The Language of Woman/Girl

I had to muse over this via the blog because I’ve been thinking about this all week and so I thought I’d open it up for debate here. When do you become a woman? I know that sounds like a silly simple question, but really, when? I’m twenty-four and when I refer to myself while speaking to other people I call myself a girl, and yet when I speak about other women my age I call them women. I’ve been wondering why I call myself a girl and not a woman–language is a powerful tool and so the words we choose do have an impact on the way we are percieved.  I don’t call myself a woman because I don’t feel like a woman. But what does it take to feel like a woman and not a girl??

Anyone else do this? When did you start calling yourself a woman?

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7 responses to “The Language of Woman/Girl

  1. *don’t* call me “girl.”

    nothing is more condescending to me than a male of any age referring a female as a “girl” a “sweet girl” a “nice girl” an anything girl.

    around female peers, i’ll throw the word “girl” around, but when speaking in mixed company, or an age-diverse crowd, i will use anything else to describe any female age 15 or older. “young woman” for the 15 – 18 crowd and woman, female, chic, lady, female, or even gal if i must. [ ongoing debate about the word “guy” and the lack of a similar term for women…] because to me, “girl” infantalizes women. you don’t call any male over 18 “boy;” why should you call females “girls”?
    girls are young, naive, innocent, and pure. girls lick lollipops and wear saddle shoes while playing in sandboxes dreaming of prince charming. girls want to be rescued. girls, because they are young, need. they need guidance, directions, help, saving, parents, parenting… I. am not. a “girl.”

    in high school i remember seeing the penants in our field house for “women’s soccer” and “men’s swimming” and giggling to myself because it seemed so grown up, and I didn’t feel that way; I still felt like a girl, or a young woman working my way toward that coveted title.
    once in college, i grew uncomfortable (especially with the guys i hung out with) with the incessant “girling” of the women i met. “this girl” “that girl” “a girl in my class” — even referring to Professors as “girls”??!! the last straw moment for me was during my WoSt 101 class when our professor (who rarely interjected while we were debating in class) stood up and pointed at the woman speaking and said, “You better grow up and start addressing your peers with the respect they deserve. Because if you aren’t ‘women’ now, as independent scholars living away from home pursuing your own education, when will you be?”
    that’s when i realized, that’s fucking right. i do deserve that respect. i am a woman. and i’m sick of being “girled.”

  2. I think we’ve seen a real change in how our culture (here in the US) uses the term ‘girl.’ There has been a good deal of infantilism across the board over the past few decades – we now prefer ‘cute’ to ‘elegant’ and the features we admire in actors are more childlike. This has meant a change in our language too, I think a lot of us – at ages when our mothers and grandmothers were eager to seem like adults, we are reluctant to give up the term girl.

  3. Well, I like to think that I’m in touch with myself…I call myself a woman when I’m wearing knickers, tights, and a good wig.

  4. as a boy who knows some young men and some (proper) men (and believes he has once met a gentleman once):

    i’m almost 24 (one week away). i think of myself as a boy. sometimes a guy. and rarely, when remembering gender studies 101, a man of a more privileged class and “skin-color”.

    this story of self-perception we have to tell ourselves becomes confusing.

    when i am around friends, i try to use the language we share. this girl, that boy. this lady, that guy…

    otherwise i find rigidity of language is the best way to communicate. women and men.

    but then i have to talk about it…

    and i think that’s the answer. talking about it. all the time. so we all wonder about ‘infantilism.’ and try to understand the way


    “Our symbolic world is not separate from our beings, especially in regard to language: we ‘are’ language, in that what distinguishes us as persons is that we are beings who are conscious of themselves, that is, can know themselves symbolically and self-reflexively. As Heidegger remarked, “Language speaks {wo}*man.” We are not beings who ‘use’ symbols, but beings who are constituted by their use.”

    some one else said that. but it doesn’t matter.
    we are the jokes we tell ourselves…

    *brackets my own**
    **GenderStudies201: footnotes = scholarly works

  5. There is nothing wrong with term girl. In fact, there are girl shirts, girl schools, girl jobs, etc.
    Girl is a widely used, acceptable term.

  6. I think someone has to hear you roar first. Seriously. “I am woman, hear me roar” seems to be a good rule of thumb.

    When I started speaking up for what I believe in despite “popular opinion” and holding myself and others accountable for our respective actions is when I considered myself a woman (a.k.a an adult).

  7. Hmm, I wrote a post about this. Go have a look. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this issue one year after your post.

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