An Apology to Every Woman I’ve Ever Said This Word To
Last summer, I realized something horrible.
Whenever I called myself a “woman,” it felt wrong, even funny. Me? A woman? At 21 years old, I still did not feel like I had earned the right to call myself the adult I was. No, I instead opted to call myself a “girl.”
Not only was I calling myself a girl, but I was also calling other women “girls,” very casually and without thought. Like, “See that girl over there?” or, “I was talking to this girl I know…”
Something about this revelation felt disturbing. And after a year of thinking about it, I finally understand why.
In almost every way, we as women are expected to be childlike, infantile, weak and unassuming. We’re supposed to shave ourselves all over, to resemble the hairless bodies of pre-pubescent children. We are expected to be thin and sit in a way that takes up as little space as possible. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements for wrinkle creams and cellulite treatments, to keep as “youthful” and “radiant,” as if the natural aging process is unacceptable. And women who are strong and muscular are considered gross and unattractive by many.
Whenever we claim our power – whenever we take up space, wear our natural body hair, or become physically strong – we are put back in our place with reminders that we are “girls.” Being called a girl is code for young, immature, inexperienced, weak, incapable… the list goes on.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a woman who shaves or skimps on exercising, as long as it’s her personal choice to do so. And there’s nothing wrong with being young. Some of the smartest people I know are not even 18 years old yet, and I am proud to say they’re my friends.
However, when we, as women, refer to each other as “girls” but do not refer to men our age as “boys,” we accept our position as inferior to, and weaker than, men. We internalize the patriarchal expectations of women to be submissive in every way, and we turn it against each other by promoting masculinity as the ideal.
So from now on, I will be careful not to use disempowering words when I speak about myself or other women. Because
I, am a woman
you, are a woman
we, are women
and our collective journey of self-discovery, aging, and growth — our journey from girlhood to womanhood — should be acknowledged and celebrated in every way possible.