[Image credit: Cincinnati Institute for Reproductive Health]
I think every feminist has a least favourite term for “women”. And they’re all teeth-grindingly offensive in different ways: “girls”, “broads”, “chicks”, “babes”, “coeds”, “fillies”, “skirts”.
Meredith Clark offers an article on the “f-word” on Tallahassee.com: “No, not that one! It’s ‘female’ “. (She is talking specifically of “female” as a noun meaning “woman”, not as an adjective.) While Clark brackets the article with irritating INAFB apologetics, the meat of it resonates with me. “Females” has been getting under my skin for decades. In my experience, men use “females” when they’re thinking of women as non-human objects for display or sex, or as strange incomprehensible non-men creatures:
“Let’s go to the pub tonight and find us some females!”
“There sure are a lot of hot females here tonight, eh?” *grunts of agreement*
“I just don’t understand females.”
One of my first hits, idly plugging this into google? “How to Argue With Females”: a huh-huh list of how women are illogical, unintelligent, easily-frazzled, jealous, overemotional, and menstrually-incapacitated. (The comments get all the way to three before someone suggests rape.)
Why is “female”, used as a synonym for “woman”, so irritating? I think because it designates women as marked by our sex, and only by our sex. Just as “skirts” reduces us to a piece of clothing, and “fillies” as sleek wild young things to be tamed, and “coeds” to rather novel but ultimately unimportant college accessories, “females” shoves us firmly into the sex category. Nothing else is important – not, as Clark says, our talents; not our passions or hates or history or humanity; just our reproductive organs. We’re reduced to a support system for a uterus and vagina, discussed in a detached manner as if we were animals on a wildlife show.
[Hat tip to tigtog.]