Oh, how I pity the poor person learning the English language.
A veritable booby-trap of confusion in regards to spelling, pronunciation, and meaning; the majority of the English language makes no bloody sense. As J. Gustave White pointed out, “Our language is funny – a ‘fat chance’ and a ‘slim chance’ are the same thing.”
But one slip up is all of our own doing, and has been called out by actress and neuroscientist, Mayim Bialik: stop calling ‘women’, ‘girls’.
In a passionate video uploaded by Bialik to her Facebook page, she puts forth the argument that whether we recognise it or not, using the term ‘girl’ for a grown woman can have seriously detrimental effects. And with the video on 7.8 million views and counting, clearly she has struck a nerve.
“I’m going to be annoying right now, because I want to talk about something that a lot of people don’t want to talk about,” says Bialik as she opens the video.
“Sorry folks, I have to do this: we have to stop calling women, girls. Why? Because it matters what we call people. Language matters. Words have meaning! And the way we use words changes how we see things in our mind.”
The Big Bang Theory actress has a PhD in neuroscience, and references the ‘Sapir Whorf’ theory in her video, which is a theory that suggests that the structure of a language affects the speaker’s understanding of the world around them. That is, the way we refer to things, and the emotional response it evokes.
Like she says, “…it’s science.”
It’s unlikely most women would be offended being referred to as a ‘girl’ by women she’s close to, or close in age to. “I’m having dinner with the girls,” or, “that girl has great shoes” is a pretty standard way to refer to someone. Most of us would refer to a woman as a girl on the daily.
But what if it’s an older male calling you a girl? Or even a peer? Introducing a colleague as “the new girl”, or referring to a group of women as “the girls” can feel demeaning and patronising. Using the term ‘girl’ for a grown woman can be a submissive term, with the intention of making someone feel inferior or subjugated.