Boy, did you strike a chord with me on this one! My entire adult life I have fought against me and other women being called ‘girls.’ We are not girls, we are adult women who worked hard to rid ourselves of that adolescent term, just like men work hard not to be called boys.
I grew up in Texas during the time when women could not have credit or buy anything on their own without their husband’s permission. I remember when my Mother bought my younger sister a car — something me and my two older siblings never had. We were beside ourselves — why should she get a car and we didn’t? My Father went and canceled the transaction and he could because women didn’t have the right to do something like that without her husband’s permission. My younger sister didn’t get the car at that time and it was at that point that I understood exactly how ‘women’ were considered less then ‘men.’
My parents divorced after 22 years of marriage, in the late 60’s. My Mother could establish no credit and it took a long time for her to be able to achieve that goal. But she was old fashioned in many ways and the term ‘girl’ was not offensive to her. Prior to her death, I think she began to understand and accept that a woman was not a girl and should not be referred to as one.
Women often speak of their ‘girl friends.’ I accept that, although to be totally pure in the sense of gender, they should be called ‘female friends.’ And I have many gay friends, including my brother, who often refer to women as ‘girls.’ I am constantly telling them not to call women ‘girls,’ that we worked hard to become women and should be recognized as such. I was successful with many, including my brother who grew up with 3 younger sisters. Some came to understand how offensive being called a ‘girl’ is to many women. For others I was not successful but I never stop giving up on that battle.
In the end, once a girl or boy reaches adolescence, I refer to them as ‘ young ladies’ or ‘young women’ and I refer to boys as a ‘young man’ or ‘young men.’ I figure if you put it out there in the universe, maybe some of these sexist and demeaning terms will be used less and less.
Meanwhile, I don’t want to be called a ‘girl’ either! Thanks for your story, it’s so pertinent in the patriarchal society we still have to live in.