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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”

By Marissa Gentner
On November 1, 2012

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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