Girl, You’ll Be A Woman…Soon

The question of whether you can call a grown woman girl and even whether it’s okay for a grown woman to refer to herself as girl, is perennial among feminists.  It’s one of many colloquial references to women that seem innocuous at first glance, but connect deeply to the way that women are viewed by ourselves and by others.

Just last summer, when I was eagerly awaiting the premier of Supergirl on CBS and one of the discussions that I had about the show, one that came up again and again, involved a scene in the trailer in which Cat Grant (played by Calista Flockhart) is questioned as to why she named the newly minted hero “Supergirl” rather than “Superwoman”.  In case you didn’t see it, check out the First Look trailer.  The moment happens around 3:06.

Cat Grant, as we can see, embraces the term girl.  In many ways I love embracing the positivity of being a girl.  So often being a girl is denigrated through insults like “throwing like a girl” or “running like a girl”.  So yes, embracing “girl” is fantastic.

But…  At some point a girl is an adult human woman.  At some point “girl” turns into a way to infantilize a woman.  Everyday Feminism has a pretty good list of reasons why using the word “girl” for a woman is indeed infantilizing.

And once you start listening, it’s kind of all over the place.  As I was thinking about this issue – just over a day or so – I ran across these two examples:

“This girl that I’m seeing.” s.6 ep.22 The Good Wife

“I married a Juniata girl.” A minister at a meeting that I attended.

In both instances the women in question are indeed women.  There’s no particular reason other than the convenient excuse of colloquialism for why these two women should be referred to as girls.  This is simply what we do.

So when Hillary Clinton’s campaign uses the term “girl” to describe her, I’m not shocked.  Indeed I expect the particular wording in the email is due in large part to the person who purportedly sent the email.

ourgirlhillary

Probably you’ve heard James Carville talk.  He’s from Louisiana and he’s never made any effort to drop his accent.  In fact it’s part of his whole schtick.  Likely he’s quite familiar with Hillary, given that he was a lead strategist in her husband’s presidential campaign.  Possibly he says “our girl” often and in regular conversation.  I presume this is why the staffer who actually wrote the email titled it thus.  Honestly, there is no part of this that I don’t understand.  Still…  Couldn’t it just say “Hillary needs you right now”?

She isn’t “Our girl”.  She is a woman who is a serious contender for the position of President of the United States.  She is a grown woman.   You don’t have to support her candidacy.  It would be nice, however, if we could at least address her as an adult human being.  This is not too much to ask, certainly not of her own campaign.  The email itself doesn’t hinge on the “our girl” of it all.  It’s not necessary.

You’re trying to make us feel like we’re part of the team.  I get it.  Anyone who got and didn’t immediately delete this email gets that.  Anyone that deleted would have gotten it if they read it.  The intent is abundantly clear.  All I’m saying is that there are ways to do it that don’t call a 68 year old woman “girl”.

As a Hillary supporter, I’d like to see her campaign do better than this.  One of the improvements in her campaign this time around as opposed to 2008 – for me, and many women – has been that Hillary Clinton isn’t shying away from being a woman running for President.  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to hear “woman card” as long as she’s running, but I can deal with it as long as Hillary Clinton and her campaign continue to understand that – whether we like it or not (ps. We don’t) – there are differences in how Clinton is judged because of her gender.

So, given that, let’s use our words wisely and recognize that Hillary Clinton is not a girl and that’s okay.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Not All Jokes, *That* Joke

Apparently Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globes the other night.  To be honest, I can’t really understand why.  He hasn’t crossed my entertainment radar recently so I kind of forgot he existed.  As much as I was once entertained by him, there was a turning point that caused me to move on.  It’s fine, Ricky Gervais is not required to be entertaining to specific people.  He’s got an audience, good for him.

In any case, as a part of his Golden Globes jokes, he said something about Caitlyn Jenner, which is as follows:

“I’ve changed, not as much as Bruce Jenner, obviously.”… “What a year she’s had. She became a role model for trans people everywhere, showing great bravery in breaking down barriers and destroying stereotypes. She didn’t do a lot for women drivers, but you can’t do everything.”

There was then backlash about Gevais having used the name Bruce Jenner rather than Caitlyn Jenner.  Many commented that the joke was transphobic to which he later responded…

Nope.  That’s not what it is.  In fact I would imagine that very few, if indeed any, people are suggesting that any joke about Caitlyn Jenner is “automatically transphobic.”  My favorite defense when a comedian disagrees with offense taken at their joke is “oh, so any time I say anything about X it’s automatically <insert oppressive system here>.?”  No.  That is not the case, the offense does not extend beyond the statement in question.

In fact, I would even argue that when he says “she didn’t do a lot for women drivers, but you can’t do everything” is pretty funny.  The joke is not that women are bad drivers.  The joke points to a stereotype about women in juxtaposition with Caitlyn Jenner’s involvement in a deadly car crash.  Caitlyn Jenner, in addition to being a transwoman, is also incredibly rich and privileged and has possibly – like so many famous people before her – escaped justice because of her wealth and fame.  He could totally have complimented her bravery and moved on to the driving thing without preceding it with the bad part which is…

…comparing whatever changes have happened in Ricky Gervais’ life with the alteration of the public presentation of Caitlyn Jenner’s gender identity.  That is transphobic.  When a transgender person comes out and makes the decision to transition (or not), what they are doing is not comparable to basically anything except that.  And of course Ricky Gervais was only saying he had changed as a set up to poke fun at Caitlyn Jenner.  He said “…as I say I’m going to be nice tonight, I’ve changed…” followed by a joke about Caitlyn Jenner’s transition.  That was a joke at the expense of a person’s gender identity.  So, yes, that was transphobic.

Here’s the thing, though, Ricky Gervais is the sort of person who really loves it when you’re mad at him.  There’s nothing that makes him happier.  He’s not listening to any of your reasonable remarks about how “hate-motivated violence against transgender people rose 13% last year.”  He doesn’t care that a survey in 2014 showed that 57% of respondents whose families had cut ties with them had tried to end their lives.  Does he know or care than one in ten transgender people has been evicted from their home because of their gender identity?   I don’t know.  Maybe he does care.  I doubt he’s made of stone, although his personal cause seems to be animal rights.  And that’s fine.  There are lots of problems in the world and we don’t all have to focus on the same ones.

In the meantime, maybe consider that as we progress as a society it may become appropriate to alter the way we speak and there’s nothing terrifying or freedom trampling about it.  Likewise, using language or making jokes that perpetuate a sense that it’s okay to have your fun at the expense of a particular group’s identity is decidedly uncool.  Also, maybe pissing people off for fun doesn’t make you cool or above other people’s petty concerns, maybe it just makes you a douchebag.

An Anti-Choice Holiday Journey

Oh friends…  Oh.  Friends.

This week I went to a family holiday party at a church and saw such a flyer I could hardly believe it was real.  I could just show you the whole thing, indeed you can skip to the end if you want, but what I’d really like is to take you on the full journey.

So there I was, waiting for my kid to get back from the bathroom when I looked up at a cork board filled with the usual flyers and one very special flyer for a movie night.

12467934_10206550241928713_1257123678_n-002

It’s a Church Movie Event and the movie is called Sarah’s Choice.  I wonder what on earth she could possibly be choosing?  How can we know!?

12467934_10206550241928713_1257123678_n-003
Look, it’s the international hand symbol for pregnancy!

Yeah.  Sarah is pregnant and she has to choose not to have an abortion through some really labored Dickensian plot devices.  Isn’t it clever that they call it Sarah’s Choice?  Here’s the IMDB movie synopsis:

Sarah Collins is considering an abortion. Before she makes her final decision, she is presented with three visions causing her to think about the impact on her future.

Sarah obviously needs some visions to help her consider the future.  How could a woman possibly come to the right decision on her own?

I found a full plot summary here (linked with Do Not Link).   So clearly  Sarah gets pregnant out of wedlock (only unmarried women consider having abortions…but not really)

Sarah decides to tell her un-motivated and immature boyfriend she is pregnant.
Oh no, are you telling me that her boyfriend is immature and irresponsible?!  I would literally never have guessed that.  And clearly Sarah’s “friends and coworkers pressure her to get an abortion.”  Sarah has zero agency.  She’s also got a friend who had an abortion and “while she doesn’t regret the decision it still haunts her.”
arrested development eye roll lucille bluth
And now for her three Christmas Carol-style visions that a lonely old woman at the family planning clinic told her she would have.  Well…they aren’t actually Christmas Carol style because they’re all of different moments in a theoretical future where she decides to continue her pregnancy and have the baby.  In the third vision this happens:
Sarah then asks Matt, “Are you glad we did it? Are you glad we got married?”  “It wasn’t like we had much of a choice.” Matt responds, “Oh we had a choice, and we made the right one.” Sarah looks endearingly at a Christmas ornament that says “mom” on it.
“It wasn’t like we had much of a choice”?!  For real?  This is the magical future vision that’s supposed to convince her to have the baby and marry her boyfriend?  “Well I knocked you up so I guess I had to marry you.”  I’m overwhelmed by the romance.
Maybe the best part, though, is when – as part of her third vision – she finds out that SHE IS THE LONELY OLD WOMAN!  Yes, that lonely old woman who told her she would have three visions of her future is her if she decides to have an abortion.  I’m not sure about the time-travel implications there, but…interesting.
It is at this point that Sarah “breaks down in repentance” and decides to have the baby.  You see, her dad died at some point and she had drifted away from god but now she’s so happy that her dad is in heaven and…wait…why is this suddenly about her dad?  Oh right, everything in a woman’s life revolves around one man or other.
What’s been amazing for me though is looking at the way that people who would actually watch a movie like this talk about it.  For example, here’s a line from the shortened plot summary:
Though raised in a Christian home, Sarah becomes pregnant by her boyfriend.
How is her being raised in a Christian home in any way connected her getting pregnant by her boyfriend?  I wonder if the reviewer is aware that Christianity is not actually a contraceptive.
Since I wasn’t going to watch the movie, I checked out the message boards for it on IMDB, which is where I found this gem…
What I want to know is what world is a 31 year old woman considered to be a young woman? I mean come on now. Aren’t there other actual young Christian girls singers that you could use for this part? Rebecca St. James is almost old enough to be a Grandmother.
If you think that 31 is “almost old enough to be a Grandmother” then we need to discuss the age at which you think most women are having children, because no.
And then…
Plus at her age who the hell cares if she is going to have a baby? I can’t see any reason to have a conflict. So what she is going to be a singer? I am pretty damn sure that female singers do that all the time. It sure doesn’t hurt their careers.

 

Nope.  At 31 you couldn’t possibly be conflicted about having a baby and having a baby has never hurt any woman’s career.  Never, not ever.

But let’s finish by returning to what is maybe the best part of it all.  Let’s look at the whole poster…

sarahschoicewithcircle

No childcare for the anti-abortion movie event.  It’s always nice to see how people who don’t want women to (have a right to) choose abortion support women who do have children.