@boucherhayes took me up or rather, took up Kevin Myers – on calling a woman a girl.
It’s one of those places where I know he’s right, and yet, like most things, it’s complicated.
It reminded me of the time I was hired by FG to do a fundraiser. Waaaay back – maybe 90’s or early Noughties. I got my friend to help me. We were cleaning a database really. We worked out of HQ for a few days and I could hear the various Execs and Handlers talk to us and about us.
“How are the girls getting on?”
“How are yiz girls. Need anything?”
They were all being completely polite and I was conscious of, but used to, their quaint ways. My friend was not; and grew increasingly irritated at the carry-on.
Eventually, we were trotting up to Leinster House to meet someone and on the way in via Merrion Square a porter greeted us on the driveway, with a wink; “Howyayiz Girls”.
I smiled but my poor friend had had enough and protested. “WE’RE NOT GIRLS! We’re WOMEN”
He was perplexed and dismissive. “Jaysis – must be something wrong with my eyesight”.
I laughed at both of them.
We presented ourselves at the desk in the main lobby, giving our names and the name of whoever we were meeting. The poor porter was confused. Couldn’t find our names and was discombobulated. He had to consult with a colleague to wonder why we weren’t on The List.
Finally I said; Well, we were sent up from HQ.
He said: AAAH! HQ! You should have said!
He turned to his colleague then looked at us; and said
My poor friend looked utterly defeated. She got what she wanted, and yet, had still lost.
I really didn’t mind.
I understood. They were wrong. But they didn’t MEAN it. We were doing a job. We got paid for it. Culture would change. But terminology means only what’s behind it.
[Albert; “that’s women for ye”]
I know it was all patronising. But girls/women – the WORD didn’t matter. It was intent. You could ban the word “girl” and never eliminate the reductiveness. My SON calls me ‘WOMAN” to goad me. To goad his brother he says; BOY. Any word can be “owned” and “turned”.
I really don’t let it bother me. We did a good job. We got well paid for it. They all respected us for the money we brought in. I was repeatedly asked for more work. (but turned it down for other reasons). No one TOUCHED us. It proved to me how you can never touch anyone, and still be…….reduced? And how words are – not meaningless – but pointless. Black people turned it around and used Nword for themselves…
I know there was a job of education, but it taught me – Girls? Women? You can fight that battle and make them hate you. Or you can bring in the cash and show them you mean business.
It’s annoying, but I do know this:
- arguing over words was something they did not understand
- they did understand they couldn’t/shouldn’t touch us
- we did a good job, and they respected that
- culture changes over time, and that’s important, but in day to day life, we don’t need to fight every battle. Sometimes, it’s wasted energy, counter-productive, and there are better battles to fight..