Words often get thrown around without thought but full of meaning. There are some that are branded in history. I’ve recently found myself quite peeved at the use of the word ‘girl.’ It often gets used in lieu of woman. I know I’m not alone in noticing the degrading effects. Calling a woman a girl tends to make them seem young and immature. We are baby girls when we’re small and we continue to be girls well after maturity. I have nine nephews and there hasn’t been a time when they don’t get called lil man. I understand it gives them confidence but what about my four nieces? They’ll remain ‘girls’ as they get older and blossom into beautiful women.
I’ve heard it so often from men when they talk to me:
“You’re such a beautiful girl.”
“I’ve never met a girl like you.”
“Girls like you are hard to come by.”
I’m a muthafuckin’ grown ass woman! I have bills and kids and shit! When they say this I take great pleasure in correcting them:
“You mean woman.”
“Of course not because I’m a woman.”
“Women like me are even harder to find.”
It automatically changes their view and attitude towards me. It certainly changed the way I saw myself. The thing is it sounds so normal that I wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t gone to DU’s Women’s College, and later discussed my findings with a close friend. It was Sophie (not her real name) who said to me, “I hate when guys call us girls! I’m grown and have done so much! How could they downplay it like that?” And that was it.
I started to hear girl, in reference to a woman, everywhere! It began to annoy me too. Media, marketing, online, friends, family, everyone was referencing a fully grown adult female as a girl. I was furious. There suddenly was an anger inside me that I could not fully place. I felt crazy for a while. I began to question if it was even worth it. It didn’t fully register until I heard some men talking about a sixteen-year-old girl and her well-developed body. They were comparing her to another girl-who, in fact, was a woman-and expressing how much they’d love to see them both naked.
There was nothing wrong with it according to them. A girl and a woman are the same things as far as they were concerned. A girl is a child. She is someone who is still learning about the world and dreams about kissing the right boy. She is someone who is fighting really hard to learn her place in the world. A woman is someone who has fought the world viciously and has learned how to survive. She is a leader. She is someone that little girls strive to become. If we accept the term of girl we’re relinquishing that thought. We’re giving into the weaker part of ourselves.
It may not seem a lot to you now but think of it this way: how would a man react if you called him a boy? In fact, try it. For everything. That’s boys’ cologne. That’s such a boyish thing to say. I’ve never met a boy like you before. Whenever you’re around other boys [men], make it an effort to switch men to boys. It’ll sound weird and it’ll seem demeaning. If you do it right you’ll get the one guy who asks why do you keep calling men boys. Then you’ll see a small glimpse of the world as they see it. You’ll see a man get upset over something as trivial as a word. A word, that according to some, doesn’t hold any power.
“I am woman” sounds more dangerous than “I am girl.” “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is more menacing than “hell hath no fury like a girl scorned.” People don’t fear girls. They fear women. It was a woman who brought Troy to its knees, not a girl. It’s the temptation of a woman that cost Adam his place in paradise. A girl is someone to protect; she is someone to take care of. A girl is someone who will love you unconditionally because she still believes in romance. A woman is a goddess, a scholar; she is the symbolism of wisdom and beauty. Don’t ever forget that. Teach your sons, daughters, brothers, and friends what a woman really is.