Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Of Ageist Feminists


There’s a meme I’ve seen online where feminists say that the word “females” shouldn’t be used because of its dehumanizing connotations. The idea is that “female” relates to the sex of a biological organism, and when one is using that kind of terminology they tend to be discussing nonhuman animals in a scientific fashion. So, when men talk about “females” when they mean “women”, it comes off as dehumanizing. While I agree to an extent, as I believe some men do use this to purposefully distance themselves from women, I also think this decree that female humans should be referred to as “women” is worryingly ageist because it entirely removes girls from the subject.
Children are disrespected in general society. Basically, adults mostly believe children are idiots and totally incompetent, which is a blanket generalization and ageist stereotype. There is a big difference between ignorance and idiocy, which many adults fail to understand. Kids are pressured to grow up because adults are given higher respect, and when they do grow up, they turn around and perpetuate the same disrespect to their kids without a second thought.
So, then we have feminists who tend to disrespect girls. I’m not talking about every feminist out there—I’ve observed pre-teen and teen girls who identify as feminist—but significant numbers enough to be worrisome. There’s this whole divide between the second-wave (‘60s-‘80s) and the third-wave (‘90s-present) based on the politics, but sometimes it goes beyond that where I see second-wavers deriding third-wavers for being foolish youngsters. Feminist blogs have such colorful individuals. Many feminists are chronically angry because of gender inequality, but that hot emotion tends to bring out other bones to pick and reveals prejudices.
And there’s this whole thing about women not wanting to be called “girls”. I mean, it’s fine for an adult who feels secure with the identification of being an adult to not want to be identified as a kid, and for them to get ticked off when it keeps happening. There is a whole sexist meme about men being men and women being girls; I won’t deny that. I just think it’s problematic when “girl” turns into an insult, which is a tad different. Girls are perfectly stand-up human beings!
So, in the spirit of being inclusive, I try to use words like “females”. My feeling is that when “women” is the only thing being said, even if it means “female human” by the intent of the speaker, it needlessly alienates girls from the topic at hand. Think about how it is to be a kid and have most of the world regard you and your generation as an afterthought. Adults talk to other adults, and even if kids are included in something not explicitly for kids, it’s worded specifically for the benefit of adults to the exclusion of kids. Feminists saying “women” when they mean “women and girls”, possibly deliberately omitting “girls” because of the stigma of a woman being called a girl, perpetuates this ageism.
What I try to do is be consistent in my wording. If I say “females”, I try to also say “males”. If I say “girls”, even if I don’t mean girls in the strictest sense, I try to also say “boys” in the same way.  This is slightly more problematic because it involves the sexist meme of referring to anyone female as a “girl”, but I think if I’m consistent and use “boys” the same way, it undermines the sexism. Still, I think “females” and “males” make the best wording because they cover everyone.
To conclude, the way feminists disrespect using the word “females” to describe female humans is problematic because it perpetuates ageism. I am not singling out feminists here; ageism is a societal problem. I just read feminist blogs, so they’re on my mind. For all that I am in favor of feminism as a movement, I think it is definitely worth some serious criticism, and this blanket dislike of “females” is one of the things worth criticizing.

No comments: