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Letter to the Editor: Use of “girl” can be demeaning

In response to “LSU girl attemps matricide” published in the Oct. 12 issue of “The Maroon”

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 17:11

Although I do not believe that this was a direct or intentional attack on women, the way that two of the articles in the Oct. 12 edition of the Maroon were titled really struck a nerve with me. Perhaps the most obviously disturbing article title was that of “LSU girl attempts matricide.”

For those of you who did not read the article, it was about a “19-year-old Louisiana State University student [who was] accused of plotting to kill her mother for an inheritance and offering $50,000 to an 18-year-old classmate for his help.” Although this woman’s act was sickening, what I take issue with is the fact that, regardless of her being old enough to attend college and to attempt homicide, the article title referred to this arguably rationally-capable adult as a girl. Could you imagine if this were a 19-year-old man? Imagine reading, “LSU boy attempts matricide.” That would sound absolutely and utterly ridiculous, considering the age of the person-in-question.

The second article was entitled, “Sam the ice cream girl is coming to town.” The story featured “Loyola’s own entrepreneur Sam Schnetz” who began making her own ice cream flavors and selling them outside of the Monroe Library. I have seen Sam outside of the library, and she is not a girl —she is a woman, and, as an entrepreneur, she is a businesswoman. We wouldn’t typically refer to a female entrepreneur as a business girl, would we? I am also fairly certain that we wouldn’t refer to her hypothetical male counterpart as “the ice cream boy.”

At best, referring to a woman as a girl is misleading; at worst, it’s oppressive.

When we refer to women as girls, we infantilize them, meaning that we reduce their status in society to that of children; we insinuate that women are not capable of making adult decisions in an adult world. Being a woman confers respect and autonomy, and we should not deny any person, man or woman, the right to be treated and respected as autonomous individuals.

It saddens me that in the year of 2012, we have failed to recognize the harm that comes with infantilizing women. As an egalitarian institution, I expect more from Loyola and the Maroon in terms of our respect for women. I am not just some “crazy feminist.” I am a humanist, which, in turn, renders me a feminist. I am not supposing that we start referring to men as boys so as to “make it even.” That would be absurd. I am simply advocating that women be treated with the same dignity and respect that men are. This is an issue of representation. As women, we desire to be represented as autonomous adults, not children. It’s as simple as that.

Marissa Gentner, philosophy senior 

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14 comments Log in to Comment

Sat Nov 17 2012 00:14
ROFLCOPTERZ!!1! You are correct, Anon! This chick spent money on a useless major. Have fun "thinking" about things and being poor while I get paid for surgeries.
Sat Nov 17 2012 00:04
And the author of the article, Marissa Gentner, is a philosophy major? Umm. So this is the thinking and writing of a philosophy major? Umm Uh oh.
Fri Nov 16 2012 12:41
I'll give a woman something productive to do. Make me a sandwich ho!
Thu Nov 15 2012 17:29
Hey feminists. I will give you something else to rant about and then work to change. Think about this. The letters "men" appear in the word women. Perhaps you should work to get rid of that term for the female gender. At least that would give you something else productive to do.
Hedda Gabler
Thu Nov 15 2012 10:56
Consider the offensive, historical misuse of the words 'boy' and 'girl' when referring to African-Americans, particularly in the South? It was a horrendous way to degrade people, by delegating a race to childhood references. It is just as offensive in any race, and just because some people are comfortable with degrading labels (and insult and degrade you, the author, for challenging them). Ever see "Idiocracy"? Me thinketh these many of these commenters are contributors to the greater bad.
Thu Nov 15 2012 10:51
I agree wholeheartedly, and I applaud you for saying it. I tend to roll my eyes and mention these things to my husband and close friends, but in the bustle of life, I have all but stopped challenging the status quo. Something about 'not reasoning with unreasonable people' winds through my mind. I would also like to assure you that in more liberal communities, such as San Francisco, where I attended college, people are much more aware of sexist, condescending tones and tend to avoid them more than the South seems to, at least in my opinion. So you are rocking the boat in some salty old seas, sister. Bravo.
Mon Nov 12 2012 23:45
Marissa, this article is proof of why you're gonna hoard cats when you turn 30.
Sun Nov 4 2012 12:50
It never ceases to amaze me how feminists rant about the most innocent things that people say or write. I guess when they visit a restaurant where the restrooms are marked Boys and Girls, they complain to the manager about how those markings disparage women. Men typically ignore such trivial things. The feminist movement is about as obsolete as affirmative action. But modern liberals hold on to these issues perhaps to rationalize their shortcomings.
Sat Nov 3 2012 20:30
..oh, and i know how these things go with you type of people. this is when you pick apart my grammer and spelling errors. so on that note, ive said my piece and wont be comming back to this site. Good initiative Marissa, just learn to lighten up..
Sat Nov 3 2012 20:25
fair enough on the first statement there. but i still dont see how the terminology "girl" is demeaning in any way. you've yet to convince me that calling a dude "boy" would be oppressive.. again this is just a typical feminist rant, finding some offense in something that has none. other than that it is a well contructed piece of writing. oh and congrats on pointing out some improper wrighting tecniques, you impressed me thoroughly. well written piece, motives behind it cause me to smh and loose faith in society even more.
Sat Nov 3 2012 20:09

Regarding the claim that the word "girl" simply implies that the LSU student was the child of the mother, the proper word is "daughter", not "girl". If a 50-year-old woman in New Orleans were to try to kill her mother, would we see a headline referring to the accused as "New Orleans girl" simply to imply that she was the child of the intended victim? I doubt it. So there goes your "logic". Regarding your second claim, yes, it would be odd to call Sam the "Ice Cream Woman", just as it would be odd to call Sam the "Ice Cream Man" if Sam were a man. The proper term the Maroon should have used is, "Ice Cream Seller" or "Ice Cream Vendor". "Ice Cream Girl" is as demeaning as "Ice Cream boy". You mentioned that Marissa's argument is "illogical" and that it is merely "feminist rant". You have just committed a logical fallacy by ending your comments with an ad hominem argument.

Marissa Gentner
Sat Nov 3 2012 16:55
I think we can both agree that the Merriam-Webster dictionary is a real dictionary with real words and real definitions. Please google the terms "businesswoman merriam webster definition" for a real definition of the real word.
Sat Nov 3 2012 15:45
This is just... what?? typical feminist rant about something thats not in any way demeaning or oppressive. The context of the first forementioned article is simply to imply that the female was indeed the child of the mother, and in the context, a girl. The second.. wouldn't it just seem slightly odd to call her he Ice Cream Woman? What is wrong with the terminology of "girl" in either of these cases I cannot seem to grasp. Once again, this is just a illogical feminist rant that has no logical stand behind it.. as with most.
Sat Nov 3 2012 15:26
i think we can both agree that "businesswoman" isn't a word

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