Fangirl Friday: They’re WOMEN, not girls

Well, HI THERE!

Welcome to another edition of Andi’s ramblings because her brain is full of weird-ass crap that she sometimes indulges Fangirl Friday!

So a couple weeks ago I read a book by a dude author who I’ve read in the past and really enjoyed. He writes suspense/thrillers, and generally tells a good story. Normally, his protagonists are also dudes (generally cis, het, and white), but he has an okay range of secondary and tertiary characters, including womenfolk.

But a few years back he decided to write a different series with a lady protagonist, also cis, het, and white. I gave it a chance because I like this author but jfc within thirty pages I was smdh. By halfway, it was pretty painful but I decided to finish it — i.e. skim the rest — and then I tossed it onto a pile of other books that I like to call my “plz get this the fuck away from me kthx” pile.

My first annoyance came with the clichéd descriptions of the protagonist. The author wrote her in first-person POV and then proceeded to use the ol’ “looking in the mirror to describe myself” trope and, of course, the author included the MC’s bust size. Not only is she tall, athletic, attractive, but she’s got a particular bust size. I blocked it out because wut the actual fuck.

I mean…

dafuq. As if all women look in the mirror and then remind themselves of their own bust sizes. That’s pretty much all women do, is think about their bust size all the time. Right? RIGHT?

Hell, nah.

This character did, though (at the behest of the author, of course). I believe there were at least four mentions of the MC’s bust size and a couple of mentions of another woman character’s bust size in this story and every time I came across one, I gritted my teeth. Like, the character would literally be thinking about some dude and then she would think about her bust size. Because somehow, she forgot what size bra she wears and needed to think about that in that moment (let’s not EVEN start addressing the Bechdel Test…we’ll be here for days)

jfc SO obvious a cis straight dude wrote this book. And probably the editor of it was, too. Or maybe the author fought the editor to keep all this mess in here.

Moving along.

The other major annoyance — and this is a huge peeve of mine — was that the author used the term “girls” or “girl” to refer to grown-ass women. With bust sizes, mind you.

Lemme break this down for you, author-I-will-not-name. The term “girl” refers to an actual child. It’s legit to refer to female-identified persons as “girls” if they’re babies or pre-pubescent children. Maybe to the age of 12 or 13ish. After that, I tend to use “young woman” to refer to female-identified persons from about 13-18ish. Then I use “woman.” Because that’s what they are. Women.

They’re not “girls” anymore, and using the term “girls” to refer to women in their late teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond diminishes them, removes their agency as strong, powerful women and drops them back to a child-state. It ignores a woman’s maturity and the things she’s accomplished, and dismisses her as simply “a girl.”

I mean, that term is everywhere in society to refer to grown-ass women. You never hear the term “boys” used to refer to grown-ass men (except in snark or among dudes yukking it up in their packs). Once a boy hits puberty, he’s not referred to as a “boy” anymore. He’s a “guy” or a “young man” and then he’s “man.”

When was the last time you read a book — say a thriller — in which the male protagonist who was in, say, his 30s, was referred to as a “boy” by the author (through the character’s POV) and other characters? Unless it’s being used in the book by a villain, say, to diminish another character. Because men understand that when you call another man “boy” in certain contexts, it’s to diminish him. It’s designed to do that, and it’s an insult.

The historical baggage that comes with “boy” isn’t just about gender. It’s also about race and class, and we all know that it was weaponized especially against men of color in this country’s history — still is, in some respects.

So you don’t see it as often.

But DAMN you see women reduced to “girls” in books, movies, TV shows, songs, ads…it’s everywhere.

I even see it in F/F fanfic. Women writing fanfic who are telling stories in which women are the primary characters — often strong, powerful women — reduce them to “girls.” Even these authors, who are seeking to tell strong women’s stories through the medium of fanfic, seem to default to referring to women as “girls.”

That’s how ingrained it is, to diminish and infantilize women in this society, that “girl” as a descriptor for women appears everywhere, even in books written by LGBTQ/feminist women.

It’s also weirdly ageist, because if you’re referring to all women as “girls,” the connotation is that she’s only valued as something childlike and youthful, and the moment she’s referred to as a “woman,” she’s no longer valued in some way because she’s no longer “young” (and that carries a whole other suitcase full of sexualization…).

Which is SUCH a load of shit.

And yeah, I get it. There are some contexts in which “girls” might be okay. Like “girl power” or when a group of women are teasing each other and getting ready to go out and party. Or when you look at your friend and say something like, “gurl, please.” Or “guuuurl.” It becomes an inside joke, then, something tossed around between friends.

That’s different than seeing it in a book, for example, as a constant reference to the female protagonist in her 20s or 30s.

And some of you may not be bothered by this. If not, then try something for a few days. Notice how the term “girl” is used and in what contexts and think about if a man would refer to other men as “boys” in those contexts.

Language is important, friends. It plays a role in the construction of power and hierarchies. And when you start paying attention to it, you begin to notice things that aren’t all good. And hopefully when you do, you work to change them or make things better.

Happy Friday and may the odds be ever in our favor.

Other articles/videos that explore this issue:
Bustle, “Why We Need To Stop Calling Women ‘Girls'”
Actress/neuroscientist Mayim Bialik on this issue.
The Guardian, “Stop calling women ‘girls’. It’s either patronising or sexually suggestive”
XOJane, “Why I Don’t Call Grown Women ‘Girls’ Anymore”

Advertisements

17 comments

  1. The girl thing is a geography thing too. Perfectly reasonable to call women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s + girls in the UK. Many, MANY women in the UK call themselves girl, and their friends girls.

    Like

  2. YES! Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And another one for good measure – yes. I have this conversation with people. I worked in the plumbing industry for a while and we were constantly referred to as “the girls in the office”. I hated it and spoke up about it.

    Like

  3. Gurl! Yes! It’s another case of marginalized ppl taught to marginalize themselves IMO. Women who refer to other women as girls in fiction, in person and so on. Those isms get down in there deep and ppl don’t even realize they are using them. SMH

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally use the word ‘boys’ when talking about adult men lol. But not ‘girls’ when talking about women. And I agree it’s gross especially if a cis male author uses it.

    Like

  5. Eloquently said! I wish the whole “girl” thing would be addressed more. And the bra size thing too! Honestly, my cup size varies so much depending on the brand that I can’t even say it with much conviction, not that it’s an important part of my thought process when looking at myself in the mirror. I’m more concerned if I’ve got something in my teeth, tbh.

    Like

  6. jfc / smdh / kthx / dafuq

    “Language is important, friends”

    Indeed. Now, I could google all of those, but I am not going to take the time to do that – other things to do – so I have no idea what you just “languaged.”

    Like

    • jfc=Jesus fucking Christ
      smdh=shaking my damn head (vs. shaking my head, which is smh)
      kthx= ‘kay. Thanks. (snark reply; sometimes lengthened to kthxbai, which is ‘kay, thanks. Bye.)
      dafuq: what the fuck (derived from “…the fuck?” and shortened to “dafuq” to avoid algorithms that weed out cursing).

      All of these are used quite a bit on social media, shortened to avoid anti-cursing algorithms and, especially in terms of platforms like Twitter, to keep character count down. They’re also used in text messaging, for obvious reasons. It’s much easier to type an acronym with your thumbs than spell it out.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My wife and I worked at one of the hardest jobs out there. Shoeing and trimming horses. Even the “guys” didn’t want to do it, and yet they still felt the need to call us girls. I HATE THAT!

    Like

  8. Absolutely love this, Andi! I think that started preferring “woman” to “girl” by the time I was in my 30s, if not a little younger. I’ve also dropped the usage of the word “girl” when it comes to adults. There is nothing wrong with embracing our power as *women.* Some people are just intimidated by that. Well, more power to US!

    Like

  9. Thank you! That’s my pet peeve, too. I see it in books written by women as well as by men, and hear it all the time. The other night a woman who I had to speak to at my evening job tossed off “well, the other girl said…” First of all, we’re all adults and secondly, I am old enough to have gray hair, so clearly not a child.

    My second pet peeve about how women are addressed is “young lady.” At this same job the men at the front desk send people to the “young lady” who will help them. Most of the women employees are over 50 so that feels condescending to me. They never refer to male employees as the “young man” or some other politely condescending term. Smdh indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I refer to the male drivers I’m following in whatever level of motorsport as ‘my boys’. The white guys anyway: I tend to defer to ‘lad’ for individuals from other backgrounds.

    Female drivers tend to be ‘women’ or ‘young women’ depending on where they’re at in the careers (but I sometimes use ‘girls’ for the youngsters who aren’t anywhere near old enough to drive on public roads yet), although I agree with other posters that there’s a UK thing going on as far as traditions like ‘girls’ night out’/’drinks with the girls’ are concerned.

    Like

  11. Love this. I still remember when I was on my second ship (in the Navy), the commanding officer decided he needed to have separate meetings with all the men and women on the ship. When he was meeting with us, he kept referring to us as girls. I kind of felt slapped each time he said it. I didn’t know if it was just me. I looked around the room and could see lots of people having the same reaction – especially the higher ranking women. They were clearly furious. Finally, one of them told the commanding officer how offensive his words were. He had no idea. The master chief asked him if he had referred to the other group as boys. You could see the light bulb go on over his head when he realized what he had done.
    Moments like that are why I started by blog. So, I loved reading yours.
    https://womenandthemilitary.home.blog/

    Like

Comments are closed.