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Author Topic: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'  (Read 7027 times)

Susan B. Anthony

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Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
« Reply #20 on: February 20, 2009, 11:50:37 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.

Private David Lewis

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Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
« Reply #21 on: February 20, 2009, 11:51:16 AM »
in most contexts "they" is the new preferred pronoun for indeterminate sex.

Hah, OK. 
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mbw

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Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
« Reply #22 on: February 20, 2009, 11:59:59 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.   :)
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Susan B. Anthony

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Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
« Reply #23 on: February 20, 2009, 12:05:05 PM »


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)

sheltron5000

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Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
« Reply #24 on: February 20, 2009, 12:18:59 PM »
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.
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Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
« Reply #25 on: February 20, 2009, 12:23:35 PM »
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. 
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CTL

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Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
« Reply #26 on: February 20, 2009, 12:29:25 PM »
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..).
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archival

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Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
« Reply #27 on: February 20, 2009, 12:32:44 PM »
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.
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sheltron5000

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Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
« Reply #28 on: February 20, 2009, 12:34:04 PM »
lol
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Susan B. Anthony

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Re: Referring to a fully mature female peer as a 'girl'
« Reply #29 on: February 20, 2009, 12:41:25 PM »
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.