

2) Gretchen - I know you're just joking with the "I guess you're a better person than me" stuff, but lets be clear -  Cady is not "right" or "wrong" here - this is her opinion.  She doesn't speak for all people, all women, or even all feminists.  Cady, you said something earlier that when you're talking about a 19/20 year old, you err on the side of caution/respect.  That's fine that in your opinion it's disrespectful - but it's not a fact that it's more respectful to call a 20 year old a "woman."  I think almost all 19/20 year olds would consider themselves "girls" and would find it at the very least weird if someone referred to them as a "woman."  And like I said, my 27 year old gf would find "woman" a little weirder than "girl" - same with Gretchen.  I imagine some would even find it offensive.  When I was growing up my friend's mom got offended when we called her "Mrs. X" instead of her first name, and my mom got offended when my friends called her by her first name instead of "Mrs. Bosco."  So anyway, my point is just that you're making normative judgments - not stating facts.  I know you know this, and it's cumbersome to say "I think" before every post, but jsia.

3) I think sheltron and gretchen alluded to this point earlier.  "Girl" has a meaning to most people.  Let's say for most people, they would refer to anyone under 25 as girl, over 25 as woman.  I don't really get why you make the leap that calling a 19 year old a "girl" means you're infantilizing her, comparing her to a 6 year old, etc.  When you refer to a 19 year old as a "woman", are you saying she's the same as a 70 year old woman?  If "girl" means someone under 25, it means someone under 25, not someone who is 6.  Is it offensive to call an 11 year old a girl because you're saying she's the same as a 3 year old?  Really, your argument has to be that you want to change the meaning of "girl" to something like 17 and under.  Otherwise I don't really follow you.  If most people think the term "girl" includes 19 year olds, how exactly is it offensive to call a 19 year old a "girl?"

nice summary bosco! :)
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 21, 2009, 12:44:03 PM
I totally speak for all people, and especially all feminists. I don't know how you missed that memo.

I don't know that I was talking about what people called me to my face - perhaps this confusion comes from JR's question about what she perceives as inconsistencies in my position, or I wasn't clear at some point. I'm actually particularly concerned with how people describe me and other women when they aren't talking to us. I think in one of my first posts I stated, for instance, that I would have a problem with a coworker referring to me as a girl ("this girl I work with" or the like). It becomes less problematic to me where there is a personal relationship. But, generally speaking, my concern is with how we as a society conceive of young women in general, the ways the words we use do or do not express those ideas, and the ways in which we can undermine problematic ideas. I'm not, for instance, embarking on a crusade against the word girlfriend or something (particularly since its usual analog isn't manfriend or the like).

Also, for the record, I think it's really rude for you to chastise someone about something that you then say that you know the person knows. What's the point? Either you don't actually think they know it, or you're taking it upon yourself to lecture anyway. Relatedly, I'm actually trying to break myself of the habit of prefacing every argument or statement I make with "I think" - as my 10th grade English teacher hammered into our heads, if you're arguing it, it should be clear to your audience that it is your position (or the position you're adopting for the sake of argument). It has been my experience that women in particular are expected to preface their opinions or thoughts in this way, which can serve to undermine their statements/arguments in some contexts. Please note that I'm not saying that you're necessarily being sexist here - its just one of those things that I've been thinking about a lot lately.

And finally, I wonder if there's an argument to be made that a lot of women around my age would feel weird about being called women because that isn't how we're treated/addressed/expected to think of ourselves - it feels weird to think of ourselves like that because it's not habit, just as it feels weird to start calling adult females women because it's not something we're used to. If that's the case, then from my position I'm not particularly concerned with whether certain women would find it strange to be called women, because that would be symptomatic of what I perceive to be the problem. (ETA: That is not to say, of course, that I don't think that individual women should have the agency to say what they'd prefer to be called)

This is certainly not my Number One Feminist Concern, but I'm very interested in the ways that how we're described impacts the way we see ourselves and the way others see us. I think that language is very important, and while I'm not looking to argue that "woman" is a fixed concept with a concrete definition, and nor am I seeking to make it such, I do think that there are better choices that we can make when we are faced with a choice - which was the question posed here.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: CTL on February 21, 2009, 02:01:34 PM
Wow.  This thread is getting good.  I'm glad both of you are posting - there is a lot of insight in both of your perspectives. 

This might sound somewhat inane, but bosco's posts about our conceptions of words as they relate to age got me thinking...

In American English, we pretty much have girl/woman as our primary descriptive words for female humans.  There are other words, but these are the two most common and socially acceptable (in most circumstances...obviously, we are debating the appropriate uses now).  It seems that the crux of our disagreement turns on WHEN a girl ceases to be a woman, or at least, when you should no longer refer to a female of a certain age as a 'girl'. 

Now, in American English, we have roughly three words to refer to male humans: boy/guy/man.  However, it seems that man is reserved for very specific uses.  These uses seem to imply certain gender stereotypes, even more so than the uses of the term 'woman'.

For instance, many males and females from a wide variety of ages refer to males as 'guys'.  I can think of instances where males as young as 12 and as old as 80 might be called guy without a second thought.  'There's this guy at school...I work with a guy...This old guy...'  Anyway, when people use the term 'man', it seems as though they use it to bestow a certain masculinity on the male they are referring to.  It seems to be an even more problematic term than 'woman'. 

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this.  Do we reserve 'man' for males we think fit the decription, or am I in the minority here? 
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Matthies on February 21, 2009, 02:22:43 PM
I think this debate has a lot to do with patriarchal history of treating women based upon how they related to men. I remember when I was a kid there was always thought given to how to address a women when I first met her (or in a formal letter). We had descriptive titles that were basically based on whether or not she was owned by a man (i.e. married). We had Ms./Miss/Missy/Mrs./Widow ect (the purpose of which was often to tell the man if it was ok to court her, not so much for her benefit). But we always just had Mr. - no connotation was ever needed for a man - be he single, married, or a widower.

He was always Mr. A women’s title would change based on her age and her relationship to a man. Hence today we have more terms for women, such as girl that are ingrained, and sometimes offensive, because we have always had more ways to refer and categorize females and those are left over from when they were considered the property of the man. We never had this sort of categorization of men, so different terms with different meanings never really came to be used like they have for women. 
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 21, 2009, 03:43:52 PM
Totally just lost a really long response, and totally just re-sprained my bad ankle, so if I don't make sense, please let me know.


Gotcha.  I'm with you here.  I think I just misinterpreted what we were talking about earlier in the thread.

I may also have muddied things up. Glad we're back on the same page.

Quote

I actually wasn't chastising you, that paragraph was mostly in response to Gretchen.  Your tone in this thread seems like "here's what people need to do, and if they don't they're either being disrespectful or lazy.  This might be hard at first, but don't worry you'll get used to doing things the 'right' way"  To me it's very debatable whether calling a 19 year old a "girl" is disrespectful, and it seemed like some people were just going along with you on that.  Like I said, I think Gretchen was probably joking with "You're probably just a better person than me" but I just wanted to make it clear that a lot of people would disagree with you on those points.  And it had absolutely nothing to do with your gender - I've noticed recently that almost all of my posts start off with "in my experience....this is just my opinion....I can only speak for UChicago, etc."  I probably preface and qualify way too much, and I'm trying to break the habit too.  Really, that paragraph was just meant to point out that you're making a lot of claims that are debatable, and some people seem to be taking them as fact.  But sorry for the "I know you know" line - I switched back and forth there between talking to you and talking to others in that paragraph, and I didn't want to make it seem like I just assumed that you thought you were stating fact.  If that makes sense.

I know that was mostly directed at Gretchen, I just can't keep my nose out of things ;) And it really is something that I've been actively thinking about lately.

I certainly don't think that my thoughts are the only valid ones here, or that reasonable people can't disagree. I enter into conversations of this sort knowing this, and assuming that other people both know this and know that I know this, and if someone agrees with me it's because they share my opinion or think I'm really really persuasive and amazing, not because I'm some fact-giver come down from on high (most of the time). This is not always a valid assumption, but it usually works pretty well. And I think (there I go again!) that the context of this conversation differs somewhat from the advice-giving context, in which I do think it's very important to offer advice about law schools, careers, etc., with the caveat that your opinion is based on your particular limited experience (and other relevant information).

All that said, I can get rather holier-than-thou (heh. thou.) when I get up on my soap box, so I'm usually open to people calling me out on assuming facts not in the record, or wanting to back up and debate my premises rather than my conclusions. I do stand by my argument that it's lazy and/or disrespectful to stick to a not-as-desirable word-choice because it's easier, though - assuming that one agrees that the word choice in question isn't as desirable.

Anyway, I appreciate the apology, and I get what you were getting at with your comment now, so no hard feelings/sorry for jumping down your throat a bit. (I don't know where Nice Cady came from. I'm losing my edge)

(Oh also, I'm realizing as I'm typing this that I generally use "I think" in debates/arguments/discussions to connote something that I'm still working out, or unsure of, or needs some clarification - so I don't like to use it to preface my general arguments/comments)

Quote
Yeah, I get what you're saying.  I'd probably just repeat my #3 from before.  I think where we disagree is about whether it's a "problem" and whether it's a habit that we should try to break.  If the meaning of "girl" just means under 25, it's just a word that means a thing.  If someone refers to a 45 year old as a girl, I'm with you that it's wrong.  And if someone refers to a 10 year old as a "woman" I also think that's wrong.  But to me referring to a 19 year old as a girl is just referring to her as someone who meets most people's definition of "girl" - we might disagree on where the line is drawn, but I think if I was talking to a friend and said "this woman I met at the store" and then my friend later found out I was talking about a 19 year old, he'd be surprised.  I think most people would draw the line at an older age than you or the poster who said 16.  I think you just want to change the definition of "girl," which maybe isn't a bad idea - but as long as it has this definition (and we might disagree on what the actual definition is) I don't see how it's disrespectful to use a word to describe someone when they meet the definition of that word.  I think if you take your argument to its conclusion, it would have to be that you want to get rid of all terms like baby, child, etc.  Maybe I'm missing something though.

The crux of my issue, I think, lies at least in part in CTL and matthies' comments above (which I'll try to come back to if I don't feel like I address them here, because I think they're interesting).

I think that it is problematic that we might use the same word to describe a group of five year old females as we would use to describe, say, a group of 17 year old females, and even moreso a group of females in their early 20s - particularly since most people would not do the same thing with the same groups of males, and especially in light of the various and very serious problems that so many young women have being taken seriously as professionals/academics/people. This is something that I've experienced, and that I've watched friends and colleagues experience, and it is incredibly frustrating and can be very disempowering. Therefore, given the choices that we do have, I'd prefer to see people err on the side of using an adult word to describe adult females (this, of course, necessitates defining "adult" - I generally go with 18+, but there's definitely space for debate/wiggle room) than a childish one.

So...you're right that, if the definition of girl includes people that I would consider to be adults, which I'm not necessarily conceding (but, given the discussion here, is very much at issue), then I do want to redefine girl. If (or when, if I were to get my way on redefining girl) the definition of girl does not include adult females, then I have a definite problem with referring to adult females as girls.

I don't think that my position leads to a logical conclusion that we should get rid of baby, child, etc., if I'm understanding correctly what you're saying. Girl isn't problematic in itself (unless we want to delve really deeply into the sex and gender are constructs line of argumentation); it can convey useful information. It becomes problematic when it's used in a way that undermines the individuals to whom it refers, and I would argue that in a lot of contexts, referring to adult women as girls can do that, and it's better to err on the side of caution so as to not undermine women/break the habits & cycles that perpetuate the problem.

I've been trying to work through the various contexts in which I'm okay with using girl/boy to refer to adults and find a generally applicable rule...and I'm coming up a little bit dry. I'm somewhat comfortable, though with the following:

By way of example, I don't have a problem when people (myself included) say "I met a boy/girl" to indicate that they've met someone in whom they are interested. This is in part, I think, because the fact that one is interested in the other person romantically/sexually indicates that the person is an adult (assuming that one isn't a pedophile)...but the problem I would normally have is maybe also somewhat mitigated by the boyfriend/girlfriend nomenclature (i.e., among my friends "I met a boy" is sort of a shorthand for "I met a boy who I'd maybe someday like to be a boyfriend but I obviously can't call him that yet, so for now he's just a boy")? I think this is also part of my whole, it's not as big of a deal when you're talking to/about someone with whom you have a personal relationship, thing - perhaps because, at least among those I generally associate with, I know and the person who is being referred to probably knows that it is not meant to undermine.

So what it comes down to, I think, is that I don't think that any person who refers to adult females as girls is necessarily sexist or trying to undermine female authority/experience/self. Individual instances may not be problematic. However, we operate in a society in which the authority/knowledge/experience of females often is undervalued/devalued/undermined, so it's probably a good rule of thumb to err on the side of caution and make word choices that are less likely to do that, and to especially try to do this when talking about individuals/groups with whom you don't have a close personal association (particularly in professional/academic contexts).
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 21, 2009, 04:50:55 PM
Good post SBA, I totally get what you're saying. I just have one contextual example that might help me understand better.

It seems like you're okay with the age flexibility of "girl," so if someone was at work, for example in a generic office, and they asked someone if "they've met the new girl."

How does this usage strike you?
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Miss P on February 21, 2009, 05:05:24 PM
Good post SBA, I totally get what you're saying. I just have one contextual example that might help me understand better.

It seems like you're okay with the age flexibility of "girl," so if someone was at work, for example in a generic office, and they asked someone if "they've met the new girl."

How does this usage strike you?

Retrograde.

(http://www.boston.com/ae/tv/blog/mad_men_peggy.jpg)

The new girl is the one sitting at the typewriter.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 21, 2009, 05:51:51 PM
No that all makes perfect sense.  I don't want to seem like I'm blowing you off by not addressing your points - but I don't really have anything to add, other than that was a really solid post, I know exactly what you're saying now, and I agree 100% with everything you said.

And sorry about the ankle.  :(

sweet! And thanks. I'm sure I'll whine about it incessantly and then get over it.

Good post SBA, I totally get what you're saying. I just have one contextual example that might help me understand better.

It seems like you're okay with the age flexibility of "girl," so if someone was at work, for example in a generic office, and they asked someone if "they've met the new girl."

How does this usage strike you?

I'm not actually really okay with age flexibility around girl - I don't think that we're going to get a hard and fast rule, but in general I don't think adult females should be called girls, and I would say that in this context adult should begin at around 18.

This is exactly one of the contexts that I think is problematic. Starting from the premise that many women often have a hard time being taken seriously as professionals (or being taken as seriously as their male counterparts) I'd prefer to not see women referred to as girls in a professional context, because (to me, anyway) it makes them seem young, inexperienced, etc., and (along the lines of Miss P's awesome picture) kind of hearkens back to women as secretaries/typists/etc. I'd guess that the likelihood you'd call the new person "the new girl" decreases as their job position gets higher; I'm trying to figure out if the same would happen with the way you'd refer to a new male - I'm not sure. But anyway, preferable options might include "Did you meet [new girl's name]" or "did you meet the new [new girl's job title]"
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: dashrashi on February 21, 2009, 09:12:15 PM
Daaaamn, Christina Hendricks.

Sorry, that was all.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: This is wrong. on February 24, 2009, 04:23:43 PM
Hehe, no worries.  I'm just trying to start a discussion.

Well it's a good habit to start referring to your peers as grownups.  To a lot of people my age (and somewhat younger), it sounds really, really young to hear folks refer to women as "girls."  ETA: So you end up sounding like the teenaged coffee-fetching intern instead of a colleague worthy of respect.  Not a fantastic impression, but not a huge deal after all.

It may also strike many people--but certainly not everybody--as sexist.  Not in some alarmingly offensive or career-damaging way, but in a "huh this person isn't particularly thoughtful" way.  Which is not an impression you want to give to people you work with, for the most part.  And I wouldn't count on being able to shift back and forth between what you use depending on the age of the person you're talking to.  In my experience, lots of people (especially fellas) in their early 20s aren't very good at discerning when somebody's closer to 30 (or 40) than 20. 

Once you start using the phrase consistently, you just adopt it naturally.

Zactly.

"You've got zackly disease!  It's where your FACE looks zackly like your BUTT!"
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 24, 2009, 04:26:28 PM
Okay. i can accept that.

I was going to learn French, I guess now I need to relearn English.
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: redcement on February 24, 2009, 07:02:12 PM
Mid-twenties: old enough for her to drink, smoke, enlist, die for her country, vote, procreate...what exactly has to happen before you are comfortable referring to her as a woman?
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: sheltron5000 on February 24, 2009, 07:38:46 PM
she has to be the same maturity level that I'll consider myself a man at?
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 25, 2009, 08:34:05 AM
*vomits a little bit more*

right back atcha, buddy
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: CTL on February 25, 2009, 09:09:22 AM
*Vomiting at the vomiting - it tends to produce that effect on observers*
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: suite411 on February 25, 2009, 10:41:26 AM
I think there is a catch-22 between being referred to as a girl (young, possibly inexperienced, lower in professional status, etc.) and being referred to as a woman (older but still rather age-ambiguous, more experienced, etc.)  It may just depend on the context in which each is used and the connotation associated with it.  "I met this nice girl at the market" may be totally different from "They gave that new girl a bigger office."  However, there may be situational clues we pick up on when deciding which word to use... such as how old does the female appear?  Do we know her real age?  Is she with her children? Is she married or is she still cruising college parties?  I suspect there is tension between the desire to be taken seriously and respected professionally and personally, while wanting to be perceived as youthful due to society's pressure on womens' age and the beauty industry that profits from it.  My two cents.

That being said, what about "ma'am" and "miss".  Personally, "ma'am" makes me feel older than I am...
Title: Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
Post by: Susan B. Anthony on February 25, 2009, 10:42:40 AM
*vomits a little bit more*

right back atcha, buddy

Oh C you know I love you.

How could you not, really?