Girl Power?

clintongirl.jpg
I missed the AFL-CIO’s Democratic presidential forum the other night, but while reading a short write-up of the debate, I came across a quote from Senator Clinton that made me do a double-take:

“For 15 years, I have stood up against the right-wing machine. And I’ve come out stronger. If you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I’m your girl.”

Wait, what? Forget the part about how Clinton says that she stands up to right-wing machine when she actually has a history of caving in (*cough* Iraq War). “I’m your girl?” She’s 59-years-old!
I bring up her age not to make her sound “old”– I’m 23, and I bristle at being called a “girl” as much as any 23-year-old man bristles at being called a “boy.” I resent the cultural phenomenon of infantalizing women, as well as the social practice for men to be called men the moment they turn 18, while women have to wait at least until they’re 30 to be regularly called a woman, and even then are encouraged to put off the change as long as possible.
Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but as someone with an English degree, I think that language is important. Particularly in politics, words are chosen very carefully. And I’m not the only one who noticed. So what the hell is going on, here? How did we go from a Hillary Clinton eager to push her credentials of toughness to a Hillary Clinton referring to herself as a “girl?” Is it an attempt to reverse the perception that she is too masculine? An attempt to appeal to women as “one of them,” like with her self-deprecating remarks about her weight? Or, since it was a labor union forum, maybe she was trying to appear populist, as opposed to the liberal that she is so often (incorrectly) portrayed as?
And what on earth are we to think of it? Of course, she gets to call herself whatever she wants, but we’re also entitled to our opinions. As feminists, we have worked long and hard to see a woman with a real shot at the presidency. I know that a lot of us already have personal reservations about her and her policies. So how are we to feel about having a legitimate female presidential candidate– the Democratic candidate who would probably win if the primaries were held today– referring to herself as a girl? And, particularly for those who find the phrase inconsequential, why don’t we have the same reaction to Clinton saying “I’m your girl” as we would if Giuliani said “I’m the boy for the job?”

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59 Comments

  1. the frog queen
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I think your right, you are making a mole-hill out of a mountain. Isn’t she just trying to be cute by saying “girl”? I would guess she’s just playing off what people have been labelling her as… not a politician but a female. For her to say girl gives me the impression she’s being a little “cute” or “fun”.
    However, the whole right-wing machine comment doesn’t make any sense what-so-ever. That deserves a WTF..

  2. Posted August 9, 2007 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I think maybe it was more about sounding casual and relaxed. She was referring to herself as a girl; it’s not like some pundit labeled her in a condescending fashion. I say “boys” instead of “men” or “guys” sometimes because I just like the way it sounds and the intention is certainly not to infantalize them. Yes, language is important but she was just using a different turn of phrase.
    We criticize people for dissecting every little thing Clinton says, wears or does because she is a woman. Now it seems we are committing the same offense. Give her a break. (Not that criticisms of her pandering to right are off base, but that’s a different issue.)
    Mountain out of a molehole, yes.

  3. SarahMC
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Can you imagine Obama or Edwards saying “I’m your boy!”? No. It would never happen. Men call themselves men. Neither women nor men should be calling grown women “girls.” I am trying very hard to put this into practice in my own life.

  4. Nicole Brice
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I agree with lilaeden. Let’s give her a break. A lot of people feel that she comes off too sternly and she was probably just attempting to be more casual.
    By no means do I feel it is okay to refer to adult women as “girls,” but let’s not criticize her.

  5. werechick
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Had she said woman instead of girl, she’d have come off much more formal, and much more demanding rather than the playful dimunitiveness of girl. HC is extremely calculated in her use of language, and I’m sure that was part of her intention.
    Had HC been a man, she wouldn’t have said “boy,” but she wouldn’t have said “man,” either. She’d go with the third option, “guy,” which has no modern female equivilent. Gal, after all, hasn’t been used for half a century, and would just make her seem old.

  6. Posted August 9, 2007 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    You go, girl!
    Whoops.

  7. Posted August 9, 2007 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Hearing Clinton say that made me cringe. I correct people all the time who refer to grown women as “girls,” and this certainly hasn’t helped the perception that it’s no big deal. Calling a man a “boy” is incredibly derogatory, and I think women ought to demand, and should afford ourselves, the same respect and refuse to stand for being referred to as children.

  8. kayebee
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill.
    I see it as her embracing her femaleness with humor. It IS funny, in 2007 at least, to hear a 59 year old Presidential candidate to refer to herself as “a girl.” She’s running for President (and may win!) so it’s a stretch to perceive this comment as somehow infantilizing women, at least when it’s spoken by this speaker.
    I think it’s pretty easy to imagine Giuliani, who, if nothing else, at least has a sense of humor, making a similar speech and ending with “I’m your boy!” and getting a laugh, as well.
    It’s kinda like the “bitch” and “nigger” debates, though–if a woman refers to herself as a bitch, it’s cool. But if a guy in a bar calls you one after you turn him down, it’s different.

  9. missknuckles
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    It seems as though people are neglecting to focus on the issues and instead love to bicker about her appearance and her choice of rhetoric, things that are inconsequential to begin with in a campaign. Then again, she’s the first woman in history to have the chance at the presidency, something we’re all clearly not used to. I guess the way that this “I’m your girl” comment is being overblown is a way to accept change on some level. Then again, it’s early in the morning and I’m just rambling.

  10. Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    It bothered me. It definitely stood out.

  11. SarahMC
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Gal, after all, hasn’t been used for half a century

    Tell that to our anti-feminist trolls. ;)

  12. VT Idealist
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I think she was trying to be casual. And you’re right, language has a huge part in this. In modern American English, the casual form of ‘man’ is ‘guy’. As in, ‘That’s my friend Bob. He’s a good guy.’ What is the causal form of ‘woman’? Gal? Doll? (I always think of Guys and Dolls). Neither of those words really sound correct. The casual form of ‘woman’ has become ‘girl’.
    I noticed this just a few minutes ago when I was writing my response to the steak article. I started to write a sentence that began with ‘If both the guy and girl’, referring to a couple on their first date. As I was writing I realized the implication of calling a grown woman a girl and changed the wording to be gender neutral, ‘If both people’. If I had been speaking my thoughts instead of typing, I would not have been able to correct myself. It’s amazing how much sexism is ingrained in language.
    Men are lucky in that they have a modern casual term for their gender that does not diminish them. Women’s choices are ‘woman’, ‘lady’, which does not convey casualness, or ‘girl’, which is causal but is unfortunately diminutive.
    Wow. Thoughts on language from a woman with engineering degree.

  13. Devan
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    You are definitely overreacting.
    Hillary has such a difficult time running for President as woman, she doesn’t need her feminist allies criticizing her every move. She was obviously reminding the audience that:
    1) she is a female running for President, and that is still something to be very excited about
    2) she’s not the cold-hearted bitch that the right makes her out to be (and that many on the left accept and propagate, showing that our political allies can be just as sexist as conservatives)
    As feminist dedicated to enacting broad social change, it’s necessary to compromise our politics on occasion. Any radical activist who wants to accomplish anything will tell you that flexibility is imperative. So yeah, Hillary isn’t fucking bell hooks, but she may well be our first woman President, and that is a HUGE step for the feminist movement.

  14. VT Idealist
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Ahhh, Werechick beat me to it.

  15. Pup, MD
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    SMC, at least they don’t resort to guys and DOLLS! *shudder*
    Agree with werechick though, there really needs to be a positive pairing for “Guys and _______.” Males get promoted from “boy” to “guy” at some point, but if you’re not a country music artist, you really can’t say “gal” without sounding like a little weird.

  16. Lo
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    No, you are most definitely NOT overreacting. When I heard her speech it made me stop what I was doing when I heard her call herself a “girl.” The problem is not that she is purposefully infantalizing heself, but rather that there is no “unmarked” default word for women to use. It’s like with clothing; we have no default gray suit, so whatever we wear makes us either aggressive (negative) or a slut (also negative). Is there a positive word for a female that doesn’t make her sound either childish or overbearing?

  17. Shayna Bree
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this post.
    I had just gotten into a big fight with a man because he called my friend who is in her 30s a “girl.” I gave him the whole spiel about how disrespectful it is etc. And then I hear the lone female running for president refer to herself as a “girl” and I just said, “You gotta fuckin’ be kidding me!” WTF!

  18. ceruleanmoon
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    According to Merriam-Webster: Etymology: Middle English gurle, girle – young person of either sex.
    “Particularly in politics, words are chosen very carefully.” Indeed? Has anybody informed our president of that fact? Yikes! When I think of some of the choice comments that have come out of the Mouth of Bush, I cringe.
    Perhaps you are reading too much into Clinton’s remark. My mother and her two sisters are 87, 89 and 92 and they refer to themselves as “girls.” I think it’s sweet. Let’s not put too much importance on that one word so that it overshadows Sen. Clinton’s bigger message.

  19. Posted August 9, 2007 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Mountain out of a molehill.
    And it’s not that she’s trying to paint herself as something other than liberal. Labor is liberal – very liberal. What they don’t like is elitist. By using the diminuitive term “girl”, she was trying to appeal to a populist base. Emphasis on the word diminuitive, not infantile.
    By the same token, she also declared her Mets fandom right after declaring she’s running for Senate in NY. And she also summonsed at will a southern accent, which she used during a speech in the south a few months ago. She’s a political animal. Get it? She knows her audience, and she tries to appeal to it. That’s what politicians do, for better or worse.
    Also: she shouldn’t have to prove her cred in a feminist forum. This is the woman who said on 60 Minutes when Bill Clinton was seeking the nom: “I’m not Tammy Wynette. I’m not going to stand by my man and bake cookies” or something to that effect. She gets it. She’s lived it. And she’s not afraid to assert her progressive feminist views.
    Last, you know, she spoke at the Blog Her conference last week and spoke on education and a whole host of issues that affect women. But that’s boring, right.

  20. yesthisismymajor
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I think it’s important to point out that 59-year-olds are not girls, but I do also suggest going a little easy on her. I recently made the mistake of writing the phrase “girls ages 12-21″ in an e-mail and was bashed as an anti-feminist (I’m a women’s studies major working for a non-profit focused on women’s rights). Let’s not assume that everyone who makes this mistake is evil. We can correct them and move on.

  21. Posted August 9, 2007 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    On the one hand, I definitely agree that language has power, and the degree to which people in formal situations use “girl” in places where they wouldn’t use “boy” is an issue. On the other hand, I think Clinton was using “girl” here as a deliberate move to make herself seem approachable and friendly, which is something she — like, for example, Al Gore — struggles with. Politicians have to balance a thousand different awkward choices like this.
    On the other hand, I’m fond of the familiarity engendered by using “girl” to describe my intimates. That is, I host a “girls’ night” every so often with my friends, and sometimes I like to go out with “the girls”. I understand the objection to this, but I figure it’s fair if I also tend to use “boy” in similar settings, which I do. “I met this cute boy last night!” I have been known to say.
    Still, in the public sphere, it’s a little embarrassing to hear Clinton referring to herself that way. While I don’t think this is a mountain, I would have been happier for her to find another way to flag herself as approachable and friendly.

  22. Posted August 9, 2007 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Hey Everyone,
    It seems that this one has aroused some passions, which I was expecting. I would just like to clarify that I was not intending to “bash” Clinton or call her a bad woman or a bad candidate. I was just trying to ask the question of what we think about a female candidate marketing herself in this way. Everyone seems to have picked up the “mountain out of a molehill” phrase– but I think that some here are exaggerating my comments as well.
    In any case, carry on!

  23. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I actually struggle with this issue. I use roughly the following terms:
    1. 0-12 years old
    Boy/girl
    2. 12-24 years old
    Guy/girl
    3. > 24 years old
    Men/Women
    But I feel a bit bad using girl vs. guy, especially when it slips out when I’m teaching class. But there is no real equivalent to the word “guy”, and men/women doesn’t sound right to me.
    If Obama/Edwards had said “I’m your boy” it would have been weird. If they had said “I’m your guy” it would have been normal.

  24. marle
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    It seems really weird to have Clinton refer to herself as a “girl”, and I even regularly use “girl” to refer to young adult women (of course, I also use “boy” to refer to young adult men, which confuses most people I talk to, but whatever). It would have sounded fine if she said “I’m your woman” just like one of the guys could say “I’m your man”. I don’t understand why she used girl.

  25. Caitlyn
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    There are things that I was sensitive about when I was 23 that don’t apply now that I am (much) older and have proven myself. I think the use of ‘girl’ was a good rhetorical trick – my head turned when she said it, and I saw she said it with a smile. This is someone with a reputation as a hard-edged bitch that no one who think of as a weakling.
    Besides, I call my male friends ‘boys’ at times. Yes, ‘girl’ is often used as a put-down, but that wasn’t the case in this situation.

  26. kissmypineapple
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s possible to criticize the use of the word girl, without insininuating some attack on Clinton. I bump up against this “it’s just a casual term” attitude all the time, and it irritates me. I’m only 24, but I am a full grown woman, and I don’t appreciate being relegated to the ranks of a child. However, more irritating than that is the attitude that feminists should just relax about language. Language is the most insidious (re)enforcer of the patriarchy, and I have to work hard (daily!) to get it out of my own system. Collectively referring to groups of people as “guys” when men are outnumbered or not present at all comes to mind as an example. That sort of language treats men as the norm, and women as other. OT, I know, but I just think that saying Cara made a mountain out of a molehill might be a first reaction because we don’t want to seem militant. I don’t think Clinton is the problem here, so much as the culture that reinforces the infantilization of women and then cries overreaction when a woman bristles at that notion.

  27. dinogirl
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think you’re overreacting Cara and I also hate the guy/girl problem. BUT I think that as others have pointed out, Hilary is in a crappy situation being limited by the prejudice and inequality ingrained in out language. I’m inclined to roll my eyes, grimace, but ultimately cut her some slack.
    Incidentally, I try to get around the guy/girl thing by using ‘guys’ as unisex, including when addressing groups of women only. Does anyone else do this? I do occasionally get funny looks (I work with kids a lot, and they often like to giggle and point out that they are not guys!)

  28. azliza
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    maybe she meant “I’m your grrl.” =)
    i don’t see it as a big deal at all- she defines herself as she wants, and using the word girl helped take the edge off her “bitchiness,” (aka, assertiveness) if you will.
    I just got an email from her campaign- they used the “I’m your girl” quote a few times in it, so I’m fairly certain it was a planned and deliberate tactic.
    Now, had one of the other candidates referred to her as a girl, that would be something to be in uproar about.

  29. Posted August 9, 2007 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    another feminist here who a)thinks you are fully entitled to your opinion/reaction to it – mountain, molehill, whatever! – and b) is also bothered by the lack of a “guy” equivalent for women.
    that said, my two cents: my initial reaction upon hearing her say this bordered on delight. i think this is because i really enjoy reminders that there actually is a WOMAN running for PRESIDENT like omg!!!1!! that is so fucking great. i felt the same way reading a hillary supporter’s quote that she feels like it’s “about time” for a woman president. like, amen and rock on.
    upon reflection – i’m still ok with it, even though i’m not a fan of the generalized usage of “girl” to describe a grown woman. i’m ok with it largely because i think it was savvy – it’s a recognizable phrase, it’s colloquial and helped her seem less formal, and – again – it was a reminder that hey, this is different! i’m different!
    so, go on girl :)

  30. Posted August 9, 2007 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Eh. I refer to myself as a girl all the time (and I’m 32). Doesn’t bother me. I’ve quite honestly never had a man refer to me as a girl and I have to admit, I might not take that. But she used the word herself, so I’m not going to get riled.

  31. Posted August 9, 2007 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    That is a good point, June, that there is a difference between one referring to herself as a girl, and other people calling her one.
    So, question: if another (presumably male) politician, pundit or whatever said something like “I’m behind Hillary/Sen. Clinton– she’s the girl for the job!” would the reaction be different?

  32. Boglin
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I’m slightly wondering if some of the differences here might be regional issues? I wouldn’t bat an eye if Edwards, Giuliani, or Obama referred to themselves as boys. Honestly, given the way that our culture worships at the Altar of Youth, I’d be more surprised if they weren’t doing it. On a personal note, I routinely refer to myself and my male friends as boys, even though some are in their thirties with advanced degrees.
    That’s not to say that I haven’t heard “girl” being used in a sexist and demeaning way, just as I have heard the racist usage of “boy”. I just don’t personally feel that the Senator’s statement was an example of that.
    I will completely agree, however, that we need a good word to pair with “guy”. The best one I’ve “gyn” (pronounced like “gin” with a hard G). It is one syllable, is the same length as “guy” and shares two letters, is easy to pronounce, rolls off the tongue better than “gal”, and, being a neologism, shouldn’t have any negative connotations.

  33. Posted August 9, 2007 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    It is a blatant insult to the intelligence of Hillary Clinton claiming she cares about working people (maybe it’s a spontaneous conversion), no matter whether she decides to infantilise herself by calling herself a “girl” in a room full of “men”.
    It would be seen as insulting and disturbing on multiple levels for a male politician to refer to himself as the “boy” of any group or organisation. “He’s their boy” is often used to mean that the person in question is in the pocket of whoever “they” are. (Hence the line in an episode of Boston Legal: “I’m your friend, Denny, but I’m not your boy.”)

  34. Posted August 9, 2007 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    There’s also a big difference between referring to oneself as a “girl” amongst friends – which I, at 28, occasionally do – and doing so in a formal, professional context. I would never refer to myself as a “girl” when dealing with clients, nor would I tolerate anyone else doing so.

  35. Ismone
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I think she should have avoided the whole kerfuffle by doing the ‘Val Kilmer’–that is, saying:
    “I’m your huckleberry.”
    Sadly, this would only play well with fans of ‘Tombstone.’
    Anyone for reclaiming ‘gal’? And yes, I do use ‘guy’ in a gender neutral sense, but it does confuse people if I used it to describe a group of all women.

  36. Posted August 9, 2007 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Eep, Boglin, I dunno about no negative connotations. “Gyn” makes me think of pap smears, which I HATE ;)

  37. Flower
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Boglin. I think some of this is regional. There are some occasions when being called a girl is insulting, but lots of others where it isn’t. Maybe it’s because I’m from the South and damn proud of it. I thought it was weird that Clinton didn’t say “I’m your gal!” because that’s what I am used to saying/hearing in that situation. We all have speech differences that pique our ears.

  38. ahleeeshah
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    While I think she might have just been using a casual turn of phrase (“I’m your girl” is a pretty standard phrase whereas “I’m your woman” isn’t, which is actually odd as “I’m your boy” isn’t, while “I’m your man” is), I understand bristling at it. I had a professor in college (who wrote a great book about gay and ex-gay christian men), that would never let the women in the class refer to themselves or each other as girls. It took a while to get used to, as we’re in the south and we’re used to referring to ourselves as girls to appear more feminine, but I think it left a lot of us feeling more empowered. Just calling myself a woman makes me feel more able to do what I want to do, more powerful, more professional. She was easily the best teacher I’ve ever had.

  39. Pup, MD
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    The best one I’ve “gyn” (pronounced like “gin” with a hard G).
    Except the inevitable sitcom remake, “I Dream of Gynny.”
    Besides, if you’re going to use Gyn, you’d might as well go back to the original Greek root, “gune” (loses a bit in the transliteration). Then we’d have “Guys and Goons.” Or better yet, “Guys and Goonies.”
    *mischievous grin*

  40. piotrek
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    O boy! (or should I say, O girl!).
    Given the context, I bet that Clinton’s speech writers had an animated discussion for an hour or so before deciding which word would be simultaneously proper and spontaneous.
    By the way, in my mother tongue I could not tell either “I am you man” nor “I am your boy” nor “I am your girl” etc. In most cases there would be some specific meaning, like “your boy (for running errands or fiancee)” or it would be outright weird. Should would have to say “If you want … , you have her here.”

  41. Posted August 9, 2007 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    It was so fucked up!
    I hated it. I am 58 and spent most of life trying to not be demeaned. I am NOT your girl. I don’t want a girl in the whitehouse – unless she is under 12.

  42. Posted August 9, 2007 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I feel the same way, but I guess that’s her thing. I’m 22 and I wish that there were a female equivalent of “guy” for us to use. Should “woman” be sufficient? Of course. I am a woman. I’ve been able to have children for 10 years. I’m a woman. But there still should be an appropriate word to refer to young women between 18 and 30, maybe? “Young woman” sounds good to me.
    But Hillary Clinton is in her 50s! Nobody should be confused about the whole girl/woman terminology. She’s a woman! On the other hand, I think it might be just something she does. I used to get kind of worked up when pundits would call her “Hillary” and not “Senator Clinton” or just “Clinton.” But she puts simply Hillary on her bumper stickers and other campaign gear. If she doesn’t have a problem with it, I suppose I shouldn’t either.

  43. Crys
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    you know, I was all set to defend Hilliary through a progressive review of the girl friday idea, you know, that old ideal of the smart, capable, ambitious and determined working woman who is the real brains behind the operation and…well, then I decided to check out wikipedia, which defined girl friday thusly:It is used to describe an especially faithful female servant..
    dang. I’ve got nothing on this one, I actually agree with Cara that Hillary should be using her age and experience and her formidable character as selling points and not try to channel Katie Couric, and whats more, now I’m pissed at wikipedia. What’s a girl gotta do to get a break around here?!
    sorry, i couldn’t resist.

  44. ouyangdan
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    i know i am a little late for the mountain out of molehill debate…forgive me…i am six hours behind the east coast…
    but it definitely is.
    i think we are overly critical of hillary, almost unforgivingly so. that up close, no one comes out ok. i believe she was playing to her audience, and maybe trying to soften the stone cold stigma surrounding her.
    i am VERY feminist. i use ‘girl’ all the time. it’s a word. words only mean what we let them. it can be casual and endearing. my friends call me and i see their number and i answer ‘hey girl, what’s up?’ all the time. phrases like ‘one of the girls’ or ‘girl for the job’ frequent my vocabulary.
    i catch a lot of flack for using bitch, and cunt all the time. i use the word fuck like a comma. the thing is, by using it myself, people now know that it isn’t insulting to me. i don’t let it be. i am constantly told that the way i speak isn’t very ‘ladylike’. so be it. i for one don’t always like being called ‘woman’, especially by guys, b/c it makes me feel old. but i don’t complain. if hillary clinton wants to call herself ‘girl’, awesome…she can be one of my girls!
    my point, agree or not: words only demean us if we let them. we are only infantized if we allow ourselves to feel that way. we are accountable for our own feelings. honestly, i think a feminist blog site can concentrate on more important things than the proper demographic for the term ‘girl’. ( i am not knocking anyone here…i LOVE this site, and read it everyday, and THEN check the news, right before the colbert report.) if we allow something trivial to rile us up then we are no better than the things we are against. it isn’t our place to criticize a woman who is stepping out there, and making history. instead of sinking to the worlds level and critiqing everything she does, wears and says (that isn’t on topic), let’s focus on how she views the issues that affect us the most, and what she plans to do about it.
    sorry…not trying to piss anyone off. but that is just my piece.

  45. Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Definitely a mountain out of a molehill. I watched the forum and with the poise and power she said the quote, there was no doubting her strength. I didn’t find it infantalizing at all. “I’m you’re woman” really wouldn’t have sent the same message, even thought on paper it does.

  46. Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    i for one don’t always like being called ‘woman’, especially by guys, b/c it makes me feel old.
    Well, actually, ouyangdan, that’s actually one of my biggest problems with the word! People use “girl” instead of “woman” because it makes women sound younger, and that is considered a virtue. Why don’t we have the same standard for men? Because age and experience is considered a positive characteristic for males far more often than it is for females. I desperately want women to be as comfortable in their own skin and experience as men get to be (and as cosmetic surgery, etc. options increase, men are starting to lose that ability, as well).
    I’m in no way trying to criticize you personally. I think that this idea is highly culturally ingrained and affects all women to certain extents. That’s including me.
    You say that language only means what we let it mean, but that’s not entirely true. Changing the meaning of a word is a very long process, and “taking back” words is never easy, and only very rarely successful. My problem with using language in this way isn’t that always offends me on a personal level– it’s that language is a great indicator of how people see the world, both on a conscious and unconscious level. I personally believe that by getting people to focus on the language they use (like the great feminist achievements of changing the hypothetical “his” to “his or her” and changing sexist titles like “stewardess” to “flight attendant”), we can get them to reevaluate why they say what they do, and rethink social conditions.
    I don’t think that it’s an easy process by any means. As we’ve seen here, people can take it very personally. But the point is that I’m not saying that those who use the word in this way are bad people, or bad feminists, or that they “mean anything” by it, because we’re all guilty of using words without considering the full impact of their meaning. The fact that people just say it without thinking about the meaning, I would argue, is precisely the problem.

  47. kissmypineapple
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    That’s exactly what I was trying to say, but you say it oh so very much more eloquently, Cara! (Perhaps having to do with that English degree?) :-)

  48. ouyangdan
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    cara~ oh i pretty much agree w/ you fully… i was really just offering a viewpoint. thanks for your insight on my comment.
    actually (i should have said so before) i use ‘boy’ when talking to all my male friends casually, in the same manner as i use ‘girl’ w/ all my female friends, kinda to make that exact point. in the military we are trained to use ‘male’ and ‘female’ to avoid any hurt feelings or tension in the workplace.
    i guess what i was trying to say earlier (w/o attacking anyone…b/c i never set out to do that, and i like to think of myslef as a thoughtful person, who chooses her words) is that we have to start somewhere w/ changing the stigma on some words…and that is just my (often abrasive) method. i guess the way i speak, and use words the way i do, is just my teeny tiny daily effort.

  49. Cola
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    I think you are making a bigger deal about it than it is. I think there is an ironic wink and nudge implied when she says that.
    More or less, I think it’s an old person thing.

  50. Cola
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 2:10 am | Permalink

    Also, a lot of your are saying men never get called “boys.” This is patently false.
    “The good old boys.” “Me and the boys.”
    Ahem.

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