The actress explains why the words we use to describe women are so important
“I am girl, hear me roar.” Wait, what? The phrase just doesn’t have the same impact when you take out “woman” because “woman” is meant to invoke power and strength. Yet, grown women are referred to as girls all the time and actress Mayim Bialik is sick of it.
This week, “The Big Bang Theory” and former “Blossom” star posted a video to her Facebook page to explain exactly why calling grown women “girls” can be detrimental. “Because it matters what we call people. Language matters. Words have meaning (…) Language sets expectation,” Bialik explains.
Her video, which has already been viewed more than 3.5 million times, talks about the inherent problem of referring to women as anything less than. “When we use words to describe adult women that are typically used to describe children, it changes the way we view women — even unconsciously, so that we don’t equate them with adult men,” Bialik says. “In fact, it implies that they’re inferior to men.”
“We never call men boys because it’s demeaning and emasculating.” Yup.
The word “girl” is often used to belittle women, to put a woman in her place. When people refer to women as “girls” it can imply women are incapable or need to be taken care of in some way. It’s not to say we don’t sometimes refer to men as “boys” but when we do, it doesn’t have the same implication. “Boys will be boys” is often used to excuse behavior and is seen as affirmative to their gender. When “boy” is used to dismiss a man, it is an insult and should be taken as one. As should the word “girl.”
Bialik acknowledges that there are women who don’t mind being called girls and willingly accept some preconceived notion that men are in charge and superior. “We start to believe that the way things are is the way they have to be,” she says. But make no mistake, ”It assumes a position of power where men are on the top and women are on the bottom,” she explains. “Maybe if we start using language that elevates women and doesn’t equate them with sweet, small, cuddly, tender things, we’ll start treating them as more than that as well.”
Bialik goes on to hilariously call out how to know whether the person you’re talking to is a woman or a girl. “Indications that she might, in fact, be a woman are a high school diploma, a job, a car she pays insurance on, a mortgage, a home she calls her own, or a 401K,” she says. “Being a mom is usually a very good indication that someone is, in fact, a woman.” On the other hand girls “tend to be under the age of 18 and typically live with their parents.”
Seems fairly straightforward to us.
Bialik’s advice to begin to change this behavior is to correct someone when we hear a woman being called a girl. Gently, of course, because god forbid we don’t use our voice without a smile. “It’s up to us to change the narrative.”