Things You Can Call Women

A week ago, this Buzzfeed article, "6 Reasons You Should Stop Referring to Women as "Females" Right Now" took off, a pretty angry article about something I've generally considered to be a non-issue. The basic idea is this: using the word "female" is horrendously sexist and offensive.

The article argues that referring to someone as a female "reduc[es] a woman to her reproductive abilities", which is "dehumanizing and exclusionary". I've honestly never felt that way, I've never even thought about it, because as far as I can tell, using an adjective to emphasize a certain characteristic doesn't reduce the subject to those characteristics.

Let's say I'm looking at the Mona Lisa. And I say, "hey, that painting's pretty brown". That doesn't mean I see the painting like this:

If I was was talking to a trans man who said he used to be biologically female, I wouldn't correct him and tell him "the word you're looking for is woman", because it's not. He was never a woman. Female and woman are not always the same thing, the article is right about that, but that doesn't make either a bad word.

Of course, that doesn't mean that generalizing females (or women!) is ok. Let's go ahead and do what the article suggested, looking at "female" usage on Twitter.  Here are some I just came across.

There's dozens, more, but frankly, none of them would be any less offensive if they said "women" instead. They're all pretty shallow and heteronormative,  but I think that's because of the mindset, not just because they used "female". Generalizing any group of people like this is offensive towards everyone. 

The article also claims that nobody ever refers to men as "males", which isn't really true. That doesn't make it more or less sexist, though. This one is pretty offensive, but again, I don't think it'd be significantly less offensive if it said "men". 

Nitpicking like this is a non-issue that the feminist movement risks its credibility for. If you personally have an issue with being referred to as female, of course you can ask people not to, but it's this sort of generalized, angry article that's making people think feminism is petty. And it's not. There are so many more important issues to be addressing.

For me, the tipping point was finding this second article. Written by the same people and released immediately after the first,  it provides a helpful list of alternatives to calling women "females". I'm starting to this this whole thing is a joke. "Goddess"? "Perfection"? Imagine for a second two men released a list like this, demanding that women call them "kings" and worship them as Gods. This is not equality. 

1 comment: