by Nikki Seymour, 26
Following up on Tuesday’s terrific post entitled Free to be You and Me discussing gender roles and boundaries, I was mistakenly referred to as a girl on two different occasions last week. While being “true” (I self-identify as female), the notion of being called a girl did not sit well with me because of how the otherwise amazing word was used. Twice I was referred to a girl by men. Twice I was referred to a girl by men in superior positions. Twice I was irritated. Let me explain:
Insult #1: I was in a conference room with a peer going over some documents. A supervisor entered the room and asked that the “girls” move to a different space so that he could use the conference room for a call. It was me and a gentleman. Keep in mind I barely know this person. So, yes, he left a great impression.
Insult #2: The substitute trainer for my boot camp class referred to the room full of women as “girls.” For example: “Come on, girls, jump.” “Let’s go, girls.” You get the idea. Also to provide some context, the class was filled with over a dozen women aged 25-65 who take three boot camp classes a week. Hmph.
While the word was tossed into the space effortlessly and simply, nonetheless it bothered me. One usage of “girls” was inappropriate given a male’s presence, which most likely made him feel uncomfortable. I imagine the superior thought it was a light joke, but not knowing how either of us would react should have made him be more intentional with his words.
On the second occurrence, “girls” was repeatedly used as a way to refer to women. Although the instructor was trying to motivate the class, referring to full-grown women as girls did not respect our age or fitness level. I interpreted the instructor as perceiving the class as difficult and “above” us “girls.”
In both instances, I felt as though the individual used the word inaccurately to describe what was in front of him. I am extraordinarily proud of being a girl and usually am unopposed to being referred to as such. I often say “hey girl hey” to my friends. GIRLS is one of my favorite TV shows. However, if someone utters “girls” in a way that does not reflect strength, worth, competence, and dignity, I don’t think it should be used. So let’s all be mindful of our language and how our actions may impact others, intentionally or not. Because, yes, I got this and I AM a girl.