Mayim Bialik’s video “Girl vs. Woman” is pretty great in some ways. As a woman, I feel where she’s coming from. DO NOT call me a “girl,” or you risk my wrath.
I would like to add that if society is unclear on the concept of “girl” not being “adult human” (which it is unclear on, to be clear), society realllllly doesn’t know what to say about people who aren’t aligned with the gender binary (people whose gender isn’t male or female). Folks who are genderqueer, non-binary, gender non-compliant, and others outside the binary of “man/woman” are not well-treated by society. AKA, society is an ass.
There are many people around the world (including but not exclusive to Americans) who are neither men nor women. Those terms don’t describe their gender. I wrote a blog post a while back about how to address groups of people more inclusively, partly for them. But what do we call people who aren’t a man and aren’t a woman?
The real answer is, we should call people what they want to be called.
But if you’re thinking, “okay! I will go up and ask this person what their gender identity is!” then hang on a sec. Why do you need to know?
Folks who are transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, androgynous … These people receive microaggressions all the time when it comes to who they are. The last thing they need is yet another person asking, “What are your preferred gender pronouns?” as though this is a preference that can and will be freely ignored if inconvenient. Please don’t do that.
Say you’re talking with your friend Jo about another friend, Lee, and you aren’t sure what pronouns Lee uses. “So I was walking down the street with Lee, and Lee pointed out the beautiful cloud in the sky … hey, Jo, do you know what Lee’s pronouns are? I wouldn’t want to misgender Lee.”
It’s legit to
a) refer to a person only by their name, or
b) ask what pronouns a person uses, if it won’t derail the conversation or call unwanted attention to the person’s gender identity.
Robot Hugs has a comic on this topic that says much more in very smart ways! You should read this comic. Go read it. Right now.
Just … go forth and try not to be awful to people who don’t conform to a false gender dichotomy? That’d be great.