Isn't it about time we stopped referring to women as girls?

(102 Posts)
PosieParker Thu 25-Oct-12 17:18:28

I've been thinking about this today and wondering what impact it has on how we view both women and girls. Does it assist the blurring of the age of consent? Or how we reduce women's value by talking about them as children.

And thoughts.

Karbea Fri 26-Oct-12 13:42:06

I don't like woman either, much prefer to be referred to as a lady smile

Trills Fri 26-Oct-12 13:48:16

AFAIK you are allowed to post blog links if they are relevant and if they have been "asked for" (not necessarily directly but in a "I'd like to hear more about X" kind of way)

I don't think it blurs the age of consent, but I do think it is infantilising and suggests that the person being referred to is somehow less than an adult (and adult man, of course).

Then again I think the age of consent is necessary for legal matters but when it comes to moral matters it should be considered to be flexible. (an equivalent of the Fraser guidelines, Gillick competence, etc)

True Karbea but aside from lass and gal which I've only heard in parts of Scotland they're not exactly neutral.

GetAllTheThings Fri 26-Oct-12 14:08:27

A slight problem I have is finding an equivalent to 'sir'.

I quite like using it when talking to older men, who ever they are, bus driver or corner shop owner. It just introduces some humility and respect into things.

But I struggle to find a comfortable way of saying the same to woman.

Lady sounds daft, ma'am possibly, 'marm', madam,

Trills Fri 26-Oct-12 14:09:06

Mam as in ham, not marm as in harm.

According to The Queen (the film with Helen Mirren, not the actual Queen)

Startailoforangeandgold Fri 26-Oct-12 14:13:25

Ria hits the nail on the head, there is no decent alternative.
Lass sounds just as patronising, young woman is a mouthful.

When do you become a woman without the young, 35, 30, 40???

Just woman is very hard to say in many sentences.

If people start "I saw a woman ...." I feel something negative is likely to follow

If people start "I saw a lady, girl young woman ...." I don't jump to conclusions.

But some feminists dislike lady too!

There isn't a right answer.

I'm a straight talking nonsense sort of person and unlikely to care what I'm referred too!

DD1 (14) likewise probably will never notice, she has a quiet self belief that shrugs off much of life's minor irritations.

She and I simply know what we are good at and expect to be treated as equal.

DD2 (11) is much less thick skinned.
She notices and is influenced by casual sexism.
It worries me there seems almost to be more of it now that in the 1980's

AbigailAdams Fri 26-Oct-12 14:16:26

Yep that is exactly what I meant about the word woman malinois. Lasses is OK though.

Startailoforangeandgold Fri 26-Oct-12 14:21:59

Yes, Woman is so often "spat out" is impossible to reclaim

QuenHelle Fri 26-Oct-12 14:22:02

I agree 100% with the blurring of the age of consent thing. I too have been thinking about this a lot since the JS story broke.

I prefer to address women as women, rather than ladies or girls but I agree , when you're addressing someone directly 'excuse me, women' somehow sounds rude, unlike 'excuse me, ladies/girls'.

We definitely need a female equivalent of 'bloke'. There was a long thread a while ago asking for suggestions. My favourite was 'broad'.

ParsingFancy Fri 26-Oct-12 14:34:03

Thinking over your examples, GetAll, they're all plural.

And actually the "girls' night out" is plural too (I'm on the fence about whether this one's OK, because I think it's intrinsically facetious.)

When it comes down to individuals, would you ever use "boy" singular to refer to a man?

Karbea Fri 26-Oct-12 14:38:55

Not sure about bloke, don't think I've ever used that when talking about/to a man.

GetAllTheThings Fri 26-Oct-12 14:47:01

When it comes down to individuals, would you ever use "boy" singular to refer to a man?

Hmm. I guess that becomes tricky as I think there are historical racist undertones to using 'boy'. And even without that , yes, it is potentially patronizing.

That said, amongst close friends, yes I have heard men referred to as 'boy'.

i.e. ' John's a silly boy for buying that car. '

Funnily enough the most common usage of 'boy' when referring to grown men that I can think of is old boy which is an oxymoron or someting.

I think boiling it down to the male equivalent helps: would someone refer to a 25 year old male adult human as a 'boy' ?

"That lazy boy in accounts.."
"The boy answering the phone wouldn't give me an appointment..."
"The boy in the office will fax us the orders..."
"We'll get a boy to type it up for us.."

I don't think they would. But 'girl' could definitely be used in such a context to refer to a 25 year old female adult human.

And it's not overthinking it to ask why the female adult human gets the descriptor that means 'child' and the male adult human gets the descriptor that means 'adult.' It's definitely a feminist line of enquiry.

MrsClown1 I think "your opinon is rude!" doesn't necessarily mean that, objectively, you were being rude. I think it means that she didn't enjoy being challenged. Which is sad for her, but there's not much you can do about her feelings. If you're confident that you weren't rude (which it sounds like you are, and should be) then I wouldn't worry about it. Sometimes "You're being rude!" is just another way of saying "I don't like what you're saying and don't want to listen to you!" - and those are two very different sentences!

ParsingFancy Fri 26-Oct-12 15:15:01

Well yes, exactly, GetAll. It's not accidental that "boy" is used in a racist context, where it serves to diminish an adult male.

Ditto that it's used with "silly".

"Old boy" is also a diminution, though it can be an affectionate one.

MissPerception Fri 26-Oct-12 15:17:47

My mother is 72 and speaks about the "girls" from her old work as in she's going to meet the girls. My father is a bit older and still plays golf with the"boys". I think it's a great attitude to have.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 26-Oct-12 15:20:06

Think of Pte Pike (old enough to bear arms) 'you stupid boy'.

QuenHelle Fri 26-Oct-12 15:35:05

Thinking about it, old boy and old girl are both used by people I know to refer to women and men of any age.

But going back to the points made at the start of the thread, and the age of consent thing, many people hearing 'he likes young girls' might assume it to mean 'he likes younger women' but if they hear 'he likes young boys' there's no ambiguity is there?

ParsingFancy Fri 26-Oct-12 15:37:04

OK, I've dug out the bit of the Panorama on JS I found linguistically disturbing (as opposed to all the other disturbing bits).

It's from 15:40.

"He had a reputation as somebody who preferred girls at the younger end of the spectrum. And other people I've spoken to have confirmed that 'the younger the better' was his motto when it came to women."

The elision is so complete that the speaker's now using "women" to refer to 14-yr-old girls, as well as "girls" to refer to women.

How far up does this spectrum of "girls" go, anyway, that 14 is at the younger end?

I don't for a moment imagine the speaker is condoning Savile, and indeed he is explicit in his language just before. But this clip illustrates how, in a different context, language could be so blurred as to make it possible to discuss an adult having sex with 14-year-olds, and then get-out-of-jail-free with the claim the listener has misconstrued it. All because girl is a synonym for woman.

ParsingFancy Fri 26-Oct-12 15:37:56

x-post withQuenHelle saying it more pithily.

GetAllTheThings Fri 26-Oct-12 15:40:24

many people hearing 'he likes young girls' might assume it to mean 'he likes younger women' but if they hear 'he likes young boys' there's no ambiguity is there?

Toy Boy ?

Personally ( as a man ) I'd cringe if another man said he like 'young girls'

Toy boy is a specific thing though, and never used about children (although it is very naff).

halloweeneyqueeney Fri 26-Oct-12 15:56:48

when DH worked in the building trade as a labourer it was the shitty builders who would refer to him as "the lad", it was a throw back to when "the lad" was disposable and it didn't matter if they died doing the job, so low he wasn't worth referring to by name as he was totally replacable as a person

its the same with the women (men never do it!) at work who refer to other adult females as "girls..<insert command>". It's putting them in their place!

AbigailAdams Fri 26-Oct-12 16:05:34

Yy to QuenHelle and ParsingFancy

GetAllTheThings Fri 26-Oct-12 16:11:00

Toy boy is a specific thing though, and never used about children (although it is very naff).

Yes, very true.

I did actually hear someone address a young woman, 25ish, as 'girl' this morning.

Work canteen, guy wanted some bacon and said ' can you get me some more bacon, girl.'

Delivered in a cockney accent. I wasn't really sure what to think. Initially I winced. But then I don't think he meant 'girl' as a derogatory put down, I think it was just part of his language. As in ' Aw'right girl' . If he was Scottish he might have said lassie. Yorkshire maybe 'pet'.

The origins may well be sexist, but I don't think he was consciously being sexist. And I guess that's half the point. If not more.

namechangeguy Fri 26-Oct-12 16:19:46

How culturally-specific is the to the UK? Can any of our colonial cousins on here tell us what is used in Australia, USA, Canada etc?

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