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-   -   Do you have any reaction to being referred to as a "female" rather than a "woman" (http://www.wowwomen.com/boards/showthread.php?t=549)

Blythe February 6th, 2003 02:09 PM

Do you have any reaction to being referred to as a "female" rather than a "woman"
This is an informal poll, I guess. I'm curious if there's any discussion regarding the question, "Do you have any feelings, reactions, or opinions regarding being called a 'female' rather than a 'woman'?"

I was just about to sign up for a spiritual retreat (with a group which I had only attended one of their meetings) when I read in their materials a sentence that went something like "Single men will room with men, single females with females."

This reference to men as men, and women as females appeared yet a second time in the literature, so it seemed to accrue an energy of intention about it. It made me uneasy. I recalled a French teacher, who, years ago, had a sort of speech about "only the Americans refer to their women with the livestock terminology 'female'. Women are NOT ANIMALS!"

I found myself agreeing with her, & have noted over the years that places/people who refer to women as 'female' often have a covert or overt prejudice or even disrespect for women. This seems even more evident when men are men, but women are females.

I'm MOST CURIOUS to get some feedback on this. Does anyone agree with me? Or am I making a mountain out of a molehill?

Thanks for your input!

Melynn February 6th, 2003 02:38 PM

I'm not sure that I object to being refered to as a female, depending on the situation, but I find it interesting and rather annoying that they used men and female as opposed to men and women or males and females.

I went to Merriam-Webster online and looked up the definitions of four words. Female: Male: Man: Woman:

There was no reference to livestock however the word female and male are certainly used for any species. The stand out difference to me is that man and woman denote the adult female and male human. Only adult and only human. The word female can refer to any age and of course, as I said above, any species.

Right now, I can't think of a situation where I've encountered or heard men being used with female. Forms usually ask if you are male or female and the police and courts refer to the male or female suspect or defendent, etc.

At the very least it sounds to me like the spititual group you're thinking of attending could use some education. I would point it out to them and watch their reaction.

annebebe February 6th, 2003 02:45 PM

Hi Blythe,
I had noticed the different titles, but hadn't thought about it before. I seem to have only seen female/male or woman/man, but not your mixture. It would annoy me too, if I felt I wasn't been shown equal respect. If I come across any other examples I'll let you know. Name and shame!

Lou February 6th, 2003 10:03 PM

This topic caught my attention because in the past two days, terms used to refer to males and females have been an issue in the college freshman writing class that I teach.

My students are currently working on paragraphs in which they begin with an inference about a person who they go on to describe. Today, they took turns writing their topic sentences on the board. As they did, they used the words "woman" and "lady" interchangeably. A discussion ensued, during which it became increasingly clear to me that their connotations for these words depended entirely on their own age and heritage. That is, not on the female whom they were describing. Younger students referred to older women as "ladies." Older students referred to older women as "women."

I live in southern California. Roughly 10% of any class I teach is composed of native English speakers. Non-native speakers prefer the word "lady" because they see it as a term of respect, while native speakers see it as actually disparaging. But trying to explain these perceptions to one another became comical.

My students used the terms "male" and "female" only when they were also identifying someone by their role, as in "male student" or "female professor."

Truth be told, when they referred to men, young men, or boys, they used the term "guy." Imagine the conversation about that term. :)

LiamFan! February 6th, 2003 10:28 PM

And I just call everyone, male and female, "you guys," so it simplifies things immensely. ;)

Terri February 7th, 2003 12:17 PM

This is interesting to me because I am taking a feminine psychology class right now, I think I will email this thread to my professor. Keep dialoging :-)

mosquito February 9th, 2003 10:26 PM

Don't forget the other all-inclusives, "y'all" and "all y'all" :)

Lou, I think the recent interest in making classic books into movies has reinforced the attitude that being a "lady" is something to be avoided, don't you? I myself would hate to live in a world where a female was not allowed to spit, cuss, or enter a saloon. Although my mother did try to insist all her daughters would be LADIES when we grew up... somehow I managed to avoid that. :)

I went from being a "girl" in high school to being a "female" in the Army. There never was time for me to think of myself as a "woman," although I definitely prefer that term to "lady." Now that I live in the south I hear that a LOT, lol! But "female" and "male" have become permanently fixed in my brain, and to me they're just two more everyday words. I will refer to service members as female or male, but everyone else as women, gals, or guys, depending on my mood...... don't ask me what I call guys when I'm in a bad mood. <g>

Blythe February 10th, 2003 04:52 PM

Hi Y'all!

Delightful, energetic responses... I've been away from my computer since posting the query, & am most pleased to see that this subject stirs up interest... a couple of the responses made me chuckle, and THAT?S always a good thing!

Melynn, thanks for your serious approach, & checking the dictionary. My unabridged Random House has some interesting additions:
?Woman, Female, Lady - nouns referring to adult human beings who are biologically female.
WOMAN is the general term. Neutral, lacking either favorable or unfavorable implication, most commonly used of the three.
In scientific & statistical use, FEMALE is the neutral contrastive term to MALE, & may apply to plant & animal use.
FEMALE is sometimes used in disparaging context: a conniving female.
LADY is a term of approval. However, WOMAN is the designation preferred by most modern female adults. The use of LADY as a term of courtesy has diminished. LADY is used, but decreasingly, as a term of reference for women engaged in occupations considered by some to be menial or routine, cleaning lady.
WOMAN is the standard parallel to MAN.? (end of Unabridged Dictionary quote)

In response to your suggestion, Melynn, that I point out my observation to the group, I DID, first thing, write the following:

?I was contemplating signing up for the Gathering, when I was made most ill-at-ease with the reference - repeatedly! to men as men, but women as "females". If men are men, then women are women.

?Please appreciate that other women feel this way to being referred to as females rather than women, and most certainly in the same sentence where men are not being referred to as males, but as men. It does not seem to communicate an evolved spiritual message.?

Ignoring my POINT (that men are called men but women are called females in his documentation) he replied:

?I see absolutely nothing wrong with the term female. I see no preference in the word women over female. Also, we are probably the most pro-female energy Christian oriented church in the world. Your criticism of the word "female" is the first such criticism in the 20 years I have been doing this work, so I don't think that word is an issue for others. Again, I just dont agree that there is anything at all wrong with the word ?female?.?

I found his reply a bit thick in disregarding my specific query about the parallel usage, & also a bit strident. That?s why I came to the web to ask other people for their input, if any. (I would certainly hope that anyone who sets him or herself up as a spiritual guru would be open to learning & to new information, whether 20 or 100 years!)

I?d like to ask that the thread get back on topic... & so I ask again about how it ?feels? or what it ?seems to convey? to read a sentence that refers to men as men, & women as females.

annebebe February 10th, 2003 05:52 PM

Isn't this a perception thing? There is always the difference between what the sayer meant, and what the listener heard! I haven't personally been upset by what you're discussing, but have been offended by other adjectives. So I can relate to the distress caused.
Those that think political correctness is rubbish really mean that they are not interested enough to consider how their words are received. It's a lazy attitude. I like to know that what I say is understood. If it is mis-interputed, then I have failed. Woman is an accepted, clear definition. Female can be either a normal adjective, or a belittlement. But the meaning is for the user to make clear. Otherwise, accept that they cannot articulate themselves and move on. Or if you can turn it into a laugh, all the better:D
The man's reply to Blythe was dumb! He knew that he had caused offence and should have admitted it. Instead, he compounded it by dismissing her concern as unimportant because he had not received sufficient similar complaints. He is obvoiusly not a salesmale!!:D

Terri February 11th, 2003 05:13 PM

wo-man fe-male what's the difference?

woman: an adult female human being

female: designating or of the sex that bear offspring; having a hollow part for inserting an inserted part; a female, person, animal or plant.

So I suppose the proper term when referring to a human adult would preferably be woman.

In answer to the question "What does it feel like when men are referred to as men and women as females?" I think it dehumanizes women, puts them in the same category with animals and plants. In other words it takes away our abilities to make choices and be reasoning. This is the fight for social status that has always faced the sisters of the human race. Of course in the military being referred to as male or female is meant to do the same thing to both sexes, and that is to remove your social status altogether and make you government issue, not a bad thing when strict discipline is needed among groups. Teachers do the same thing when calling students boys and girls. In the adult world of men and women, being called a man evokes a sense that there is a living breathing, in control human being involved, but using the term female toward a woman takes away her human standing and individuality (plant, animal scenario or indeed the object as a female electrical outlet just lusting for that plug to make its connection!) I could digress here - normative males, language and thought, decoding, yadayadayada... but I will leave it at this.... I think it is pejorative to use the term female when referring to a woman.

lisa32323 April 13th, 2003 08:57 PM

I guess it doesn't matter. I have been called both a female & a woman & don't really have a preference

uriela April 13th, 2003 10:06 PM

Knee-jerk response: To refer to men as men and women as females is demeaning to women. Males and females, okay. Men and women okay. Men and females--women are somehow not human. Gentlemen and ladies, okay. Police officers as well as the military refer to the sexes in terms of being male and female. At least that is equal treatment. But to use such disparate terminology justifies unequal treatment--that somehow women's ideas, activities, etc. are less important, deserving of less respect, etc. Why didn't this person just write "men and conscripts" or "men and convicts"? I would suspect he thinks of women as incomplete men rather than a different kind of human.

sun56 May 8th, 2003 05:40 PM

Hello, everyone:
I prefer to be called a woman than a female, because 'women' or 'men' represent 'human nature'. Animals can be also divided into female or male. Cheers!

rollingearthsong August 18th, 2003 09:32 PM

I find the use of "female" to be disparaging. Admittedly..that could have something to do with the fact that a particularly unenlightened ex-husband and his even more benighted brother insisted on using the term.
In the Spirit of Christ, the organizer might have been a bit more sympathetic toward your concern....whether the offense was intentional or not.

Angel_Wolf August 18th, 2003 10:27 PM

For me it depends on the day and etc. Especially when its the PMS thing is going on or its the CRS! LOL Yet regardless, I am happy being the person I am! Have a great day! :)

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