“That’s ridiculous, girls!”
So says a disgruntled customer to myself and my colleagues when they’re unimpressed with us for doing our jobs.
“Be creative, girls!” “Don’t be so strict, girls!”
We’ve heard it all from people who want us to bend the rules for them because they feel entitled. But to be clear, we do not have any female children working for us here at the front desk. We are adult women, professionals, and we resent the term “girls”.
“Girl” is not an offensive word in and of itself, and I have no problem being called a girl by friends, family or Ryan Gosling. But when used derogatorily it implies that being young and female somehow makes you inferior. Casting “girl” on an adult woman you are already talking down to serves to infantilize her in an attempt to push her around.
Calling us “girls” is a verbal puffing of the chest. It’s a way of making themselves seem bigger, or us smaller. They’re challenging our right to tell them the rules. How can we, as little girls, enforce anything upon adults?
Anyone who has worked in public service knows that there are certain people who, when not given their own way, turn the condescension up to 11. They’re bullies. And no matter your gender or age, everyone has experience of this. Men are called “young man” or “son” while women are called girls, as if we should crumble and kowtow to someone because they’re older. Well, no thank you, I am a grown-up and you are not the boss of me.
I’m 25 years old. In some societies I would be considered an old maid, given my unwed status. So don’t dismiss me as a child. I’m a grown-ass woman. I got a letter about having a smear test. That’s adulthood.
I was thinking about this because I’ll be starting a new blog soon, which I’m calling “the graceless girl’s guide to adventure”. Graceless is a wonderful word, meaning clumsy, awkward, uncool and uncomfortable all at once. But I was reluctant to describe myself as a girl, because I object to other people calling me a girl, especially if they were to pair it with a derogatory adjective like “graceless”. Or “little”. Or “young”.
So why be self-deprecating? Why call myself a girl? Well, partially because I love alliteration.
But mostly because I’m a grown-ass woman and I can call myself whatever I want.