Sunday, March 4, 2012

Why we'll always be Girls (and not Women)

Just read a NY Times article about the 25-year-old behind a new cable TV comedy called "Girls," and her pack of cronies portraying the insecure, sex-driven young 20s generation.  The interview with cast members ends with a statement from show creator Lena Dunham that "I don't think they would self-identify as women yet."  Well, I'm in the upper generation, and still have an affection for addressing my feminine cohort as "girls."

You'd think that the feminist movement, in which we boomers matured, would have impressed on us the respect in being a woman rather than an immature "girl." But that's not the association I have with the term.  "Girl" means youthful, inquisitive, blooming, vibrant. "Woman" means stern, staid, haggard and humorless.

When I embraced the Feminist Health "movement," first through a local Feminist Health Center and then volunteering through a UCLA program dispensing birth control advice at a table set up on Bruin Walk, I first heard the term "high school women."  In the preparatory instruction we received, I was taught about sexual concerns of secondary school students."Oxymoron," I thought--you can't be a woman when you're in high school; you're still a kid.  Certainly I was still a girl, subordinate to my teachers, school administrators, my parents, even when in grad school.

There's something too serious about being a woman (unlike the word "man," which is a mere descriptor of gender).  I want to be taken seriously, but in the contexts where I'm nameless, I'd rather have adjectives about why I'm formidable--call me "psychologist," "author," even "wife of," because I'm proud to be a team-mate to my spouse.  But "woman" is not only anonymous, but sometimes, sad.

At my Shabbat table yesterday were two couples in their 70s.  They talked about their activities, and one described an outing of friends: "I went with 'the girls'..."  She paused and added, "well, I guess we're not exactly girls anymore..." But her first instinct in describing a lively afternoon was to call her group "girls," because "girls" have fun; girls giggle and enjoy.

Yes, it's partly denial of the loss of respect that comes with aging. As we oldsters are replaced on the scene by this sex-obsessed, raunchy group (I prefer being a bit more civilized and demure), we don't want to lose that spark of energy and excitement. And so, the word "girls" is no longer anti-feminist; since we know who we are, and have made our marks, we can be comfortable with the word we once eschewed (as well as anything else we want to say), and not worry about what others will respond.

1 comment:

  1. Let's not forget arguably the best sitcom of all time: The Golden Girls.