Opinion

Casual Use of ‘Female’ Is More Harmful Than it Seems

Calling women “females” outside of a medical or scientific context is reductive and dehumanizing, and use of the word casually should be avoided.

Female. The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of this word is, “of, relating to, or being the sex that typically has the capacity to bear young or produce eggs.” This definition would lead a reader to believe that the word is clearly biological, but a quick search for the word on Twitter brings up results of very different usages, with messages such as “Y’all females be smoking all y’all curves away.. f*cking crackheads,” and “Girls claim they different but be basic asf like da rest of these females,” now commonplace.

As evidenced by these tweets, female(s) is often used in a negative light, and frequently as a noun rather than as an adjective. When “female” is used in this way, it is disrespectful and dehumanizing. It reduces the subject down to their reproductive capabilities, rather than who they are as a full person. This is a problem, since women have often not been allowed to have a role in society outside of reproduction and raising young. This also excludes women who do not possess female reproductive organs.

Secondly, referring to women as “females” strips them of their humanity, as it does not specify a species. A “female” could be anything from a whale to a beetle, and everything in between. A woman can only be human. This distinction is important, since humans nearly exclusively communicate with each other, and see each other as better than the rest of the animal kingdom. This word, especially since it is used mostly in a negative way, reduces a woman to the level of animals.

“Female” itself is not a problematic word. When used in reference to biology, it is not an issue. However, it is often used as a noun, and as a placeholder for “woman,” or worse, “b*tch.” This is clearly misogynistic and an attempt to undercut a woman’s worth by lowering her to only her reproductive abilities, and not distinguishing her from other animals, removing her humanity. While calling women “females” is not at all one of the biggest barriers to reaching gender equality, it should be culturally avoided. It’s not difficult to just call a woman by her name, or when referring to multiple people, as women.

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