13 May 2010

Girls and Boys

There is some deep irony in the fact that I bristle when I'm sitting in a meeting with my (male) health insurance broker and he makes reference to a "girl" at the insurance carrier - and hell yeah I corrected him - because I work in an industry where grown professional dancers are routinely called girls and boys. Apollo? It's for three girls and a boy. Antique Epigraphs? Eight girls. And it's not just in the ballet world - someone sings "How many boys, how many girls?" in A Chorus Line.

It doesn't rankle me that the dancers are girls and boys, but it's reflexive for me to get on a high horse when someone calls a grown woman a girl. Why?

20 comments:

Harriet said...

For me, it bothers me when its unequal -- when women are girls but men are men -- or when it seems like it's a reflection of an unequal power structure -- as with the term "busboy." The dancer thing neve bothered me because dancers often call each other boys and girls and because both boys and girls are subject to the youthification. And besides that, a lot of dancers really are kids.

Life As I Know It said...

Because it's degrading, patronizing, even? when a man calls a woman a girl. 'Girl' suggests a younger, inferior person when a man says it about a woman.

Bee said...

In this context, it is definitely inappropriate. How do you feel about the word "ladies?" I have a friend who spits with hostility when she is affronted by that word.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Because a grown man in the business world is never called a boy.

A Chorus Line was my first Broadway play and remains my favorite.

nonlineargirl said...

What Jenn said about business boys.

the queen said...

Then again, perhaps business boys could be 'boys' - only calling any man but a white man a 'boy' is racist. (At least it does not fly here in Saint Louis.)

kathy a. said...

i think "girls and boys" is more acceptable among the group, as perhaps an affectionate and inclusive term.

but "girl" spoken by a businessman about a subordinate is crappy on both gender and power fronts. i once worked with another lawyer who said i should get my "girl" to do something or another, and it kind of blew his mind that my secretary was a man. but i've also done a lot of support-type work, and have a strong appreciation for how important that is for the overall functioning. mr. big shot would probably be lost if he had to handle all that himself.

Cold Spaghetti said...

Because referring to dancers as boys AND girls is a very different thing than singularly mentioning the "girl" that answers the phone or worked the desk or whatever. Would you say that you spoke to the "boy" at the health department? You're right on and I'm bristling with you.

Also, dancers will take just about anything because they really need this job. Please God, they need this job. They've got to get this job.

... and I have no self control.

Becky said...

Because you haven't been a girl since you were a teen-ager.

Bron said...

In the UK, older women call each other "girls" all the time but it's a term of familiarity and endearment. And it's a little ironic too. That, I think, is nice. And an informal "come on, girls!" seems nice if everyone is friends. But a random man calling women he doesn't know "girls" is infuriating. I agree with one of the other posters, if men in the workplace are called "boys," then fine for the women to be called "girls" but guess what? That doesn't happen. Men and "men" and women are "girls."

mayberry said...

LOL at Cold Spaghetti. Call me anything you want as long as you call me "hired"!

Lady M said...

A man calling other employees "girls" would irritate me to where I'd make the correction too. I have one colleague (former boss) would would say it, but would self correct every time.

"Ladies" doesn't bother me, probably because I do a lot of vintage dance. I'm accustomed to being called a lady, and accordingly, all the males are called "gentlemen."

flutter said...

Yeah that would piss me off, too

de said...

may I suggest the gender-neutral "co-worker?"

according to my daughter, we'll all be dudes in another decade.

niobe said...

"girls" for whatever reason, doesn't bother me.

"ladies" on the other hand, makes me all stabby.

The Library Lady said...

In dance class, it's just a professional term.

In the real world, it's belittling.

Hope Fiona's wrong about "dudes"--that one sets my teeth on edge.

How do we all feel about "ladies" vs "guys" when a waiter is dealing with a group? In my family there are 3 females and one male....

kathy a. said...

"guys" was THE informal way of addressing a group [even all women] when i was younger -- like the southern "y'all" -- so the modern "dudes" doesn't bother me. plus, it's pretty funny when a woman of a certain age steals the term. in my opinion.

"ladies and gentlemen" is the traditional formal way of addressing jurors in court. "ladies" from a man addressing a group of women is kind of irritating, though. i believe there was actually steam coming out of my ears when the chief justice of a state where i used to live gave this important legal advice on the occasion of joining the bar: "now, you laaady lawyers, don't wear those dangly earrings."

Stimey said...

It's totally the inequality. It's okay if women are girls and men are boys, I think. But I can't imagine the man in your meeting referring to a man in that position as a boy.

Suzie said...

As the (female) director of my office, I find myself using the word "boys" all the time. My two partners are both men, both older than me. I have 6 resident physicians under my care, 5 of which are male. It gets a little- well, boy-ish in the office sometimes. I am constantly saying "knock it off, boys" or something similar. And as the title "doctor" is IN THEORY a gender-neutral title, I often find myself using the phrase boy-doctor or girl-doctor. As in "please, I BEG you, send me more girl-doctors, these boys are making me crazy!" But if a patient calls the nurses or secretaries "girls" I ALWAYS say "yes, you may give that to the women up front". No idea why.

blc said...

Because you're right, damnit. Period.