“All females know how to do is…”, “Typical female behaviour…”, “That’s just like a female to…” I’m sure you’ve heard an opinion that starts like this; accusatory, judgemental, and referring to grown-ass-women as “females.” I, for one, have noticed an odd rise of tweets, memes, and even Tik Toks that centre on women, their behaviour, and the word “female” and I’m getting really sick of it.
You may be asking yourself as you’re reading another one of my niche and preachy articles (welcome back, friend!) why the word “female” can be considered offensive to many women, including myself. You are a female, aren’t you? How is it different than saying the word “woman”? Why do you even care?
The word “female” has become an active and intentional use of particular and pointed language to demean women and to “put us in our place.” However, not every person who uses the word “female” to describe women is trying to demean women; many people who use the term are using it with malice and misogyny.
Fortunately, today I intend to die on this hill completely; this is why you need to stop referring to women as females.
The word “female” is extremely broad and unguided; when someone says the word “female,” they can be referring to any female of any species. A female dog, cat, octopus, female can be considered an utterly species-neutral term, giving the word a scientific and sterile connotation and actively taking humanity from who you’re referring to.
Think of where you might hear the words “The females often take care of the babies,” Do you picture a woman nursing a newborn baby, or do you picture a mama bear in the woods? Although that statement is technically universal to both human women and many different animals, the word “female” creates distance and scientific connotation, dehumanizing the sentence the same way the word “females” dehumanizes women as the subject of your sentence.
When you refer to women as women, no one could mistake what species you’re talking about. The word “woman” holds humanity and respect and dignity for those who identify as women.
It Diminishes Women to Their Biological Sex
The word “female” is interchangeable within species because it refers strictly to biological characteristics. The word “female” is used to describe a being with a vagina, breasts, ovaries, and a uterus; although those body parts are spectacular and can bring life into the world, they are not what makes a woman.
There are, of course, many people with uteruses and vaginas who identify as the “female”, and there are also many people with uteruses and vaginas who do not. To be a woman is far more than just biological sex and what you’re assigned at birth, and to refer to all women as “females” is to diminish the feminine experience, gender identity, and what it means to be a woman.
Female and male work as binaries when we’re talking about fish, but they’re so many people out there who fall somewhere in the middle, so why are we limiting ourselves to the two assigned biological sexes?
It Minimizes Our Accomplishments
How many times have you heard the term “female doctor” or “female guitarist”? Slipping the word “female” before the noun is a clever little way of telling women that a) we’re in a class of our own because we don’t hold a candle to what men can achieve and b) these professions and accomplishments are male-dominated and it’s abnormal to see a woman in this space.
Putting the word “female” before any title, profession, or accomplishment actively others women and compartmentalizes us as women first before our achievements and passions. It’s a great way of saying, “Yeah, this person is a world-renowned musical artist, but she’s a woman! I guess she’s doing well for a girl!” When I hear “female singer,” I think of them saying “a pretty good singer for a girl.”
Honestly, this whole article could be summed up by saying: “You’re not being cute or sneaky calling women’ females’. You’re being a passive-aggressive misogynist and you’re being super annoying so stop!” But I guess that wouldn’t be a very long or informative article. Maybe I’ll make it my Facebook status instead.
As we round the end of another one of my super-niche and preachy articles, you might be wondering what you should call women…well, they’re two really good rules to live by that I’m going to leave you with:
Refer to women as women, not females, bitches, or chicks.
Refer to all people as what they ask you to refer to them as! Mic Drop.