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10 November 2005 @ 12:04 pm
the term "girl"  
I found this quote in one of the million articles in reaction to Maureen Dowd's recent article:

Dowd notices that "pre-feminist" former Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown and "post-feminist" Bust editor Debbie Stoller both refer to women as "girls," though in the L.A. Times interview that Dowd quotes, Stoller calls Cosmo "stuck in the Valley of the Dolls," and Brown tells Dowd that "to be a sex object is a wonderful thing, and you're to be pitied if you aren't one." Is the language of "girliness" liberating or regressive? Is it a matter of reclamation or subjugation? I don't know. Let's talk about it.

Yes, let's.

I feel torn on the use of the term "girl." On the one hand, as I have gotten older and especially in the past two years (I'm 25), I've started using the term "woman" much more frequently. At the same time I am guilty (?) of using the term "girl" to describe my contemporary or when I frame problems in terms of "girls and boys." I play roller derby, and refer to myself as a "derby girl" and to my colleagues in collarbone-cracking as "girls."

However. In a run-in with an attorney a couple of months ago who asked me if I was his "girl" for the day (I was in a floater secretary capacity at a large law firm), I scathingly replied that I was a woman and last time I checked, I didn't belong to anyone but myself.

I am reluctant to abandon the power of the term "girl" since in my mind there is nothing wrong with being a young woman who identifies with a "girl" culture and "girly" things. I.e. the entire concept of girlporn. However, I think there's a time and a place for using the term and in my professional capacity I appreciate being called a woman and refer to other women as such.

I don't know what I'm saying, really - is this term just totally off-limits for today's savvy feminist? I hope not. In a way I think that to abandon the term "girl" is to abandon a certain way of thinking about myself. I don't use the term "girl" to mean someone who is fearful or objectified, so should it matter if that's the common usage? (Is it the common usage?)

When faced with the question "is the language of 'girliness' liberating or regressive," my gut is to say it's neither. If I appropriate 'girliness' and make it mean something that's fun, sexy and bold, am I still buckling to some trend that hurts women? What do you all think?
Stormy Brow: basketcasestormy_brow on November 10th, 2005 07:39 pm (UTC)
Well said!

In my mind, feminism is about the freedom to live outside of a box. If one identifies with "girl culture", then one should be allowed to do so without judgement or penalty. I don't think it makes you less of a feminist.

I also agree that, while some women choose to use "girl" whilst amongst peers, it is entirely unacceptable in a professional setting.

Personally, I use the term "grrl" a lot, mostly because I like a lot of the riot grrl persona. I don't find the use of the word "girl" as a descriptive to be inherently degrading or sexist. Context is everything.

I don't know if using "girl" is ultimately going to hurt women. The symbolism of language is a very important factor in the efforts to gain respect and equal status. However, I think it's equally disempowering to women to disallow them the opportunity to use the term if they see fit.

I don't know if I'm articulating myself well, but this is my initial reaction.

Thank you.
dalshe on November 11th, 2005 11:38 am (UTC)