Thursday, 13 March 2008

Girls vs. Women

So guess what? I'm annoyed at the news again. Nothing changes!

I bought the Independent while I sat down for a coffee earlier, largely because it only costs 30p from student outlets and has a couple of sudokus in it (and no I don't know if that's the right plural, and I don't care). To be honest, I rarely find much of interest in there but for 30p you can't go far wrong. I'm wishing I went for the Guardian now though - I think they were featuring something about Sylvia Plath.


You can read the story that got me annoyed here. Obviously I was annoyed at the whole 'spending thousands of dollars on prostitutes' business...not only is it horribly unpleasant because he's married and it'd also be quite nice if he set a good example, I don't believe anyone that blindly insists that every prostitute in the business is a happy, successful woman who won't feel any emotional consequences and is doing it out of her own free will just to make a bit of extra money. Don't be so stupid. But that's a huge debate which I won't go into now as I'm lacking in time and expertise.

The point I was actually going to make was actually not about the story itself but how it was reported. I recognise that 'call girls' is a widely used euphemistic name for the job that these women do, and I know that this can then be shortened to 'girls' when referring to them. And maybe it's fair enough that the Independent therefore sees fit to use both terms in its article (both online and in print). So my upset here is a general point as well as one about the article today. But here's the thing - they are NOT girls. They are women. In English, we tend to be very squeamish about calling males 'boys' as soon as they're past early teens. The only scenario when you might refer to males as 'boys' is usually along the lines of 'going down the pub with the boys'. For females on the other hand, they are often referred to as girls well past their teens. They themselves perpetuate it by calling themselves 'girls' for decades afterwards, and can pretty much be referred to as such by any man who is older than them. I know this sounds biased because I get annoyed about this stuff, but if you think about it I think you'll realise that is how it works. And, of course, there's the research to prove it...but I won't bore you with that now.

The point is that 'girl' and 'boy' are terms for young females and males. So calling either gender by this 'young' term when they are no longer young is diminuitive. I put up with it, normally. At 19 I feel that emotionally, physically and legally, I am not a 'girl'. I'm a woman, end of. But I usually won't object to it because I am still relatively young and, as such, I can't be bothered to get too insulted. And, coming from those close to me, it can be quite sweet - it can be used as a protective, affectionate term too. Of course, that doesn't mean that any man (or woman) that I don't know should assume I don't mind them using the term 'girl' to refer to me. Stuff political far as I'm concerned, it's misleading to call me that, so don't.

The crux of this, if you've made it through this far, is that the women mentioned in the Independent story are just that: women. They aren't girls. I can grit my teeth and get past the 'call girl' title for the time being, as it does refer to a particular role. But, dear newspaper writer, they are not 'girls'. They are all adults, as far as your reporting indicates. So no more 'girls', please. Don't use the diminuitive, because it makes them sound less than they are. They regularly have rich, powerful men paying them to obey and oblige. That's a scary enough power dimension to start with, so please don't go along with it. I know I probably sound uptight and picky to you, and I know you're just trying to do your job, but think about it. Thanks.

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