Labels. Identities. The words we use to describe ourselves.
I am a wife. A daughter. A sister. An aunt.
I am a woman.
It took me awhile to get comfortable with saying, “I am a woman” when I was in college. I’ve talked about defining feminine here before. And I recall feeling admiration for my older sister as she and her friends boldly referred to themselves as women when they entered college.
At the age of 18! I was startled. My sister a woman? I looked up to her and often emulated her desires and behaviors (as little sisters are wont to do). But we were girls. When had she suddenly turned into a woman and did that mean I would become one, too? Me?
Labels can feel confining or restrictive when there’s no room left for growth or change, but without them our world would be chaos. It’s how our brains categorize and identify.
woman vs girl
The article features six women in their 20s and 30s, all up-and-coming actors, who are starring in a variety of new, upcoming TV series’ this coming season. What captured my attention wasn’t the descriptions of the shows (although some do look interesting). It was a few comments, almost incidental, toward the end of the article:
“When someone describes me as a woman,” she said, “I’m like, ‘Ucch, O.K.’ It’s like being called ‘ma’am.’ It’s more of a proper term, and propriety doesn’t have much of a place in TV comedy.”
The final paragraph reads:
The last sentence sounds to me like she’s reluctant to be a woman. As though that word alone conjurs up such negative thoughts on being female.
Is girl a more accurate description for women in their 20s and 30s? Do women in this age group identify more as a girl? Like the saying, “40 is the new 50,” is girl the new woman?
If so, I’ll admit that makes me pretty queasy.
Are we so youth-obsessed that growing old (or up?) is seen as harmful to our identity? Something to avoid?
Kim brought up some good questions when she sent me the article:
I notice my step-son calls women ‘girls’ even when they’re my age. What’s up with adult women wanting to be called girls? And men calling them that? In my mind a girl is a ten year old. Maybe a high-schooler, although by that time I’d call her a young woman.
“Why are we afraid of this term? Is it our fear of aging? Does ‘woman’ seem too old fashioned? Is it our desire to be young and desirable and not-fully-formed? Language is very powerful. What are we giving up by allowing this diminutive moniker to define us?”
Language is indeed very powerful. Some may call it semantics, but the words we choose carry weight.
Woman speaks to me of strength, not old age. Are we afraid of our own power? Or do we simply not recognize it? Are we afraid to own it?
In the outdoors, I overhear more women than men apologize for not being as fast or as skilled. I hear more stories from women who blame themselves for a disappointing race time (I should’ve trained harder) or a tough day climbing (I need to get stronger).
It seems that it’s easy for us to underestimate our abilities. To capitulate or concede to others. When we say, “just” or “a little” in stating our opinions, we are minimizing our thoughts. Allowing others to take us less seriously.
There are certainly instances where using girl can be fun and casual, but using girl to describe adult women reminds me of these other instances where we, as women, tend to diminish ourselves.
I echo Kim’s final question: What are we giving up by allowing this diminutive moniker to define us?
Have you encountered this trend? What are your thoughts? Are you an adult woman in her 20s or 30s? Do you describe yourself as a girl?
If you’re new here, welcome. You guys seriously rock. Thanks for your comments!
You may also want to subscribe to my blog via RSS feed or email to stay up to date on the latest posts, or subscribe to my newsletter for the latest news and additional articles and information from Expand Outdoors (of course, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can do it all!).
Other posts you might enjoy:
If you’re new here, welcome. I’m delighted you stopped by.
Sign up for my monthly newsletter for more inspiration and practical tips to help you get—and stay active. You’ll also receive a FREE email series sharing the 10 Essential Elements of Adventure.