Is girls an offensive or demeaning term?

. 1

Banned
Australian Australia
G'day again,
A hypothesis has been proffered that a group of 80 year old women would be somehow insulted or demeaned or be made to feel put down when they were introduced to sing with something like, "Now let the girls start the singing."
The entire audience had already passed 45 winters.

Do you reckon that this is a demeaning way for a 50 something Master of Ceremonies to act?

.,,
 
  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Is this a cross-cultural question or limited to a single language?

    Context is everything. What is the relationship of the MC and the singers? Do they know one another or are
    they strangers?

    Based on what little we know so far, I'd say that in my country the idea that any but a very small minority—if any— of such senior warblers taking offense is a foolish imposition of a much younger person's conventionality.
    If the 50 something MC were to address most 25 year olds that way, he would be well advised to have bodyguards present and be wearing a kevlar vest.
     

    NileQT87

    Member
    USA, English
    If a bunch of 80 year old men said they were "going out with the boys" nobody would care.

    Girls is not an offensive term, and it is ludicrous if any of the women were offended for being called that.

    Male, guy, boy, man, bloke, dude, lad, boyo, mister, sir, fellow/fella, etc... None of these are bad things to call a guy.

    Similarly, any girl who takes offense to: girl, woman, lady, ma'am, maid/maiden, female, baby, chick, broad, filly, babe, lass, etc... just needs to get a sense of humor. Girls is one of the most wide-encompassing and completely harmless of these terms. Girl doesn't always have to mean a young girl.

    A lot of older people will refer to themselves endearingly by names associated with younger people because they find it reflects how they see their inner-youth, rather than their physical age.

    And there would be no need for a Kevlar vest if a 50 year old emcee called a bunch of 25 year old singers "girls", nor if the singers were a group of 80 year old ladies. Especially in an entertainment context where female singers are often referred to with phrases like "sing it, baby/girls/ladies". For example, a well-known entertainer of the mid-20th century referred to his soprano (who was definitely a woman) as "the little girl with the pretty high voice".
     

    jlc246

    Member
    English - US
    I agree with Cuchuflete that it depends on the context, including the previous experiences of the people hearing the term. If you knew them well, then you might know that it would be welcome. Personally, I usually avoid using "girl/girls", and I would not ever use the term "boy" to address someone.

    I don't usually mind being called "girl," but there are some contexts in which I do mind. In my opinion, it is offensive to call a women's college a "girls' school." The term "girl" with an African American inflection can be very affected and offensive when used by people imitating an African American accent/context; you have to know your listener very well before knowing whether it will be heard as an endearment or an insult. I avoid it for the same reason that I don't repeat ethnic jokes, although I think they are sometimes very funny when told in the right context by people poking fun at themselves and not at others. (I'm sure there are other threads about that subject -- I don't mean to change the topic, just to compare the two situations.)

    Male, guy, boy, man, bloke, dude, lad, boyo, mister, sir, fellow/fella, etc... None of these are bad things to call a guy.

    My opinion is quite different. It depends on the context. Please speak for yourself, not for me!

    And there would be no need for a Kevlar vest if a 50 year old emcee called a bunch of 25 year old singers "girls" ...

    You want to bet? (Dollars to donuts -- your dollars!)

    For example, a well-known entertainer of the mid-20th century referred to his soprano (who was definitely a woman) as "the little girl with the pretty high voice".

    That was the mid-20th century. Also, how do you know what the woman felt about it?

    Best wishes to all -
     

    NileQT87

    Member
    USA, English
    That was the mid-20th century. Also, how do you know what the woman felt about it?

    I know how the woman feels about it, as she still bills herself to this day as "the little girl with the pretty high voice" a.k.a. Kathy Westmoreland. She is definitely grandma-age by this point, and still embraces this quote as a term of endearment, as it was spoken about 1,000 times in the 1970s every single time she was introduced by none other than Elvis Presley. Being that she refers to herself still by that term, I seriously doubt she has a problem with being called a "little girl".

    "Mate" is another term that is something one would call a friend, or just as a speech tick of some people of British or Australian nationality. Some people have words like that which are nothing more than speech ticks. "Boyo" is another speech tick of those of Irish or Welsh origin.

    If I were called "girl" 5 years from now by a middle-aged emcee... going Annie Oakley on him would be furthest from my mind. My reaction would be "thank you, sir" and 'let's get on with the show'.
     

    . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    Is this a cross-cultural question or limited to a single language?
    It is not in the English Only forum.

    Context is everything. What is the relationship of the MC and the singers? Do they know one another or are
    they strangers?
    Let's pretend that they are highly respected and very well liked Sisters of a Holy Order. What about the Poor Claire Sisters. Let's imagine Nun Translator, a few decades older than she is, up front with six of her mates just about to launch into her favourite Hymn.

    The Master of Ceremonies can be a well respected Biblical Scholar who has just written a book popularising religion and making it relevent for the current millennium.

    Based on what little we know so far, I'd say that in my country the idea that any but a very small minority—if any— of such senior warblers taking offense is a foolish imposition of a much younger person's conventionality.
    If the 50 something MC were to address most 25 year olds that way, he would be well advised to have bodyguards present and be wearing a kevlar vest.
    Agreed except for the last part. When I was 25 I thought that 50 was ancient and would have been happy to be called a boy by such a fossil.

    .,,
     

    jlc246

    Member
    English - US
    I know how the woman feels about it, as she still bills herself to this day as "the little girl with the pretty high voice" a.k.a. Kathy Westmoreland. She is definitely grandma-age by this point, and still embraces this quote as a term of endearment, as it was spoken about 1,000 times in the 1970s every single time she was introduced by none other than Elvis Presley. Being that she refers to herself still by that term, I seriously doubt she has a problem with being called a "little girl".

    Point taken (understood)! Now that you have included the context, I can see that you have reason to know quite a bit about how she feels/felt about it.

    If I were called "girl" 5 years from now by a middle-aged emcee... going Annie Oakley on him would be furthest from my mind. My reaction would be "thank you, sir" and 'let's get on with the show'.

    Thanks for sharing your point of view.


    Hmmm. I wonder whether I'm happier to be middle-aged or a fossil? I think I'll be a fossil. I like the sound of it better!
     

    DesertCat

    Senior Member
    inglese | English
    I have no problem with any of these words in the right context. What does offend me is is when I hear men being referred to as men and women as girls in the workplace. Or when I hear managers call their secretary "my girl". Seems condescending to me. I don't see that so much these days but 20-30 years ago it was common. My opinion is that in the workplace men and women are the only terms that should be used.

    Given all that I don't use girl unless I'm speaking of a minor. Otherwise, I use woman if it's a formal or business environment and chick in causual situations....a remnant from my youth.
     

    amnariel

    Member
    Bosnia and Herzegovina - Croatian
    G'day again,
    A hypothesis has been proffered that a group of 80 year old women would be somehow insulted or demeaned or be made to feel put down when they were introduced to sing with something like, "Now let the girls start the singing."
    The entire audience had already passed 45 winters.

    Do you reckon that this is a demeaning way for a 50 something Master of Ceremonies to act?

    If it was not an evening of classical music in memory of someone who passed shortly ago and was dear to everyone present, I do not think that MoC acted demeaning. There's nothing degrading in addressing group of women, of any age, as girls :D


    What does offend me is is when I hear men being referred to as men and women as girls in the workplace....

    My opinion is that in the workplace men and women are the only terms that should be used.

    :) this is the only situation I do mind being called "girl" because that automatically means patronising behaviour (especially by men), stupid sympathetic smile and pat on the shoulder. My work is the only place I insist on not be reffered as "girl", and for the rest of my life :D I really don't care :D :D I know I look younger than I am so I have no right to object :D
     

    alexacohen

    Banned
    Spanish. Spain
    I personally don't mind if I'm called girl, and I don't know any Spanish female who minds. I'd rather be the "girl at the check in counter" than the "woman at the check-in counter". And my female workmates feel the same way. In Spain "girl" is a positive name to call a woman of any age. It means that even if I'm 80, there is someone who is able to see the young woman I'm really inside the mask.
    Alexa
     

    xrayspex

    Senior Member
    USA English (southern)
    I think the US may be different from any other country, because for a period of time (early 20th century?) "boy" and "girl" were terms used to address servants; not just black servants, but anyone who was in a subservient role. White people probably don't worry about it much these days (unless the terms are used as part of a command, i.e. "boy, take my bags up to my room") but black people CERTAINLY remember, and they have not gotten over it.
     

    NileQT87

    Member
    USA, English
    It has nothing to do with racism, or at least I don't think so. And please point out somebody young enough nowadays to be called a "girl" or "boy" in this context that EVER lived through slavery. They never have. And it wasn't just slaves. A sea captain would call his cabin boy the same thing. So would a master and his apprentice. So would a servant boy/girl of any color--do realize that the history of servitude hasn't been any one skin tone. It is downright false for someone of African decent to think that term only refers to them in a racial way.

    It is more proper to use someone's name... but we don't always know the person's name, do we? The person you are calling out to could be a spectating teenager at the scene of an accident. Calling out "Hey, kid... get us some help!" isn't a bad thing.

    Saying "that girl in the check-out line" is fine no matter what their age.

    Then again, I'm the kind of person who casually refers to myself as "the nerdy chick". That isn't degrading to me. It is just how a laid-back person with a sense of humor talks.

    Let's face it--there is a street in New York City called "Broadway" as in "broad way". It was named that because one could expect to see hot broads walking down it back in the day.

    Hence the names of old musicals like "Guys and Dolls". "Doll" is another term of endearment that a guy might call his girl.
     

    . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    Let's face it--there is a street in New York City called "Broadway" as in "broad way". It was named that because one could expect to see hot broads walking down it back in the day.
    With all due respect I just can not let this myth go unchallenged.
    Sydney has The Broadway just outside Central Railway Station. The name has nothing to do with 'broads' which is not even an Australianism. Using your logic it should be called The Sheilaway (actually that sounds better) but it is not because that would not describe the very wide or broad road or way. The Broadway is a road so wide that you just about need a cut lunch and a route map to walk across it.

    .,,
    I agree with your implication that 'broad' is a potentially demeaning word but that is not the question at hand.
    I am sure that there would have been a strong reaction had a priest told the 'broads to hit it' and it would not have been just notes that were in danger of being flattened.
     

    jonquiliser

    Senior Member
    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    Well, it isn't as easy as a word either being or not being condescending or not, is it? There are many obvious cases of using the word "girl" that are entirely unproblematic. There are other which well are. Precisely the "endearment" factor, sometimes referred to, can be annoying and condescending. I do not like to be seen as "cute" or to be womanised. Blokes throwing around the "girlie" thing are well annoying. It isn't that the letters g i r l are offensive, it is the meaning that is conveyed. And often that meaning has to do with viewing women as little & cute (and if they aren't, then they are old hags, and who wants to be that? No, everybody wants to be cute! Right.) I take the nun example of ghoti as a good example of "girls" being condescending. This methinks.

    (Edited to make it readable.)
     

    liulia

    Senior Member
    English/French
    When I lived in the USA, after Sunday brunch with family and friends the men watched the ballgame while "the girls" (aged 24 to 60) did the washing up. It was one of the surprises of life in the brave new world. I found it a little awkward and infantilising.
     

    NileQT87

    Member
    USA, English
    Is it non-Americans mostly who find it demeaning? In my experiences in my culture, calling a group of women "girls" is pretty much... normal.

    It is funny, because this same topic came up on another board that I belong to. There were those who thought words like "chick" to describe a girl were demeaning as it comes from a word meaning "baby chicken", and then there were some of us who just think of it as a term of endearment or as nothing much at all. Of course, I find this forum to be a little bit lacking in humor, so my "peep peep" joke doesn't really work here.

    Guys do guy things, girls do girl things. There are guy movies and chickflicks--even though I'm female, I tend to watch a lot of guy movies, nerd fantasy genre films and films that have romance/drama elements but aren't purely made for females. So maybe this is why I don't have so much of a problem with it. I just never grew up to be so sensitive to what I consider as normal expressions of everyday speech. People in America USUALLY don't seem to have a problem with these terms and use them casually and often.

    Consider common American phrases like the "good ol' boys"... in everything from Country music to songs like "...good ol' boys drinking whiskey and rye singing, 'that'll be the day that I die, that'll be the day that I die...'" and so on. Being that the subject of this song are guys who had died in a plane crash in '59 (Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson), is it rude to call them "good ol' boys"? I don't think so. It is again, a term of endearment and a description of them as Americans. "Good ol' boys" is also used generally to describe guys from the South or who embrace the average American guy persona.

    "Danny Boy" is another song where the word "boy" is used to describe somebody who has died (either a father or a female is singing the song). Is this disrespectful?

    Not to mention the hundreds of classic love songs where girls are described as "girl", "baby", "babe", "lover doll", etc... I mean, occasionally you have songs that use "woman" such as "I Got a Woman", but pretty much every synonym of female has been used--and are in no way meant to be rude. Most of these sort of songs are affectionate, unless you are referring to the Blues tradition where a guy calls their woman "she's long and tall, shaped like a canon ball" and a female Blues singer might liken their man to a "hound dog" (to give an obvious example, albeit written by two guys from New York). Yet, there is still always an understanding here that there is some affection. However, this is not the same as today's shock music. There is a distinct difference in the way it comes off.
     

    newzamt

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I'd actually thought about that same thing the other evening when I met up with two female friends. I realized I almost always use "guys" without regard to gender. And as incorrect as my notion may be, I also tend to think of the female equivalent of "gals" as being Southern, and would only use it with a titch of sarcasm. I could only see "girls" being used if I were talking to children, and the same goes for "boys".
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    Is it non-Americans mostly who find it demeaning? In my experiences in my culture, calling a group of women "girls" is pretty much... normal.
    Your culture may be shaped by your age as much as your location. Those of us who grew up in a time when girls (by which I mean females under age 18) were deliberately and repeatedly told they couldn't do this, that, or the other because they were female, and who as young women (in our 20s) struggled to attain the simple chance to show what we could in fact do in a "man's world" may understandably continue to have a negative visceral reaction to being called "endearing" childlike terms in situations where we would prefer to be shown some respect.
     

    xrayspex

    Senior Member
    USA English (southern)
    When I lived in the USA, after Sunday brunch with family and friends the men watched the ballgame while "the girls" (aged 24 to 60) did the washing up.
    That's not a USA thing. Those people were just hicks.
     

    teentitans

    Banned
    USA
    Filipino/American English
    Hmmm, It's related to my friend's mom preference. She doesn't want to be called "WOMAN". She prefers "Lady".


    Girls, your turn to sing " not really offensive or demeaning. It actually depends on how you say it, what is the real situation out there.Girls are term basically for children... or sometimes, we say, hey girl! ( friendship calling.).

    ____________
    estudiar italiano en Italia :)))
     

    ghoti

    Senior Member
    English USA
    Your culture may be shaped by your age as much as your location. Those of us who grew up in a time when girls (by which I mean females under age 18) were deliberately and repeatedly told they couldn't do this, that, or the other because they were female, and who as young women (in our 20s) struggled to attain the simple chance to show what we could in fact do in a "man's world" may understandably continue to have a negative visceral reaction to being called "endearing" childlike terms in situations where we would prefer to be shown some respect.

    Sing it, Sister! :D

    You'll never go wrong showing someone respect.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    You'll never go wrong showing someone respect.

    True statement. I like it. I agree with it.

    How respectful is it to assume that a word carries a single meaning only, and that
    the intention of a speaker and the cultural background of the listener and the context don't
    matter?

    The variety of viewpoints expressed in this thread make clear to me that a one-size-fits-all
    approach is flawed.
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    How respectful is it to assume that a word carries a single meaning only, and that the intention of a speaker and the cultural background of the listener and the context don't matter?
    But the speaker also has a duty to respect the feelings of the one addressed. When I politely ask someone not to address me as girl, dear, sweetie, etc., and s/he persists in doing so anyway, usually while lecturing me that I have no basis for feeling the way I do about those words, that's when s/he's lost my respect.

    Elisabetta
     

    alexacohen

    Banned
    Spanish. Spain
    But the speaker also has a duty to respect the feelings of the one addressed. When I politely ask someone not to address me as girl, dear, sweetie, etc., and s/he persists in doing so anyway, usually while lecturing me that I have no basis for feeling the way I do about those words, that's when s/he's lost my respect.

    Elisabetta
    But of course. If the speaker does know you don't like the word and insists on doing so, you have every right to feel offended. But the speaker may not know. Or he may be about 90 years old and after spending all his life saying "sweetie", the most probable thing is he doesn't even realize he's saying it.
    Alexa
     

    . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    I regularly refer to Nun Translator as Sis or sis. The good sister confirms that she enjoys the experience even though it is a minor or childish form of her official title she seems to not be demeaned. (unless she is lying to me:eek: to be polite).
    I imagine that some mature nuns could find being called sis by a bloke like me to be very demeaning.
    'Twould appear that once again taking offense is a two player sport.

    .,,
     

    mrbilal87

    Senior Member
    English (NAmE)
    Is it non-Americans mostly who find it demeaning?

    I'm not an American, but I also would find it a bit demeaning to refer to someone old enough to be my mother or grandmother as a girl. It would depend on the context of course, but generally from the standpoint of a 22-year old guy, I don't think I'd feel comfortable addressing an 80-year old woman as a girl. Apparently there are others in your own country who also don't take it as a sign of respect.
     

    liulia

    Senior Member
    English/French
    The word "respect" keeps coming up in many of the posts, and that's what it's really about, isn't it? And courtesy.
    I think it's mostly a matter of genuinely trying to be aware and mindful of others and their feelings, whatever their nationality or age group. In other words - communication! :)
     

    winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    The word "respect" keeps coming up in many of the posts, and that's what it's really about, isn't it? And courtesy.
    I think it's mostly a matter of genuinely trying to be aware and mindful of others and their feelings, whatever their nationality or age group. In other words - communication! :)
    Good point liulia.

    And to be unaccustomedly serious, if you are (or feel yourself to be) a member of a group that has historically been denied respect, then language is bound to be a sensitive area. Cf negro/coloured/black.
     

    JazzByChas

    Senior Member
    American English
    Well, as the majority of threads imply here, respect for the woman or women you are talking to should determine whether or not your refer to her or them as "girl(s)."

    I rarely refer to any woman older than I as "girl"...usually I defer to the fact that they are my senior, and they deserve more respect than that....a lot like children half my age (or less) calling me by my first name. I guess if you are an adult, and you give someone (of any age) the right to refer to you in a diminuative way, that would have to be a mutually agreed upon decision.

    Otherwise, the rules of respect should be in play.
     
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