I’m a proud feminist. I love being a woman, and I call people out when they use my gender as an insult.
A few weeks ago, one of my male coworkers asked a group of male coworkers where “you girls” are going for lunch. All the while, I was helping him with something. So, without even turning to look at him, I said, “you seem to be using the world ‘girls’ as an insult, and I don’t appreciate that.”
And yet, I still find myself offended by it. Not just the use of the word, but the word itself.
A different male coworker always calls me the “marketing girl,” and it really rubs me the wrong way. So why is the word girl so demeaning?
Child, in this case, is the key word.
Sure, I’m one of the youngest people working for my company. I’m 24 years old, but I’m still the head of my department and hold a lot of key information that this person needs to do his job. Being demeaning toward me is one of the last things he should want to do.
Adulthood, legally, starts at age 18. So legally, I am not a child.
Biologically speaking, womanhood starts after puberty–around age 12 or 13. So biologically, I am not a child.
Let’s pretend for a moment that I were male. This male coworker needs important information from me, so he approaches my desk. Which greeting do you think he would use?
Option 1: Hey marketing boy, can you get me x?
Option 2: Hey [male name], can you get me x?
Chances are, if I were male, he would use Option 2. Despite being the same age and holding the same position. Yet, being female, he sees it as okay to call me “marketing girl.”
Sure, he might introduce the male version of me as the “marketing guy.” But there’s a big distinction between “guy” and “boy.”
In the dictionary, boy is defined as a male child, just as girl is defined as a female child. Guy, on the other hand, refers to a man. So, no, “marketing girl” and “marketing guy” do not have the same connotations.
So, the next time you are thinking of calling a woman girl, I recommend rethinking your strategy. Instead, I recommend using her name.