Whenever women talked about it here, I'd think, 'yeah! Upvote! That's a weird thing to do!' But I'd never actually seen it myself. I'd never been around people whose first (and/or only) language has been English, it's always been Arab or a mixed group of people from different countries -- often speaking English as a second language.
Now, however, I'm in the U.S. and I'll occasionally meet a man who calls any human female 'girl'. One man I know in particular does this exclusively. I don't know if I've ever heard him call a woman, a woman.
He'll say, 'this girl started working with us...' and I swear to God, for one second, I would picture an actual child wearing a uniform that's too big for her, bossing a bunch of adults around. It's not exactly funny, it's just weird. Once this second passes, I think, 'no, he means woman,' and I'd adjust the mental image to a grown female adult- woman.
I'd sometimes correct him, and he'd mumble, 'woman...' before continuing. It's almost like it feels unnatural on his lips. Like a word from a foreign language that he has to learn.
This guy is also more misogynistic than the average man, and considering I view the 'average man' as extremely misogynistic, this dude is off the charts. It's on brand for him.
I'm considering, next time I see him, that I refer to any human male I'm talking about as 'boy', but then I realize that I am really struggling with being OK with sounding as stupid as he does whenever he calls a woman a girl.
easy way to infantilize women. i started referring to men as boys and it pissed them off. they know what they're doing
That's why racists have often referred to adult black men as "boy" too, at least in the U.S.
And to sexualise actual girls.
If night in with the girls is standard terminology for an Ann Summers party then it conflates sex with girls.
So a double tap.
I actually say boys a lot, I haven’t received any pushback so far. What’s good for the goose and all that.
Yet in the UK is perfectly normal to refer to soldiers as "our boys".
Sometimes I wonder how much this blurring of the lines is being done by men who watch a lot of jailbait porn; that it makes it more comfortable for them to rationalize their proclivities for lusting after girls if they also categorize adult women as girls, that it's 'all really the same thing.'
I agree. I definitely get this vibe from the man I mentioned in my post. I called him out on finding teenage girls attractive. Of course, he denied it and tried to convince me otherwise. I remain unconvinced but have no 'real' proof.
I'm a little confused though because he also refers to 'bad' women (by his standards) as girls.
In my female dominated workplace, everyone (including but not only the male higher-ups) refers to the lower level staff such as myself as "the girls". Whenever there's a question it's "ask the girls", when someone is leaving, "bye, girls". I'm the same age as some of the men I work for. I hate it. But for some reason "bye, women" would sound weird, wouldn't it? Why does sex even have to come into it? Why not say "bye, everyone"? Why not refer to us as "the staff" rather than "the girls" in a professional environment?
I have no doubt that the person you're talking about is a complete idiot, but I, personally, wouldn't think to assume anything of anyone using "girls" for women, depending on the context. I definitely do this, as do all of my friends (Gen X, Canada). These people who use "girl" - what are they using for males in the same context? Because in my circles, "girl" is analogous to "guy" and used in the same context. So, I wouldn't use either in a professional setting, but use them both all the time when talking with friends, or in more casual work environments. I couldn't imagine referring to my adult male friends as "men," for instance, just as I would never refer to my female friends as "women." All of my older relatives and colleagues refer to their own friends like this, too, and it comes across as an affection and familiarity thing.
ETA: The second I posted this response, I happened to get a message from my octogenarian aunt, telling me how she was having the "girls over for bridge." I know, I know - it's not the same at all, but the cute coincidence made me smile.
It's a very insidious and quiet way to infantilize and degrade the professional women around them. I don't think most of them even mean it to be negative (even thoughts its effects are certainly negative). It reminds me of a recent discussion on here from a few days ago about invisible slurs and gendered insults, like "b*tch" or other highly gendered words that specifically degrade women.
We need more gendered insults for males, my favorite is “scrotes”
Love that one. Also love to call dudes nutsacks
Absolutely! It’s not common to my ears, but it is seen as racist and degrading to refer to Black men as ‘boy,’ at least in the USA. https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/11/02/417513631/when-boys-cant-be-boys
“Girl” should be responded to in the same way when used to refer to adults. “Trans girls” has the same ring to it when adults call themselves this.
Yeah, I don't think it's on purpose. But I also don't think it's innocent.
It’s one of my biggest pet peeves, and also the easiest way to determine if a man is worth letting into my life.
An occasional “girl” to describe a woman is one thing (still not ideal, but even some women do it and some men refer to their male friends as “boys”). But I know exactly what kind of man you are if you exclusively refer to women - the younger ones who are only not invisible to you because you want to fuck them - as girls. You’re an old timer, an incel, or a fuckboy.
What I never thought about before is how this is an English language thing. Very interesting.
People do it in other languages as well. They do it here. Whenever someone refers to me as a girl, I laugh at them and say 'that's a long time ago'. Men get annoyed, but a few women have actually stopped in their tracks and started thinking about it.
The most annoying thing is when I see the immediate combination "men and girls" when talking about a gathering of adults of both sexes. It is jarring.
And like you say; a very good indicator in men. I find that a lot of women have internalised it into their language, and are unfamiliar with the word woman, simply because they have always been referred to as a girl. It's like society never acknowledged that they grew up and are adults now. It can be a bit jarring for them too at first, to realise that perhaps they are not girls anymore.
In my early 20s I started to wonder at what point I’d be considered a “woman” instead of a “girl.” Like I had this convo with my husband a lot; why are men past 18 or 19 usually called men, and people are so hesitant to say the word “woman,” particularly for a female under 30
I agree regarding what it says about them.
On the language thing. In Arabic, adult women are referred to as 'girls' until they're married especially if they're under 35. (Younger generations and progressive thinkers do not do this.) For the people who call unmarried women 'girls' however, it is entirely intentional. One problem with it is that you have to know the woman personally or at least know her marital status. A lot of the time, this isn't the case, and they simply assume an adult female is married so they call her a 'woman'.
Point is: it's not any better, but it's never a slip-up. Whereas in English, it's a behavior that is so thoughtless yet so telling.
Super interesting! Sounds very similar as far as the implications of viewing a woman as a girl.
I dislike it when older women refer to themselves (ie in groups) as girls. I don’t hang out with men, so don’t hear it from them.
I talked about this with my older friend, she said it’s a generation thing - “woman” sounds harsh and “lady” is too distant. A lot of people are frightened of the word “woman”, or find it offensive even, as if it implies an uncouth and coarse person.
Yes, it’s a bit like the word “lesbian” was for me as a teen, a hard sort of word (I’m heterosexual, it wasn’t in reference to myself). It’s funny, “women” to address a group - like “Morning, women” - does sound distant to me, but “Morning, ladies” doesn’t, probably because to me it has a certain amount of humour. It’s like saying “Morning, chaps”; I wouldn’t say “Morning, men,” either, or “Morning, boys” for that matter.
I was watching a livestream where the host decided to 'explain' why men prefer to say 'girl' as opposed to 'woman,' with his explanation being men always prefer to use fewer syllables when speaking; 'girl' and 'b*tch' are one syllable, while 'woman'/'women' are two syllables.
He was so proud of himself he completely missed how offensive that was.
I've been calling ppl out on it. I notice it a lot with some women YouTubers i like. It's so common. I'm also teaching my son to refer to adult females as women and not girls. He's getting it but at his age, everything is "boys and girls" but he does correct himself
I confess I have used the term to refer to young women. It’s hard to stop saying something you’ve heard casually all the time. But I’m working on it.
I’m in my 40s and sometimes refer to women in their early 20s as girls. I know technically they’re not, but they’re babies to me. I try to catch myself though, especially if they’re out of college.
I call only children girls, then 'youth' (direct translation, it's more normal-sounding in my language. Like, the intermediate between children and adults; mid-teenagers. If I need to use sexed language for context I still use girls). Somewhere before 18 they become 'young women', at 18 they are definitely no longer 'youth' (they are legal adults), and somewhere along the line become women (once they are out of their remaining childish ways and naivetë, I guess, and starting to settle into adult lives).
My daughter is in her mid-teens, and I have occasionally called her a young woman as a sort of a demonstration that I am aware that she is no longer a small child. She likes that and I can see her straightening her back a little in pride.
As long as it's a positive (not 'organise everybody else's lives and emotions', but rather 'I see you are growing and maturing and becoming cleverer'), I think it's good for them to experience acknowledgement from their surroundings that they are not children anymore.
i'm trying to make "gals" happen.
I have a friend who escaped from a fundy cult just a few years ago. She’s coming into herself but still has some weird little quirks from her time there. One of them is that she calls women “gals”. Given that she comes from such a patriarchal and misogynistic community, I’m not inclined to trust that term
I seem to be in a "ladies" habit of late.
Ugh, I don’t like “gals” or “ladies”. It seems like we are making up new words to describe what we are because another group is trying to take over the word “woman”. Anything but “woman” comes off as patronizing to me
Ladies is an interesting one, you probably would not have used this word as a feminist in the 70s or 80s, and I recall my radical feminist lecturers decrying its use in the 90s too. Think about what it means to be a "lady", it implies a woman of a certain class, with certain standards of behaviour. There are some strong historical associations with the use of this word and that is why feminists, particularly lesbian feminists, have taken issue with its use at times. I agree with you too, it seems patronising.
That’s my go-to for groups.
Maybe we gravitate towards it because TIMs rarely if ever call themselves "ladies"? Maybe they think that term isn't as young and sexy sounding as calling themselves "girls."
It's just so strange when I hear/read men in my peer group talking about adult women but exclusively or almost exclusively referring to them as "girls"... Like, don't you feel strange as a man in your, say, 30s talking about women in a dating context but calling them "girls"? Don't you feel silly referring to a 40-year-old actress as a "girl"? I know it's incredibly normalized at this point, and even people (women included) who aren't purposefully trying to be demeaning or weird might still default to calling women "girls" at times, but it's still so odd to me. Unfortunately there's just this stigma surrounding the word "woman" in our society. I see where it stems from (misogyny, ageism, etc.), and I remember also feeling uncomfortable with seeing myself as a woman when I first became a young adult, but it's still...strange and irritating.
Goes way back. As a child I learned that "woman" was slightly insulting, that "lady" was preferable.
Notice how many children refer to a woman they do not know as a "lady"; notice how few (none) ever refer to a man using the linguistic male counterpart, "gentleman."
And still that other one: "young lady." Grown women get that from time to time. No male over the age of 7 is ever referred to as a "young gentleman."
Great observations. That's very true -- whenever I'm in public and a child or a parent of a child refers to a woman they don't know, they always call her a "lady" rather than a "woman." It's so rare to hear the word "gentleman" at all aside from when it's paired with "lady" (such as "ladies and gentlemen").