All about calling adult women "girls".

TeaElle made a comment in this thread that got me thinking.
(Sorry, I don’t know how to link to a specific response in a thread. If you just scroll down a bit, TeaElle’s response is the fifth posting after the OP.)

I do understand why some people think it is demeaning to refer to an adult female human as a “girl” rather than as a “woman”. In some circumstances I in fact agree that it is degrading if the term “girl” is used to belittle the woman or if it is used in any other disrespectful manner.

Often, however, the term is not used pejoratively. It is simply used casually between peers. **Yes, I do understand that even though a term might not be meant in a pejorative sense that widespread casual usage can still have ill effects in a broader social context. ** But I would suggest that simply substituting the term “woman” is NOT a viable solution.

In modern usage of the English Language, YES:
Girl" corresponds with “Boy
Just as
Woman” corresponds with “Man

But, to suggest that calling and adult woman a “Girl” would be the same as calling an adult man a “Boy” simply isn’t accurate. We don’t use the term “Girl” to correspond with “Man”. . .

We use the term “Girl" to correspond with the term “Guy”.

This is used among peers in a casual context. If I’m talking to peers about my adult male friend I wouldn’t say: “I know a MAN who broke his leg riding his daughter’s skateboard.” And if you’re honest about it I’m sure very few of you would say that either. We would say: “I know a GUY who broke his leg riding his daughter’s skateboard.” The term “Man” is too formal sounding and is in contrast to the casual nature of the conversation.

Similarly, if I was in a bar and there was a band on stage I wouldn’t say “Who’s the MAN playing lead guitar? He Rocks!” I would say “Guy”. So if, in the same situation, it was a woman I **would say: “Who’s the GIRL playing lead guitar? She Rocks!” **, still with the same amount of respect. “Woman” would be just as out of place as “Man” would be.

Fact is we will not cease to use the term “Girl" in this manner until a substitute is widely accepted. To do this effectively would be very difficult especially since most people don’t recognize any harm being done by the current system. Personally, I’m O.K. with using the term “Girl" but am open to suggestions if anyone has an alternate term that works. However, I will reassert that “Woman" does not work for me in contexts where I would refer to a male as a “Guy”.

So. . .
Who’s the jane?
Who’s the betty?
Who’s the fem?

I thought the pairing was Guys and Dolls?? :smiley:

One of my coworkers refers to any female as a girl. He’s an ass for reasons other than that, but it further makes the word irritating to me. Then again, I have issues with chick, broad, bitch, young lady, gal, and any number of terms. All that leaves is woman or lady.

On the other hand, tone of voice makes such a difference with all of these terms… I have no answer to offer here.

So, “how you doin, young lady;)” is OK

but, "listen young lady, your doing X all wrong:mad: " is bad
It is all in the delivery and the context of the situation.

How do people feel about the words hottie, cutey, sweet cheeks, princess? Invaluable if used correctly.

The word gal can be used as “guy” can

Who is that guy playing that guitar? He rocks!

Who is that gal playing that guitar? She rocks!

But yes, a LOT depends on voice, body language, and context. I would advise those not famillar with the nuances of a regional US culture to be cautious in the use of “girl”. Even if slightly awkward, the use of “woman” or “lady” might be a better choice.

Down south where my in-laws live “lady” is heard much more commonly than up here in Yankeeland. And one must be very cautious about using either “boy” or “girl” to refer to an adult someone of a different ethnic group across the white/black divide.

But in casual circumstances among friends - no, I don’t find it offensive. Heck, I’ve been known to refer to a group of men nearly twice my age* as “the boys” or to say “you boys be careful now”. And if I’m going out with female friends “I’m going out with the girls”.

“Young lady” can also be a minefield.

  • As time goes by, it’s been getting harder and harder to find people twice my age. Just an observation. Right now, 2x[my age] is in the 75-80 year old range.

I realize that Lady is an accepted term of respect in the (American) South, but. . .

I’ve always had problems with Lady and I’ve always heard rants about this term in various Feminist Literature (not to suggest that there is one official “feminist” stance, with all parties in agreement, on anything- just like not all Democrats believe all the same thing nor all Republicans believe all the same things).

Lady” implies a certain code of behavior, a code imposed by a male dominated society. Using the term implies (though the speaker may not explicitly intend) that if that code of conduct is not adhered to then the woman will lose the “privilege” of the title.

I always cringe when I hear guys using the address “Ladies . . .” Putting women on pedestals displays an attitude that they are not equals. Although it may feel nice to be placed on a pedestal, any guy who calls you a Lady will also call you a whore.

There will probably be a bunch of folks who disagree with me on this, but I’m sure there are one or two hard-core feminists out there who have strong feelings about the term Lady.


Luckily, being English i get to use the word Bloke :slight_smile:

With regards to women i do use the word “Girl” as the female equivalent of the word “bloke” but only with women that i know well, or in “all male” company (When there are no ::ahem:: “girls” listening who might be offended).

So, to clarify, i will say:

"Who’s the girl on the Drums?!"


**“Jesus Girl! How many pairs of shoes do you need?!”

But only if the circumstances are right.

That said, however, i don’t ever use it in a formal or work environment - no matter how well i know the person (although occasionally i’ll accidentally slip and apologise).

Similarly, if i know that it will definitely offend someone then i won’t use it.

Why use gender specific words at all? It’s easy enough not to:

Who is playing the drums?
Who is that person playing the drums?

With all the fuss over 'him" “her” and “their,” you would think the words “a” and “the” had never been invented. Instead of “Everyone should use his pencil,” what’s wrong with “Everyone should use a pencil?”

I hate being called a “girl” or “lady” simply because I am neither of them. Some people use MIss and Ma’am, but around these parts, a lot of people use “my friend.” Which is nice when you get use to it.

Jesus Girl needs many shoes to aid her in her quest to fight crime!

Personally, I’ve always kind of liked the word “girl”. It sounds younger, fresher and somehow softer, than “woman” to me.

Especially when the man applying it to you is using it in a sexy way “Oh, girl what you do to me”. etc

The word I really can’t stand is “gal”. To me, it has an unfeminine “Annie Oakley” old untamed west feel to it. Plus it’s just an unattractive more gutteral sounding word.

In a social setting, I’ll use girl unless it’s obvious she’s my elder, in which case I’ll refer to her as a woman.

In business/professional/other settings I’ll use woman.

Nobody uses lad or lass anymore? :frowning:

Only in the “Time of Legends”

Or in Northern England, where they can be used for men and women up to the age of at least 40 without risk of causing offence. Of course, we’re still dancing round standing stones and slaughtering chickens in Newcastle…

I would give the speaker an incredibly odd look if he/she referred to me as a “lady”. To a lesser extent as a “woman”. But I refer to myself as a girl, and I would never take offense at it.

My wife and I are in our mid-thirties and she will refer to herself and her friends as going on a ‘girls night out’…there is nothing wrong with that in my opinion. It all has to do with context.

Very cultural/contexteual. In Bristol everyone seems to call each other “luv,” even old men to other old men, and it took a while to get used to it, because in Canada if you call me “luv” you’re going to get smacked.

Likewise if you address me as “girl.”

If you just refer to me as one then there’s not much I can do.

As per beinville, I am happy calling myself a “hard-core feminist” and I have cringed in various situations when people have used “women” or “ladies” or “girls” or “gals” or whatever. But since there really isn’t one that would be appropriate for all situations (agree that around here, “women” is generally the safest; “ladies” is only appropriate among “gentlemen”) I really don’t spend too much time thinking about it. Call me what you like. Address me by my name.

lmao. My thought while reading broomstick’s suggestion was " but I’m not from ole Texas." I don’t know if it’s fallen out of use everywhere, but you almost never here it around here.

Girl is fine by me, I perfer it over woman by far. Hell, I don’t mind chick either - I like the idea of something being soft and sweet, but still equiped to peck the shit out of you if you irritate it.

In reference to the woman on stage:

“Who is that rockin’ babe on drums?” is suitable, IMHO, as long as she is indeed rocking. Rocking out on stage automatically makes you a babe, regardless of age, body image, whatever. It’s that performer thing.

Two points, really:

First, in my post I did mention the problem of regional cultures. Specifically, that “lady” was heard far more often in the south (where my in-laws live) than in the north (where I live). I’ll further state that down south the nuances are slightly different.

Second, I am sick to death of various stripes of feminists telling me how I should feel about things. Maybe I just have enough self-confidence not to get my panties in a twist over such things unless we’re talking about extreme situations.

You could say the same thing about “gentleman”.

I think the most important thing about this is to use parallel structure for both men and women.

In most cases, you would speak about women and men.

In certain polite contexts, you would refer to ladies and gentlemen. If I’m a receptionist and someone asks to speak to my boss, I’m not going to say, “There’s a woman here to see you.” I’m going to say, “There’s a lady here to see you,” just as I would say, “There’s a gentleman here to see you.” It’s just a matter of respect, like saying “Mr.” or “Ms.” rather than their first name. I certainly think beginning a speech “Ladies and gentlemen” is better than with a ringing “Women and men!”

However, I do understand the argument about sexism with regard to “lady.” I think the main thing is it is sexist to refer to “men and ladies” - to use “lady” in any context in which you would talk about just “men,” and in contexts where you’re suggesting that they’re just going to do frivolous feminine things, or imposing a standard of “ladylike” behaviour (that would differ substantially from “gentlemanly” behaviour). Some that particularly irritate me are men’s and ladies’ fashions/sizes/models, or mens’s and ladies’ washroom.

As for “girl,” I think the same rule applies: use it where you would use “boy.” (I think its equivalency to “guy” is debatable.)

But then again, I use the word “boy” much more freely than a lot of people. I regularly call myself a boy, refer to cute boys (who may be 35), etc., etc.

I think I prefer Miss when being addressed, because its respectful, or female when being referred to, because its neutral. The opinion of an ultra-feminist lesbian Southerner under 40.

Course, I really opened this thread to spin the tale of a recent interaction with my father.

He’s stepping down from his very high-falutin’ management position at a technology services company to go back to programming. This is something he’s wanted to do for a long time, so I asked him if the reason he could now is because they’d found someone to replace him. He told me there was this girl now who could handle things, he was pretty confident.

So, I imagine some up-and-coming 20-something blond spitfire, perhaps the stereotypical oil tycoon’s daughter, out to take over the company. Cool.

“Are you sure this girl can do it?” I ask.

“Oh sure, she’s been here about 17 years…”

:eek: Girl?