Word Usage and the Conundrum of Preference

Last year, I responded to a posted picture which claimed that “all girls are beautiful no matter their size [n]or shape”. I made the point that calling these people “girls” is infantilizing and that it would be more progressive and appropriate to call the three pictured people “females”. 

 

I was met with this today: 

Exposing Anti Feminists nee, calling women and girls “females” is dehumanizing, and non-binary people are not women/girls, and trans women/girls are women/girls, so this pic does cover everyone it means to, except for the fact that I would have said “woman” rather than “girl” as this doesn’t seem to be referring to children. -cms

 

That comment struck me as odd because my entire point was that this picture should be as inclusive as possible. Using the word “female” instead of the gendered words “woman” and “girl” made much more sense to me. When EAF supplied me with an article which communicated their point and explained the reasoning behind the need to lean on “woman” as a label, it made sense though. For one, Buzzfeed depends on the completely erroneous opinion that “the word ‘female,’ in its primary usage, is an adjective. When you use ‘female’ as a noun, the subject that you’re referring to is erased.”

 

Wrong. The primary use of the word “female” is as a noun. It isn’t until you get to the fourth definition that the word female is used as an adjective. As with any and every conversation, the subject is made obvious at the opening and references to such (this being a human female) are contextual. Acting as if you don’t know we’re speaking of human beings at this point in the conversation is kind of disingenuous – because you know you don’t act that way with anything else. ಠ_ಠ

Screenshot 2016-06-01 at 7.06.26 AM


Buzzfeed invites us to look up the definitions of both “female” and “woman” and note the differences. Okay. The first three definitions of a “woman” explain it to be “the female human being… as distinguished from a girl or man”. *sips lemon juice*

Screenshot 2016-06-01 at 7.43.08 AM

 

The belief that those who are biological female are women is also not based in fact. *This is a point both Buzzfeed and I completely agree on. Of course, using “female” doesn’t erase gender-nonconforming people, the intersex, nor members of the trans community (see the people who identify as male, yet give birth because they are biologically female). Mostly because chromosomes aren’t an indicator of sex .

 

Secondly, [sex chromosome] has led us into the wormhole of thinking of the X as the “female” chromosome and the Y as the “male” chromosome. The X and Y have become little representatives of male and female at the genomic level, and that’s perpetuated a really strongly binary way of thinking about maleness and femaleness. That is both empirically wrong and has misled scientists in a number of episodes in the 20th century…

 

In the 1960s and 1970s, there was an intensive search for the behavioral qualities that were associated with crime and especially aggression and sexual aggression on the Y chromosome. And a large proportion of men with an extra Y chromosome were found in a few high-security facilities in Scotland.

 

On the basis of this, researchers hypothesized that the extra Y chromosome — the so-called XYY male — was a male with an extra dose of “maleness.” So [the idea was that] this greater aggression had landed them in prison. And these conjectures were so compelling that between 1960 and 1970, 82 percent of all published studies on the Y chromosome focused on XYY men.

 

But in the end, it was found that there was no association between having an extra Y chromosome and heightened aggression. And the hypothesis has been fully debunked, except in the eyes of a few very marginal outliers. It represents one of the case studies of overstatement and hype and poor methodology in the history of behavioral genetics. And most scientists really hold it at arm’s length as an example of old, bad science.  (Sarah Richardson)

 

This is a somewhat new development as the structured approach to gender and sex is to differentiate the two by claiming that sex is biological and gender is social. Science has recently proven, however, that both are societal categorical inventions. There are now fives recognized sexes and seven genders – a spectrum which illustrates minor differences (fewer and fewer of the former which can be determined as biological at all).   

 

Not using an aptly descriptive word when identifying people just because the word is “most often used to imply inferiority and contempt” is a flimsy argument. Just because misogynists substitute the word “female” for the words “bitch” and “cunt” when complaining about women doesn’t nullify validity of the word. You wouldn’t stop calling yourself a “liberal” because “liberal” has been co opted and utilized as a derogatory term for the last nine years by those same conservatives, would you? Of course not. 

 

We live in a heavily gendered and binary-happy society. People are conditioned, from birth, to conform to that ideology. It isn’t strange to see that even when claiming autonomy that people unintentionally pigeonhole themselves by selecting to live and put others in one box. I will definitely defer to those who prefer I use “woman” instead of “female” when describing them (because who am I to deny you your label?), but, to be clear, there’s absolutely no factual basis for this preference.

 

*to cover their other point, I “casually refer to men as ‘males'” when speaking generally of them all the time. Have been for years.

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