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.


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.





Where Are the Women, Ted?

Isn’t it amazing…

Look, I have things to do, right?  I’ve got papers to write and other really important stuff I’m just saying, this is beyond me.

Ted Cruz – and any sentence that starts this way should make you roll your eyes instantly – takes issue with Hillary Clinton’s statements about the Republican position on contraception.  This is the pertinent part of what she said for our story:

“The Republicans have made it clear in recent years that they are not only opposed to abortion, which they have been for quite some time. They’re increasingly opposed to family planning and contraception. This is a direct assault on a woman’s right to choose health care.” (Washington Post)

Emphasis is mine.

This is how Ted Cruz responded to that.

“Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. When I was in college we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voila!” Cruz continued to some laughter. “So yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them.” (The Hill)

There’s more.  I linked the article from The Hill, check it out.

First thought?  I can’t tell you what my first thought is.  It’s inappropriate. My second thought, however is this: where are the women?  Isn’t it amazing how Republicans manage over and over again to talk about women’s health – including abortion – without ever actually mentioning women?  Again and again they do it and Ted Cruz just did it once more.

When faced with a question of whether Republicans support contraception (which is variable, to be generous), he responded by saying “condoms, you guys, they’re everywhere.”  Except, excuse me – rubbers.  I hope you can feel my eyes rolling right now, because they are.  Condoms, the sort of condoms to which Ted Cruz refers, are for men.  And yes, they are available everywhere.  You can buy condoms at your local grocery store, at Target, Walmart, pretty much any local pharmacy, not to mention most convenience stores and gas stations.  You can buy those condoms, which are made to protect against sexually transmitted diseases as well as prevent pregnancy by fitting snugly over a penis, over the counter without a prescription and without question.  What about the other kinds of contraception?

How about IUDs?  They are, if you’re unfamiliar, inserted in the uterus by a doctor to prevent implantation of a zygote thus preventing pregnancy.  Ted Cruz thinks IUDs are abortifacients, never mind that isn’t medically accurate.  He opposes abortion in all cases, even incest and rape, and he called IUDs and similar forms of birth control including Plan B abortifacients which means that he doesn’t – in actual fact – support a full range of contraceptives.  Neither do several of the Republican candidates.  Here’s a fun article that ranks the GOP candidates on women’s issues.  It’ll make you ill.  Conservatives have a pretty fun record when it comes to contraceptives.

This is all, however important it is to know, very much beside my main point which is – how do Republicans keep managing to talk about women’s health while never actually talking about women?  I don’t know, but I very much hope that whoever wins the Democratic nomination for every seat up for election in 2016 plans to push their Republican opponents on exactly that.  No more talking about abortion without talking about the women who desperately need abortion services.  No more talking about contraception without talking about the people whose economic independence depends largely on their ability to control when and if they have children.  No more pretending that the logical end to your policy positions isn’t denying women the ability to control our own bodies.

No more.


SuperJeb! Strikes Again: Supershero Objectification Edition

Jeb! is super awkward.  We get that.  On the HuffPost you can read a whole article about how super awkward Jeb! is.  This awkwardness probably starts with the very reason I keep putting an exclamation point after his name, you know…this:

Have you ever seen such an original totally awesome logo?

I mean it’s so good he’s been using it for like twenty years.  Okay, look, I’m moving off topic.  I just want us to agree that this is hands down the most idiotic campaign logo ever used by a major candidate.

Anyway.  In the course of his campaign of complete awkwardness, Jeb! was recently asked who his favorite superhero is.  Superheros and the nerds who love them are having kind of a moment, if you hadn’t noticed.  What superhero you most admire says a lot about a person.  If you are unfamiliar with the superhero genre and backed into a corner – especially if you are a Republican – just say Superman.  Don’t try to be clever.  You want clean-cut, all-American (looking…I mean, he is an alien), and totally inoffensive.  Jeb! did actually go with this initially:

In his answer, Bush said, “I don’t know; I’m kind of old school. I like the old-school guys, like Batman. A little dark these days.”

…which makes sense.  I would imagine that any number of Republicans would like to see themselves as Batman.  Or at the very least they like the idea of Batman because he fits with the philosophy that they’re trying to sell the American people.  If you just leave the rich alone they’ll make everything better.  I would argue, though, that Batman doesn’t actually ever make anything better.  He does what Republicans do; he puts band-aids on problems.  He doesn’t address the actually address the source of crime.  He fights the crimes while they’re in progress, and that’s a best-case scenario.  Anyway, this isn’t about Batman.  What we were getting at was the other part because if Jeb! had just said “I like Batman” no one would care.  I wouldn’t bother writing about it because it’s all too obvious.

How Jeb! made it awkward was with this line:

“I saw that Supergirl is on TV. I saw it when I was working out this morning, there was an ad promoting Supergirl. She looked pretty hot. I don’t know what channel it’s on, but I’m looking forward to that. …”

While listening to the Slate Political Gabfest on Friday I listened to Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz try to figure out whether there was anything wrong with what he said or if it was creepy.  The general consensus seemed to be that if Supergirl or the actress who played her is under 18 (they aren’t) then the statement was creepy and if so then it would be.  So it’s not creepy to say she’s hot because she’s 18 and – as John Dickerson pointed out – that outfit, right?  No really, John Dickerson – who under most circumstances I really enjoy and agree with – actually pointed out that probably it’s okay to be skeevy about Supergirl because she is wearing a super tight, sexy outfit.  I hold onto the hope that he was being sarcastic.  In the scheme of superhero outfits, though, Supergirl’s isn’t really all that risque.

It’s maybe the least sexy superhero outfit I’ve ever seen, which isn’t a bad thing.  I mean, yes it’s form-fitting, but it also covers almost every inch of her body.  It is – except for the skirt, which I’m ambivalent about – pretty utilitarian.  We’re not staring at her outfit trying to figure out how her boobs are staying in.  We can’t even ogle the muscle tone in her arms.  This is not sexy by the standards of superhero outfits.  So, on a side note, I’m pretty disappointed in how the Political Gabfest discussed this issue.  Although, in fairness, they gave me a pretty good preface to one way that you can talk about how weird and awkward this moment was while totally missing what I think may be the more pertinent point.

What’s that point?  What other time have you heard someone answer the questions “What’s your favorite superhero?” with an answer that involved saying how hot that particular superhero is?  Probably never.  You like superheroes because of their cool powers.  Maybe there’s something about their backstory that resonates with you.  The worst, most sexist reason to like a superhero is because of how hot she is.

Yeah, she.

It’s bad enough that so often women have to deal with depictions in comic books like this:

That’s the Black Canary.  I have literally know idea how she gets anything done with that leotard up her ass not to speak of the industrial strength double-sided tape that must be required to keep her boobs from falling out the top.  It’s female superheroes…fuck it’s that I’m saying female superheros…but cliched poses like this that help make it okay for Jeb! to admire Supergirl, a character he apparently knows next to nothing about, for her looks.

It’s not about her age.  There’s no age that magically makes it okay to ignore a woman’s undeniable skills, be she ever so fictional a character.  Supergirl is fantastic for many reasons, not the least of which is that being a “girl” isn’t a detriment to her heroism.

I don’t really know how to end this because I don’t actually expect better of Jeb Bush.  This is who he is.  There are certainly male politicians of whom I expect far better who have disappointed me in recent days.  Jeb! isn’t one of them.  Jeb! is a guy who has posited that if single women want to get off welfare they should get married.  That was in 1994.  More recently he questioned whether the $500 million per year spent on women’s health was worthwhile.  Jeb! doesn’t have a great record on behaving as though he thinks women as a category are actual human beings.  So yes, I expect this shit from him.  What I want, I suppose, is for us to hear about this and not just shrug our shoulders.  I want us not to spend our time trying to figure out how it is that Supergirl, the actress who plays her, or the people who created her latest incarnation have made her in a way that begs her eventual objectificatoin. I want us to value supersheroes for their cool powers as much as superheroes.

When you think of Supergirl, I would just rather that what you think of is a little more like this…

Hopefully, that’s not too much to ask.