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  My neighborhood is pretty close-knit. A couple of times during the year, there will be a “Girls’ Night Out” or a “Boys Night out”, and we are not referring to all of our children.  “Boys will be boys”, “You go girl!”, or “OK, boys and girls. Let’s get this done!” are applied to grown men and women as much as to underage teens and grade school children.

It is ambiguous territory, referring to men and women as boys and girls. When we make those references to ourselves it is usually light-hearted, in jest, with a wink, or a nudge. Of course we know we aren’t really boys or girls anymore, but it is an acknowledgement of what we once were and recognition that there can still be a sense of youthfulness and playfulness even amongst the geriatric crowd.

It is more problematic when “boy” or “girl” is applied to an adult in a way that implies lesser status. Although I have no military background, I suspect military recruits are often called “boy” or “girl” by drill sergeants and commanding officers in boot camp where the concept of rank is crucial to the process of turning young men and women into soldiers. It passes over into a sign of disrespect however, with its message of superiority/inferiority with the use of “boy” when referring to men of color. I know it still happens in certain circles, but I hope it has passed into the realm of completely unacceptable among our civic and national leaders.

I had hoped the same would be true with the term “girl”. This morning on Meet the Press (I watch it so you don’t have to), David Gregory asked Rand Paul for his thoughts on his wife’s assertion that the Monica Lewinsky affair would tarnish Hillary Clinton’s chances for the Presidency. Whether Bill Clinton’s indiscretions should be used against his wife is for the electorate to decide, as is the issue of his taking advantage of an adult in his employ.  But Rand Paul’s description of Monica Lewinsky gives us an example of just how clueless the Republicans are when it comes to the “War on Women”. Monica Lewinsky was twenty-two years old when she started her internship at the White House, yet Senator Paul kept referring to her as a young girl. Not just a girl, but a young girl. He did it pointedly several times.

My mother was married and had two children by the time she was twenty-two years old. I had graduated college, married, and moved to another state by the time I was twenty-one. Eighteen is considered old enough to fight for our country, old enough to vote in elections, and old enough that one can’t always be claimed as a dependent by parents. Even the age of twenty-one is old enough to drink. I will make no claim to being as wise to the world then as I am now, but by the time I was in my thirties I was really tired of being called a girl, even by men my age and at the same time they were being called men. It was then, and continues to be a subtle put-down regardless of whether it is done unconsciously, simply because it is so ingrained in the thought processes and conceptions of females in our society. Calling a grown woman a girl does not seem to have passed completely into forbidden territory in public discourse.

Just like Mike Huckabee invalidated women’s right to control their own sexual and reproductive lives by claiming they aren’t able to control their libido, Rand Paul has reduced young adult women to “sweet young things” who are utterly defenseless and unknowing when it comes to the big bad world of men. At what age do the Republicans consider females to be adults? When do we get to shed the perpetual childhood Republicans seem to want to chain us to, and be rightfully called women?

Link to video here. (Sorry, still haven't figured out how to embed video.

Originally posted to marleycat on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 11:14 AM PST.

Also republished by Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism and Political Language and Messaging.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have discovered, by braille, that (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    the fan man, NancyWH, marleycat

    it's all in the tone of voice. M'lady Vs HEY LADY!
    Because there is no solid answer to that question.
    I have met 14 year olds, standing in for an absent mom, standing up to adult responsibilities. Those are women even if technically, they are girls.
    And here in CT, it's not hard to find twentysomethings totally adrift in their parents' affluence, completely childish though technically adult (and it's not just girls here, some of the boys....).
    Mostly, you have to listen to how people self-identify for cues as to what is Ok.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 11:43:10 AM PST

  •  Rand and Huckabee both sound like perverts with (5+ / 0-)

    their fascination of young girls.  When will they ever grow up past middle school thinkers?

  •  When you take into account (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nuclear winter solstice

    the age difference between Clinton and Lewinsky, it's easy to see the latter as a "young girl". Also taking into account the reports of her general attitude -- she may have been slightly less maturely behaved than you were at the same age. (I make no claims as to my own maturity level.)

    Guess what I'm trying to say is that I can see why in this case a 22 year old Monica Lewinsky could be seen as a "girl" -- but not all 22 year old (or older) women fall into that category.

    There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by Cali Scribe on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 11:48:08 AM PST

    •  But can you say "young gir?" That adjective (9+ / 0-)

      takes it to a different place. I think the diarist has a valid point. "Young woman" would be okay; not "young girl."

      "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." Mohandas Gandhi

      by cv lurking gf on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 11:53:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  no (0+ / 0-)

        a young girl is still in elementary school, and using girl is feminist, it's taking back what is still used as an insult, when men call other men 'girls,' or they call sensitive men "girly-boys.'

        There was a time when it was supposed that women wanted to be seen as just as good as men, and so using girl was seen as just as insulting to a woman as it's meant to be for a man.  But now it's pretty clear that the differences advantage girls, regarding the things that society now admires in leaders.  Being 'as good as a man' isn't a 21st century goal.    

        Christie is an example of the 'man,' and that's actually his only advantage, and then only if running against a girl - he was to be the 'great male hope.'

        Hillary says it best, when she says 'I'm your girl.'  

        She's my girl, and in '16 she'll be my president.  

        •  Um, no. Hillary Rodham Clinton is (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cv lurking gf, marleycat

          trying to sound unthreatening when she calls herself a girl. She has a last name, you realize, and is worthy of being shown the respect of acknowledging that? If you are going to argue something counterintuitive such as "infantilization is feminist," you really should offer up support for your position. Also, when no distinction is made between adult women and female children, you're giving the a-okay to pedophiles. Adult women and girls are two different things in a well-adjusted society.

          •  i am? (0+ / 0-)

            she's okay with her gender, that's her point, and she says it first, she turns it into something good. Why would she have spent all that time showing that she's capable of military force if she wanted to seem unthreatening?  

            Infantilization is feminist?  Where did I say that?   Okay for pedophiles?  Really?  

            You may think that a woman who calls herself a girl is infantilizing herself, and many guys would agree with that, they think girl is a bad noun. Throws like a girl, means throws weak.  Cries like a girl means ...

            But I am fine with being a girl.  When I refer to myself as a girl, I am surely not trying to pass for a man.  I am not a little girl and neither was Monica.  I discard those connotations that sometimes make real little girls wish they were boys.  

            I think we disagree on the term and that you read something into my remark that is far from me.  

        •  I was not aware that calling myself a girl at the (0+ / 0-)

          age of 58 is feminist, but then I guess that makes me an old fogey. For those of us who came of age during the Women's Lib movement being called a "girl" after the age of 18 was not liberating.

          A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. - Greek proverb

          by marleycat on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 05:13:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't wish to be insulting (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            if you take the meaning that has historically been connected with 'girl,' then you would not want to be one or at least called one.  Girl is a four-letter word to men, used to insult.  

            When we agree with men that being a girl means childish, or weak, or submissive, and so we don't want to be called a girl, we're inadvertently supporting sexism.  Girls have it hard enough without hearing some boy called 'girl, and all the other boys laughing at him and then some grown woman saying, when you grow up you can be a woman, and woman has 'man' in it.

            I believe it is incumbent on us to help girls feel glad about their gender, and not think that the goal should be to be more like a boy, that a goal could have anything at all to do with the sexual stereotypes of males or females, that anyway aren't always the same across societies but are always active/passive, strong/weak, that kind of thing that is what guys mean when they call other guys 'girls.'  

            In the early days it wasn't like that, back then we bought into the idea that we had to all be like men and demand the respect that men got, and compete with them as if we were also men.  

            Times have thankfully changed. And that's why Hillary saying "I am your girl' is liberating.  (and I am a lot older than you)

            •  I agree that we owe it to girls to make them feel (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              anna shane

              comfortable with their gender. I think your assessment of what it was like back in the day is correct: we were often trying to erase gender rather than embracing gender. At the same time, I still find myself correcting my 23- and 21-year old sons when they refer to their friends as girls. My 25-year old daughter does the same, and she is most definitely a feminist, delighted to be female, and is very much in-your-face about her power as a woman. (Sorry for the delays in responding. She is home from NYC for the weekend and we are all spending some family time together.)

              A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. - Greek proverb

              by marleycat on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 09:02:30 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  it's the guy saying it that she doesn't like (0+ / 0-)

                One suspects that males still consider it a four-letter word, and so your daughter prefers to use it herself, and with her feminist friends when they get together.  In fact boys still use it as a put down, that hasn't changed at all.

                One of these days it's be as nonsensical to call a man a girl as to call a woman a boy.  

    •  So if she is a girl rather than a woman (4+ / 0-)

      She is not responsible for her actions?  She can be preyed upon more easily, so shouldn't be put in adult roles where she is expected to perform with maturity? A 'young girl' is vulnerable, inexperienced, has little understanding of the nuances of adult interactions and is not capable of performing at an adult level.

      This is the flip side of calling a woman a girl. If she is so naive and vulnerable as all that, then she doesn't have the right to be in adult roles.  Or if she is, she would need more supervision, so logically would be paid less.  So no, let's not be condescending and refer to young women as children. Because they are not children, they are responsible adults and deserve to be referred to and treated as such.

      Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Gabby Giffords.

      by Leftleaner on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 12:10:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  well, OJ said it best? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cali Scribe

        I know that's weird to recall OJ, but at the time he said something like, 'a 20 year old woman and a middle age man?  And he was supposed to be in charge?'

        We know more than we want to about that affair, and of course Bill was considered 'easy,' so it was no great achievement for Monica to seduce him, but she thought so, she was even later quoted as wanting Hillary to know that Bill really loved her, so she was clearly young, and out of her depth regarding how bad the publicity would be for her.  It was never to her advantage to tell.

        Her victimizer was, other than the Republicans, Linda Tripp, who later got a face lift and a new wardrobe but will always remain the most hated woman.   And we got a real pornographic report from Kenneth Starr, who will always be associated with unseemly and creepy interest in sperm.

        I think Bill was foolish and easy, but he got enough punishment. Hillary never deserved any punishment.  Some feminists thought she should have left him, but whatever his shortcomings, they love each other. It's not like this kind of infidelity is uncommon in successful marriages.  They are friends as well as married, they talk with each other, they share laughs, and he was really sorry.

        And in the mid-terms while impeachment was in the air, Democrats picked up seats.  

    •  But do you routinely refer to 22-year old males (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nuclear winter solstice

      as boys? Let's say they are interns in the White House. Unfortunately "girl" rolls off the tongue far too easily describing a female that age in that position, than "boy" does in describing a male of the same age and position.

      A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. - Greek proverb

      by marleycat on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 01:46:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just heard (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    2 pm rerun.  What a soft-ball interview!  I could hear  Carolyn Ryan off camera choking, I swear!

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 11:52:17 AM PST

  •  The real object of Paul's derision (7+ / 0-)

    Rand Paul’s purpose in referring to Monica as a young girl was to make us think of Bill Clinton as a lecher.  He was willing to slightly offend women in order to portray Clinton as a sexual predator.

    •  he's being coy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      like his comment about being stuck in traffic.  It's amazing but he actually has a chance to get the Republican nomination; at least at this point.  

      But it's sort of the opposite insult, he has to tell women they have been insulted by Bill Clinton's lechery.  We again need the help of a man to know what to think?

    •  My thoughts exactly! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marleycat, anna shane

      Just keep repeating it, and those low-info folks will only hear "Bill Clinton... young girl... Bill Clinton... young girl"

      "We *can* go back to the Dark Ages! The crust of learning and good manners and tolerance is so thin!" -- Sinclair Lewis

      by Nespolo on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 01:15:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think you are correct he wanted to portray (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      myboo, Nannyberry

      Bill as a dirty old man. If he was willing to offend women in order to do it....well, that's the point: Republicans are tone deaf when it comes to women. Frankly, I don't think he was purposely trying to offend women. I just don't think it would occur to him that a lot of today's women don't want to be told they need rescuing, as Anna Shane points out. Monica may have been immature, but, then so are a lot of women much older than she is. She knew what she was doing, and to portray her as some helpless, innocent little girl completely infantilizes her. Rand Paul is trying to portray the Republican Party as white knights. That portrayal doesn't leave much room for women in anything but subservient roles.

      A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. - Greek proverb

      by marleycat on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 01:40:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yep. You know who else (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nannyberry, marleycat, BlackSheep1, starfu

      said Clinton was a repulsive lech for fooling around with "that young girl"?
      My Republican brother- about six weeks after he got caught with his 21-year old secretary.
      It took him a few minutes to realize why I was laughing so hard.

  •  NOPE.. What Ayn Rand Paul Actually Means (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    "Old enough to bleed-- old enough to breed!"

    The hits just keep coming from this guy....

    "It is essential that there should be organization of Labor. Capital organizes & therefore Labor must organize" Theodore Roosevelt

    by Superpole on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:41:23 PM PST

  •  here's what i was called at my last interview (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Superpole, Nannyberry, marleycat

    a democrat, hiring me for a government job, told me i'm a beautiful girl. i'm 46 years old. this was two months ago.

    the republicans don't own this.

    "...i also also want a legally binding apology." -George Rockwell

    by thankgodforairamerica on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:45:25 PM PST

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