A warning here – this is one of my personal peeves.

The conflating of the two terms “girls” and “women” really bothers me. Perhaps it because I tend towards pedantry, or perhaps I’m just easily annoyed. Either could be accurate.

It’s bothered me ever since my (female) friends and I were asked by a pub bouncer: “can I see your ID, please, girls?”

Now, this part is pedantic, but I personally feel that there are two logical options; either I am a girl, and therefore not adult, and therefore will not have ID  – or I am a woman, and adult, and will have ID. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to be addressed appropriately.

It bothered me when I watched The Apprentice back in April.

It bothered me when I couldn’t avoid watching the olympics – although that bothered me for other reasons too.

And I got angry with it again today because the BBC reports the following:

“Conjoined twins born to teenager

An 18-year-old woman gives birth to conjoined twin girls named Faith and Hope at a London hospital.”

Come on! Surely it’s not that difficult – you pick the way you want to refer to her, and you stick to it. Is she a “teenager”, or is she a “woman”?

Yes, I know that technically she can be (and is) both, but it frustrates me. I think because of the wording. When the birth is in the passive voice – when the birth is something that happens to her – she’s described as being a “teenager”. As soon as it becomes active – when it’s something that she does – she becomes a “woman”.

Is it a coincidence, this… infantilisation? I don’t know what else to call it, to get my point across. Too often, women, adult women, are described in ways that make them something other, something less. “Babes”, for example, or “little ladies” or “chicks” or “honeyz”.

I’ve never, ever understood that last one, by the way. Is it meant to mean that women are cloying, sweet and sticky? All the time? The mind boggles.

Fairly often, this happens when the women in question are presented more as objects than as people. FHM is a particularly odious example of this; counting all of the words I can find without moving from their front page, “girls” appears 12 times, “honeys” appears 6 times, and “women” just twice. Incidentally, the phrase “Ladyland” also appears twice; I’m not sure what this means, but it must mean something!

So, actually, I’m going to continue to have a problem with this particular usage of the word “girl”. Partly because I have a deep and abiding loathing of FHM, but mostly because of what it signifies. Because it feels so much that I am being disregarded. Because if a male 20-year-old was referred to as a “boy”, it would be a very deliberate insult. Because I am a fully formed adult, and I wish to be addressed as such, thank you. I would start talking about the way people lose my goodwill when they write to me as “miss”, but I fear this post would go on for ever!

Oh, and also – if we take this to its extremes, we get extreme nastiness, especially from the heterosexual-male-“unbiased”-viewpoint:

“I will not differentiate between the term ‘girl’ and ‘woman’. Thus, in my mind, the two terms are equal; ‘girl’ is equivalent to ‘woman’ and vice versa.

I am attracted to, and may objectify, women, and the media and my society will provide opportunities for me to do so.

Therefore, I am attracted to, and may objectify, girls, and the media and my society will provide opportunities for me to do so.

Right, now separate the terms ‘girl’ and ‘woman’. One now means ‘female child’, the other means ‘female adult’. See where the ick factor comes in?

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