Feminist Dictionary: “Girl”

You know what really grinds my gears?


It bothers me when a woman is referred to as a “girl.”

It happens more often than you would think. For example, how many times have you heard a male friend say, “So I’ve been seeing this girl who has a third breast!” or heard a coworker say, “Have you met the new girl? She claims she once had a threeway with Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, but I don’t believe a word of it.” This is especially bothersome when the word is used to refer to the entire female gender at once, i.e. “You’re pretty strong… FOR A GIRL.”

There are several reasons why this bugs me. The first is that using the word “girl” to refer to anyone over the age of legality (ew) is patently inaccurate. The dictionary defines the word “girl” as meaning “a female child.” If the person in question is not a child, they are by definition also not a girl. Referring to a 30-year-old female person as a girl infantilizes her and places her in a position of inferiority and powerlessness. A girl is a child, and therefore a girl is someone to be controlled.

An even bigger issue is the second definition of girl: “A young immature woman, especially formerly, an unmarried one.” OUCH. The degradation is literally built into the very definition! Maybe if you were a mustachioed barber living in the 18th century and your name was Cornelius Farthington and you were striking up a courtship with a young woman outside the General Store over a glass of lemonade and a piece of horehound candy, you could get away with calling her a girl. Maybe even a lass, or a gal. But that shit won’t fly this century, Cornelius.


Get with the program, you varmint.

If you need to reference a female over the age of eighteen, just call her a woman, dude. (No… no, don’t call her a womandude. She may take offence.) It doesn’t take power away from you to give agency to someone else. (Did I just sum up feminism in one sentence? Someone call Roxane Gay.) May I make a small suggestion? You could even go with “lady,” which means, “a woman who is refined, polite and well-spoken.” Who doesn’t want that compliment?


Don’t answer that. I’m sure there are women out there who prefer to be recognized as coarse, rude and inarticulate. To each her own.


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