Femininity

female- an organism of the sex or sexual phase that normally produces egg cells.

While at happy hour this past weekend I asked some of my friends have they ever heard that calling a women a “female” is offensive. Of course they said that sounded preposterous and I know that I didn’t make it up so I figured I would ask twitter nation had they ever heard of such. Here’s what I asked:

So what’s wrong with calling a woman a female again?

Now I honestly don’t really know what the problem with the word female is and I genuinely tried to get some insight. Before I share some of the opinions and views of my followers let me tell you where I stand on the subject. I’m a scientist through and through. A female elephant is a cow. A [pregnant] female cat is called a queen. A female horse is called a mare and yes a female dog is called a bitch. Unless a man comes right out a calls you a bitch or a dog then I don’t get how that could be demeaning. True a female human is a woman but I feel the two can be used interchangeably.

Forms that ask for gender don’t give you the option between man and woman, it says male and female. When a woman fills out a form and it says male or female under the sex section does she leave both boxes unchecked because she is offended? Probably not because I hear women refer to each other as females as well. When a man refers to a woman as a female all of a sudden its degrading? Is this because its a man referring to her as such? This must be similar to how women can call each other bitches all day and its cool to most of y’all.

Even if for one second I could see how when a man uses the word female it could have a negative connotation, wouldn’t that only be true if he used it in a negative tone? For instance if a man were to say: “I love a female that can throw down in the kitchen.” it really doesn’t sound that bad. Versus if a man were to say:  “I can’t stand females“. The latter use of the word makes it sound disparaging. I don’t see how if a man honestly uses the word without antagonistic implications how a woman would be offended.

I understand I’m not a woman but I honestly haven’t heard this before the last couple of months. Here is what some of my followers had to say on the subject [Username’s removed]:

Every time I’ve heard “female” the tone implied “bitch”.

It lacks humanistic femininity to me. Dogs are female. Humans are women, ladies or even goddesses if you so prefer.

As w/many things in life. If u didn’t mean it offensively or condescendingly & she gets defensive, then I smell insecurity.

A word can take away femininity?

It’s so impersonal and can sometimes seem demeaning.

“female” is usually used to describe animals, not humans. #notchicks

So @BrazenlyVirile‘s are off the chain! female = female. I sense insecurity.

What’s your take on the use of the word female?

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52 thoughts on “Femininity

  1. Wu

    “I love a female that can throw down in the kitchen.”

    Honestly that sentence just sounds odd. What dude uses “female” in that sentence as opposed to “girl” or “woman”? In this case when a dude uses “female” while referring to women I honestly think he is calling the target of his sentence a b**tch or b**tches. Think about Omar Gooding’s “unstable females” tirade from Baby Boy. I understand why a woman wouldn’t want to be called “female”.

    This is just my take on it.

    Reply
  2. streetztalk

    I think its hilarious how women can call themselves and men “creatures” but get mad when we say female.

    Id be more offended at being called creature!

    I never saw the big deal I think its just yet another thing that women are using to get worked up.

    Should we be offended by being called a male?

    Reply
  3. N.I.A.naturally

    I figured you would write about this. I think Wu summed it up perfectly. Its an unnatural way of speaking about women, young women(girls). And the way it is used is not comparable to checking female on a job application. It doesn’t have anything to do with women being insecure… smh. Insecurity is not the issue. In fact, insecurity usually isn’t the issue, but an excuse some men and some women use to avoid a deeper conversation.

    Reply
  4. ashleigh

    I’m not sure if the disdain for being called female should be discounted as an indicator of insecurity. Its more of a command for respect and proper acknowledgment. Insecurity? Not so much! As you stated the word female exclusively defines the biological breakdown between what separates us as men and women. So to call a woman a female can be considered offensive because you are seemingly minimizing her character and existence to her biological and sexual capability.

    Reply
  5. Jubilance

    I’ve stated before that I’m not a fan of the word “female” when its used to refer to a woman. If female & woman are interchangeable, then why not just use woman?

    In my observations, often I hear the word “female” used as a substitute for “bitch” when a man is trying to be less disrespectful. But that’s purely an anecdotal observation, so miss me with all the protests of “that’s not what I mean when I say it!”

    My biggest issue with this debate is this – why can’t I just say “hey, I find the word female offensive, could you try not to use it?” and leave it at that? Why do I have to give a reason that you (general you) deem “good enough” in order for you to comply with something you know bothers me? Granted, if no one you know personally is bothered by the use of the word female, then its probably not on your radar. But if your friend, someone you talk to often says to you they have a serious problem with it, why do you need a good reason to stop? Isn’t being their friend & not wanting to offend them enough?

    I’m not gonna justify to someone why I’m offended by something. If I’m offended then I’m offended & that’s all they need to know. They have the choice to stop doing the offensive behavior or not & I have the choice to stop dealing with them over the offensive behavior.

    If the shoe was on the other foot & my friend was offended by something I said, I wouldn’t need a reason, I’d just try to not be offensive…but that’s just me.

    Reply
    1. madscientist7 Post author

      personally if a woman i knew personally said it was offensive to her then i wouldn’t refer to as such.

      “In my observations, often I hear the word “female” used as a substitute for “bitch” when a man is trying to be less disrespectful.”

      what if he’s not trying to be disrespectful?

      Reply
      1. Jubilance

        As I said before, in my experience its never been a thing where a man used “female” in a non-negative tone or connotation. So I can’t answer that. I’m sure there are some men who have done it, but it hasn’t been my experience.

    1. N.I.A.naturally

      I’ve never heard nor seen the term “male” used as the term “female” is used, as a replacement for another derogatory, disrespectful word. Do you have an example? I’m curious to see how it was used…

      Reply
      1. madscientist7 Post author

        “why are males so stupid?” <— i've heard this plenty of times when women come to me for relationship advice. i don't think twice about the term male though.

  6. Sayo

    I honestly believe “females” should get over it. If the male has a reason for referring to you as female with a negative tone, just be glad he showed enough restraint not to use the term bitch outright. “Women” use terms to describe men that we simply overlook. I even hear females talk all the time about having a man “trained” in a relationship. With most males, you’ll find we live by the “don’t care what you call me, long as you call me” mentality, I I feel females should do the same. If a man has bad intent when referring to you as a females, how about looking at where his intent comes from rather than the language of the whole thing.
    Imagine, could I get away with calling a girl a bitch if I meant it in the most pleasing manner? Before you know it, we can’t even refer to women using any word at all because a negative connotation has been attached… where do you draw the line?

    Reply
    1. Euphoric Ears

      Hmmmm….so would you be happy if a white person referred to you as “you people” instead of “nigger”? Does it make it okay just b/c he/she was showing restraint? I think not, b/c the implied tone is still there.

      In my personal experience, I’ve never heard the word female used with a positive connotation or simply used to make a statment. Female is always used to accompany a complaint about women (in my experience). Furthermore, I’d actually prefer to be called a b*tch out right or hear a man refer to women as b*tches. Don’t try to mask the disrespect.

      Reply
      1. Sayo

        Honestly, you prove my point. The issue is not the language, but the tone behind it. Instead of addressing the language, address the tone and intent from which they stem. Language is a means of expression, not the other way around as we like to make it seem so often…

    2. Euphoric Ears

      I never said I had an issue with the word female, from my response…you can tell I agree with you. I just don’t understand why I should be happy to be referred to as bitch…just in a “nicer” form.

      Reply
      1. madscientist7 Post author

        lol i didn’t say you had to be happy about it. i just don’t see the hangup over a word. like Wu said, if a dude went on a tirade like in baby boy then i could understand how a woman might want to smack him upside the head.

      2. Euphoric Ears

        “If the male has a reason for referring to you as female with a negative tone, just be glad he showed enough restraint not to use the term bitch outright.”

        That’s whay Sayon said. Happy…glad…same thing, lol

  7. Wu Young Agent of M.E.

    So replacing a slur or slight with another word makes it okay? That’s how terms like “you people” come into play. It isn’t as caustic as “you n***ers” but the intent is just the same. Again, like Nia said, using “female” in the situations you put forward just seems unatural to say.

    Reply
      1. madscientist7 Post author

        that’s your opinion. i think its only a slight if you intend it to be a slight. to call someone an idiot is a slight. there’s no debating that.

  8. Mildred

    Tone, tone, tone, tone. I cannot emphasize much more on how tone in everyday’s basic conversation means to me. Hence, the word “female” being used when one speaks of a lady/woman, does not bother me as much as HOW the individual who is saying it delivers. Yes, the word describes an animal, and yes, majority of the time when i hear both men and women use it, they are implying “bitch” in their tone. But for me, if a person does not come out straight and call me a BITCH, or any demoralizing words, then those little things are not taken seriously by me. Thus, the word “female” is commonly used on plenty of registries/forms (and no one of my knowledge has started a protest on that). All in all, the word “female” should not be automatically be frowned upon. Great post! Now I can start a productive day at work- lol!

    Reply
  9. MelaninEnriched

    Well, here’s my take on it. I’m not offended, per se, BUT I do think it’s takes the human element out of it and it really shows me how a man views a woman. For instance, only HUMANS are women. There are no “women” dogs, cats, other animals; females-yes, women-no. ANYTHING can be a female, even a word–Spanish, German, etc. So, in a way, it’s a way of making a woman LESS THAN a human, in my opinion. In general, I think that it is the “nice” way for a man to say b*tch (or any other derogatory word referring to women) without getting your a*s kicked. It still takes the human element out of it. I just don’t think it’s a nice way to refer to women. Personally, I don’t hang around guys or men who say female, so I’m rarely offended because I don’t hear it often.But I can see how women’s feathers would be ruffled. No, it’s not interchangeable, but a woman is specific to humans. The definition of woman, according to Dictionary.com is a “female, human being.” That’s all I’m saying.

    Sidenote: I don’t see women referring to males NEARLY as much as I hear men referring to women as females.

    Reply
    1. madscientist7 Post author

      i agree that it does take the human element out of it but the fact still remains that women are females and men are males.

      “BUT I do think it’s takes the human element out of it and it really shows me how a man views a woman.”

      how exactly does that let you know how man views a woman? i love women to death but i use to word and not with a negative connotation.

      “Sidenote: I don’t see women referring to males NEARLY as much as I hear men referring to women as females.”

      could you explain your thoughts on women who call other women females?

      Reply
      1. MelaninEnriched

        I’m not negating the fact that women are females, why can’t she be human? Why can’t men refer to the word for a HUMAN female?

        For instance, what if people starting calling you “colored” or “negro” instead of Black or African-American? While it’s true you ARE colored (vs. no color) or negro (as in Black), would you take that positively EVEN if they meant no ill-intent? I think taking it to n**ger is a bit strong, but colored or negro is not viewed too favorably either.

        To answer your question about how does that show how a man views a woman: Would you call your mama or sister a female? Not in a joking manner, but in a serious manner.

        Example:
        Random guy: Where are your mother and sisters going now?
        You: You know those females are always shopping! You know how females are!

        Men, IME, who use the term female are not saying like in a positive tone. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a guy say, “That female is going to be the mother of my children” or used in an endearing way. I don’t hear married men refer to their wives as females IF they really love them.

        Women who call other women females: I feel the same way about that as I do men who call women females. Personally, if I’ve felt the need to call another woman a female, I’m intentionally saying that because there is something about her conduct or her character that I strongly disagree with. I rarely do it, but if so, I’m intentionally using it as a negative, because she’s definitely not acting like a woman.

        I know you’re a scientist, and you’re looking at it from the scientific and biological POV, but IRL women don’t like it.
        Why isn’t it enough for a woman to say that she doesn’t like the term and men stop saying it? I know, I’m being OVERLY simplistic and extremely naive, but I’m just saying.

    1. Jubilance

      Just speaking for myself, I’d only be offended by the latter. You can’t stand women? Awesome. But like I mentioned before, the use of the word “female” comes off as a substitute for the word “bitch” & thus the speaker really wanted to say “I can’t stand bitches”. And that to me, is offensive.

      If you gon be offensive, just go hard with it. No need to sugarcoat if that’s how you really feel.

      Reply
  10. Divine

    Maybe like you it has to do with the nature of my work and terms like males and females are used on a consistent basis. On the other hand, I can see why there are some who feel a certain way about the word. Outside of an academic setting, more often than not the word is spoken with such emphasis that connotes a derogatory manner. My mother used to always tell me that it is not what you say but how you say it. Outside of these settings that you and I are used to the word female is spoken with such vehemence as “bitch” and “bird”. IMO that is why certain “female” are offended by it. So I guess when you are using the word “female” make sure your tone sounds sugary.

    Reply
    1. Sayo

      For the sake of argument I dare ask… if you were to overhear a potential mate talking amongst his peers: “I love that bitch. She means the world to me. Wouldn’t have any other bitch by my side.” Is that something that would be taken as disrespect regardless of how highly he is regarding you?

      Conversely, would it offend you to hear, “Women aren’t good for nothin but cooking and cleaning”?

      Reply
    2. MelaninEnriched

      “My mother used to always tell me that it is not what you say but how you say it”

      Yeah, my mother said that too, but I only agree with that to a point. If a man called me a “pretty n**ger” with a sugary voice (and in all sincerity), I’d still be offended. Sometimes it really is the word(s).

      Reply
  11. Divine

    Comparing the word “bitch” and “female” is like comparing apples and oranges. They are not one in the same. Unless we are talking about dogs, the word “bitch” will always be derogatory. There is no question about that. Whereas “female” has been made to sound derogatory because quite frankly, “females’ find fault in everything. So to answer your question, yes it would I would be upset if I hear him referring to me in that manner. Mind you I said overhear because let’s keep it funky men talking to men and women talking to women there is bound to be some flippant off the wall references that are not necessarily used to be disrespectful. As for the second statement. I could care less if a man decides to open his foolish mouth and state such fuckery. Being competitve as I am I would do what I had to too prove him wrong and then I’d keep it moving.

    Reply
  12. Reecie

    Jubilance and I have had this convo with several people before. She has stated my opinion of the matter. Female removes humanity, and I’m very much human–not cat, dog, or cow. I understand that not many people are aware that it can be considered offensive so I let it slide–especially if their usage of such isn’t in a derogatory manner. But I still make sure to let them know, we are human beings, therefore we are man and woman. I don’t call men males, either…

    Reply
    1. Reecie

      also on forms female vs male is used to describe your gender/sex–not WHO YOU ARE. I think that’s the difference. It could be semantics to some, but I still don’t like being referred to as female.

      Reply
  13. Divine

    Well I am a female who happens to be a grown woman. I guess it is semantics…one that I choose not to play a part in. I get the issue but I just think that it is a bit over the top. That’s just me after all, I’m just 1 female in a large pool females.

    Reply
    1. MelaninEnriched

      I completely get what you’re saying and agree. It’s not something I particularly care for, but I’m not offended. I don’t know any guys who would openly call me a female to my face. If guys are saying that amongst themselves, well, I mean,I can’t do anything about that anyway and I don’t really care.

      Actually, I do know one guy that has referred to women as females in my presence, but there are other reasons I wouldn’t ever entertain him, so I guess it really doesn’t matter.

      Reply
  14. kema

    I only recently learned (from blogs) that I should be offended when the term ‘female’ is used. I think I am much more offended by the use of ‘girl’ instead of than woman… but I do get the reason.

    Also… Statements like “I honestly believe “females” should get over it.” remind me of whites talking about blacks needing to “get over it”

    Reply
      1. Vee

        I don’t like girl either. I watch a lot of sports and it bugs me the wrong way when/if women are talked about as “girls” and men are men (not boys). It seems to reveal a hidden contempt for the athletes. I have a gut feeling that the use of “girl” has lessened in the past 10 years significantly (in sports) so maybe they got the memo.

        Female I don’t have a huge problem with, but if someone expresses to me that they don’t like the word I won’t use it. The same with every other word. And to those who say it doesn’t matter: You are dead wrong. Words have the greatest power in the world, why else would people have scars forever because of something someone said to them in highschool?

    1. Reecie

      yeah I get the same vibe from the “get over it” commentary. I’m not offended by girl and maybe its because I use it and its usually used towards me in a girrrrrrrl/chile tone, towards my homegirls. I guess its a familiar term to me. but I do see your point as well.

      Reply
      1. MelaninEnriched

        Girl doesn’t really bother me. IDK why not, but it’s still a human element, I suppose. I’m still stuck on that, yes. At least you’re acknowledging that I’m human first.

  15. Slimuel L. Jackson

    I find this pretty humorous. I also have realized over the last few months that this word is a big deal. I’ve found myself writing it in posts, then taking it out when editing because I knew a good chunk of women would feel some type of way about it. To me, it’s just an alternate word. I’ve also learned to know thy audience.

    Reply
  16. Streetz

    I refer to women as chicks or broads sometimes… and my tone is normal/non derrogatory. Some of you commenting ive called chicks/broads. Is that any different than female? Do you take offense?

    Reply
    1. Reecie

      I’m okay with chicks. And broads–but with this one I think you have to be familiar with the person. But I don’t like female regardless if I know you like that or not 🙂

      Reply
  17. MelaninEnriched

    To be really frank, I think this is just another thing to divide us. Let’s just call each other men and women. Period. Do other cultures go through this? Seriously? How low can you go without offending?

    For men: Let’s find another way/word to demean women (females)?
    For women: Let’s find something else that’s technically insignificant while letting Tyrone and ‘nem treat you like ish and still continue to get pregnant by his dumba**?

    Like I said, I’m not offended by the use of the word females, per se, but it’s not a term I’d liked to be called and I don’t normally call other women females either. Nor do I call men males.

    There are other things to worry about though, in the big scheme of things, yet I can see and full understand why the hubbub.

    Great topic!

    Reply
  18. Divine

    The fact the word “female” is such a big deal amongst my gender amazed me so much that I had to ask my friends and family what they thought. So my peers immediately bursted out laughing and asked me if I was serious. Apparently, like me they hadn’t gotten that memo. As a matter of fact, one of them constantly uses the word in conversation. Others got it but thought that folks really were making a mountain out of a molehill. Finally, I asked two women old enough to be my mother (one of them being my mom). The first woman looked at me with a *blank stare* and could not understand how one could even put the word “female” on the same level as the word “bitch”. She tried to understand but she just didn’t get it. My mother is a whole other animal. Like me she grasped how depending on the context it could connote being derogatory but that was as far as she could take it. Her opinion was that as women, we have a problem with everything. We are upset if they call us women, females, girls, ladies, etc. She also was baffled how some may decipher the word “female” to being on the same wavelength as the word “bitch. In a nutshell it just all depends on the weather. While I can’t speak for the rest of gender feel free to refer to me as a female. I really could care less.

    Reply
  19. melsenseadvice

    As I stated on Twitter, most people who find a problem with the word, do so when it is used as a noun, not an adjective.

    In all of the examples stated where the word seems fine/normal, it has been used as an adjective (ex. female bathroom, check if you are female or male, female gender).

    The examples that seem dehumanizing are when it is used as a noun (ex. females do this. A female told me, xyz).

    Reply
  20. Muze

    well, i wrote a whole post on why i don’t like the word female. i’ve never heard a man use it endearingly at all.

    i’m JUST getting to your new blog. me likes.

    Reply

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