Comments on: An Alphabet of Feminism #7: G is for Girl /2010/11/15/an-alphabet-of-femininism-7-g-is-for-girl/ A feminist pop culture adventure Tue, 11 Sep 2012 09:18:29 +0000 hourly 1 By: Race, Gender and Nation in ‘Game Of Thrones’ (2011) « The Disorder Of Things /2010/11/15/an-alphabet-of-femininism-7-g-is-for-girl/#comment-282 Tue, 21 Jun 2011 14:18:08 +0000 […] Stark, everyone’s favourite tomboy, protected from the solid binaries of Man and Woman by the relatively ungendered space of girlness. Thin and still flat-chested, she is able to pass, Shakespeare-like, as a boy. For […]

By: A Feminist Ideography « The Disorder Of Things /2010/11/15/an-alphabet-of-femininism-7-g-is-for-girl/#comment-281 Tue, 19 Apr 2011 01:48:41 +0000 […] G is for Girl: […]

By: Pet Jeffery /2010/11/15/an-alphabet-of-femininism-7-g-is-for-girl/#comment-280 Sun, 19 Dec 2010 13:02:58 +0000 Thinking about the word “girl”, I’m wondering why I wrote something…

In my novel “Jane”, my narrator makes a short voyage on the female-crewed warship, the Revenge. For this, I wanted female equivalents to “seaman” and “seamanship”, and coined “seagirl” and “seagirlship” I wonder now why not “seawoman” and “seawomanship”? Several possibilities occur to me. In the case of “seagirlship”, the most likely is that “seawomanship” doesn’t sound well, if one attempts to pronounce it. “Seagirl” may have been by analogy with “seagirlship”. Additionally, it may have been intended to reflect the youth of the sailors… and possibly I may have liked its sounding similar to “seagull”.

Reasons for preferring “girl” to “woman”, in any given context, may be complex.

By: Pet Jeffery /2010/11/15/an-alphabet-of-femininism-7-g-is-for-girl/#comment-279 Tue, 30 Nov 2010 12:06:38 +0000 In reply to Pet Jeffery.

I’ve been thinking that, properly to consider “girl” applied to an adult woman, we need also to take into account “boy” applied to adult men. I’ve thought of six such uses of “boy”, but there are probably more. I don’t where this takes us, but…

1. Boy = adult African American. A patronising (at best) American usage, possibly now obsolete. We find it in: “Pardon me, boy, is this the Chattanooga Choo-choo?” I’m pretty sure that the question is supposed to be addressed to a black railway employee. There seems an implication that a boy is less than a man (and, by extension, we may assume that a girl is less than a woman). As far as I know, “girl” has not been used in a similar way for adult African Americans.

2. “Good old boy”, an other American usage. My impression is that “good old boy” and “red neck” mean pretty well the same thing. If one dislikes rustic Americans one may call them red necks, using “good old boys” implies the opposite attitude. Here “boy” seems to be affectionate.

3. In English usage the “old boys” of a school (former pupils). For once (thank the goddess) this seems sexually neutral. “Old girls” is used in exactly the same way.

4. Another English usage for “old boy” (possibly regional) = elderly man. My mother used “old boy” in this way, seemingly affectionately, but perhaps a little patronisingly. I think that this usage was (is? I haven’t heard it recently) employed more by women than men. My father certainly used it on occasion, but more sparingly than my mother.

5. Boyfriend = a man with whom one has a sexual (or potentially sexual) relationship short of intending to spend ones’ entire remaining lives together. I have heard the word used of men in their thirties (at least). Again, sexually neutral, “girlfriend” is used in the same way.

6. Boys = soldiers or policemen (the latter as “the boys in blue”). “Support our boys” means “support our army” without any reference to the age of the soldiers (although only staff officers are permitted to remain the army until they become geriatric). I think the sense of “our boys” is that these (as a nation) are our sons. “Boy”, here, perhaps signifies a familial relationship more than it does anything to do with the age of the boys. I am uncertain as to the mix between senses 4 and 6 in the “Dad’s Army” signature tune: “We are the boys who will make you think again”.

All of this seems to paint a rather confusing picture of the word “boy”, but perhaps we should try to make some sense of it, if we are to give serious attention to the word “girl”.

By: Pet Jeffery /2010/11/15/an-alphabet-of-femininism-7-g-is-for-girl/#comment-278 Mon, 29 Nov 2010 12:31:30 +0000 In reply to Hodge.

I think that makes a lot of sense, Hodge. I’ve been trying to think of something to add, but (so far, at least) can only nod in agreement.

By: Hodge /2010/11/15/an-alphabet-of-femininism-7-g-is-for-girl/#comment-277 Thu, 18 Nov 2010 13:35:16 +0000 In reply to Pet Jeffery.

Don’t forget ‘female’, which, while rarely used in everyday conversation nowadays, has been firmly relegated to the realms of the straightforwardly opprobrious.

One of the problems with ‘girl’ is that, I think, it also cuts into the heart of the preoccupation with youth, and fear of maturity, which, while not necessarily an exclusively feminist issue, certainly has some serious implications for women.

Here, I think it is worth returning once again to the nickname issue, and perhaps throwing in the slightly strange habit many women have of speaking in fake dialect / accents when they’re saying something a bit controversial or unexpected (on this, see Hadley Freeman, for example – This to me seems to be an attempt to sort of belittle yourself in order to avoid confrontation or challenges.

In the same way, while there may be a kind of fear in growing older (I still find it hard to remember I’m no longer a teenager, even though I’ve been in my twenties for a couple of years now, and stubbornly continue to refer to myself as ‘a girl’ because I simply can’t get my head around the idea that I’ve finally arrived in the realms of ‘women’), I think there is also something about *refusing* to own your maturity which is more of an issue than it would be for a man. No man my age would submit to being called ‘a boy’, for example.

And don’t forget that one of the oft-cited reasons behind eating disorders (those most female of mental illnesses) has been a desire to remain a child, to refuse a developing body and all the pitfalls it represents. Which are often based around sexuality.

Apologies if this is long and rambling. I hope it makes some kind of sense!

By: Hodge /2010/11/15/an-alphabet-of-femininism-7-g-is-for-girl/#comment-276 Thu, 18 Nov 2010 13:23:43 +0000 In reply to Stephen B.

Would comment on what W will be, except my brain only works short-term and I genuinely can’t remember if I had a witty and interesting curveball for that week or not ;) Will have to check my tatty sketchbook word-list.

I will, however, be addressing the rather interesting question of women / witches and their familiars when we get to P. Which word will be possibly the most grindingly obvious gynocentricism of them all…

By: Stephen B /2010/11/15/an-alphabet-of-femininism-7-g-is-for-girl/#comment-275 Thu, 18 Nov 2010 10:12:39 +0000 In reply to Pet Jeffery.

Interesting factoid on the women (and men) who were accused of being witches during the big ‘witch trial’ period in Europe: they were mostly middle-aged people who had political power and disputes with their neighbours. Some crossover with women who were considered to be too ‘nagging’ as well. There’s an interesting vein that suggests it was often used in a sexist way where ‘bitch’ might be today.

Whereas when the choice of woman is driven by reports of what a witch DOES (historical documents of accusations, not fairy-tale version), it’s often young and beautiful women stealing other people’s boyfriends. Or old crones with curses. Less middle ground, as you said above.

By: Pet Jeffery /2010/11/15/an-alphabet-of-femininism-7-g-is-for-girl/#comment-274 Wed, 17 Nov 2010 23:56:01 +0000 In reply to Pet Jeffery.

Actually, I rather hope that the W will be “witch” (rather than “woman”). I recall seeing amongst the definitions “an old and ugly woman” and “a young and beautiful woman”.

By: Pet Jeffery /2010/11/15/an-alphabet-of-femininism-7-g-is-for-girl/#comment-273 Wed, 17 Nov 2010 12:24:57 +0000 Interesting that “gay girl” once meant “female child”. I don’t think that anyone, today, would use it other than as a synonym for “lesbian”.