Saturday, April 20, 2013

Do Not Call Me a Girl

Caution: this is a bit of a rant.  That said, I do have a legitimate suggestion at the end so bear with me.
Am I the only woman out there who hates being called a girl? I need to ask this because at times I feel very alone in this desire to have the world call me a woman. I am not talking about what individual women want to call themselves. That decision is a personal choice and I respect that. I am talking instead about what others, especially men, presume to call me.
Just yesterday my male osteopath said: “Good girl” when I told him I stretched regularly. I felt like a dog or, at best, an immature being who needed an adult to tell her she was doing good. I told him to not do that but we were already deep into the session and my mouth was not working very well. My protests probably sounded like grunts. I had not the energy not the will to pursue it but if he does it again he will hear these words: Do not call me a girl.
Last month at my day job, a twenty year old young man wished me and two other women, all three of us at least twice his age, a goodnight. He said: G’night girls. I responded back: G’night boy. He did a double take; he hasn’t done it again.
I am 51 years old. I have crow’s feet around my eyes, grey in my hair, and the skin around my inner elbows looks like crepe paper. I have earned these age marks; I am not ashamed of them—they mark my passage into physical maturity. My emotional maturity is not so visible to those that don’t know me and perhaps even to some that do but that is beside the point. I know me.
I have worked damned hard at getting to know who I am, what I want and what I am going to do about it. I have not been a “girl” for over thirty years. I don’t want to be a girl. Girl, as does boy, implies immaturity in all stages of development. And that is the way it should be. Girls and boys are immature, they are undeveloped— they are still growing in all facets of their life. It is a biological truth. And, while I am always changing and yes, growing in terms of my understandings, relationships and internal processes, I am not a girl. 
If I act immature, I deserve to be called on it. But to have strangers call me a girl reinforces the implicit hierarchy in our society that states females, no matter what age they may be, are somehow less than, not quite up to par, or needing guidance.
Am I taking this too seriously?
Try it out. Next time someone, especially a man, calls you a girl think about what he is really saying.  Think about exchanging the favour: see how subtly degrading it sounds when you refer to him a boy. And then do something about it.

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