Social Question

meagan's avatar

Do you consider "Female" a derogatory term to the Ladies?

Asked by meagan (4650points) March 25th, 2010

I can’t tell you how many time I’ve heard a Man call a Woman “Female”. This absolutely drives me up the wall.

“Gosh that female with the brunette hair is stunning” (urbandictionary.com)

Its more of a Southern thing right now that ‘young people’ are doing. But I really find it insanely disrespectful.
People keep finding more and more ways to objectify women. I’m not even in favor of “pet names” like Babe, more or less being called “Female”.

*I might be blowing this out of proportion. But man, this is ridiculous.

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67 Answers

Snarp's avatar

No more so than “the Ladies”. ;-)

But seriously, in the context you suggest it does seem derogatory.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

When someone says ‘I’m female’ or ‘a female’, it doesn’t bother me. When some douchebag on tv says ‘I like my females xyz’, I think ‘and I like my assholes dead’.

Blackberry's avatar

What the hell are you talking about? You are a female. I am a male. Calling a woman a bitch is derogatory.

jaytkay's avatar

It never struck me as negative. Maybe I have to hear it in context.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Female refers to someone’s external genitalia. If someone calls me a female, I’m not offended, I simply acknowledge that they know their biology.

Edit to add: If you replace the word “female” in your example from urbandictionary with the word “woman” doesn’t that make woman a derogatory word?

meagan's avatar

Like @Simone_De_Beauvoir said. Its all in the way you use the word. Some of you are missing the forest for the trees ;P I’m more or less saying.. If you watch Jerry Springer and hear someone saying..

Thats my female right there.
Or I don’t date females that aren’t sexy.

Its the negative way that the person says it. Its all ignorance.
That kind of stuff drives me up the wall. Maybe no one has heard it very much because its kind of a really low class thing to say.. and I watch (a lot) of court tv… hahaha

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’m guilty of this, but I never meant it in a derogatory manner. I’m male thats ok with me. I’ll have to follow this for a little. (Not the Springer part. Using the term female)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Okay, people it’s like saying ‘them bitches’...saying ‘them females’ that is.

meagan's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Brain twins, we are. ;P

sleepdoc's avatar

This is a thing that comes up often in medicine. People get referred to as male and female and is at the least very impersonal

Likeradar's avatar

I don’t see it as derogatory, cause uh, I am a female. I just find it incredibly annoying for reasons I can’t put my finger on.

Mr_A's avatar

Ah yes I have heard it used in that way, I don’t believe it is a big deal least it was not like “Damn look at those bitches”

meagan's avatar

@sleepdoc I don’t mean referring to someone’s gender. The people that use the word in the way I’m talking about usually are speaking down to the “females”

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

So it’s the condescending way more than the word?

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

No.it’s just kind of “off”

sleepdoc's avatar

@meagan well when it is tolerated one place, it spills over.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

That I understand completely. That happens a lot with dealings between men. When I come across a guy that treats me that way its annoying. I just think to myself he must be compensating for a small dick.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Likeradar I know why you’re annoyed -because while your sex category describes you in a way, it doesn’t describe you as a whole being.

ucme's avatar

In England the toffs describe their women using the word female.I get what you mean because they sound like arrogant arseholes, speaking about a horse or some other animal.That is one extreme way though has to be taken in context.

Snarp's avatar

@ucme What’s a toff?

DominicX's avatar

It doesn’t sound derogatory to use it that way, it just sounds fucking weird.

I would never use “male” or “female” except to describe a person’s sex, hence the purpose of the words in the first place.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Now I’m trying to figure out why we (society) do this. Oh he’s just a man seems ok, but oh she’s just a female is a “putdown”

ucme's avatar

@Snarp Think of an exaggerated version of Hugh Grant.The landed gentry,the royal hanger’s on.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’m not hot on being called a lady either. Won’t get you anywhere, in any sense

DominicX's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe

The linguistic counterpart to “man” is “woman”, not “female”.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I know why – because (and I know this will sound weird) women are sexed more than men – in that their physicality ‘counts’ and matters more than that of men. And no, it shouldn’t be this way but we have a long way to go before we either objectify all people equally or value all people equally. And my friend above is correct, no one throws the term ‘them males’ around – maybe we should start.~

galileogirl's avatar

I am showing the movie ‘Cry Freedom’. In referring to white women it is always the term woman or lady when referring to a black woman it is always Bantu female. I think the use of female arose in the 60–70’s among police. I think they started doing it as a subtle psychological tool. Before that female was generally used when describing animals. Using it toward women implies superiority by the speaker and anonymity of the subject.

meagan's avatar

@galileogirl Great answer. Thank you

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@galileogirl Agreed and in the latest internalized racism news, black men (I can speak only of the ones I’ve met here in NYC) use the term ‘my female’ a lot more often than white men do when referring to the person they’re with.

JLeslie's avatar

I am not aware of people using the word female this way. I must watch for it. I don’t like it, sounds strange to me. I prefer woman or young lady, I am guilty of using girls and even chick, which some find offensive.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@DominicX I’m trying to tiptoe thru the terms.

Fenris's avatar

Only if it’s used in a derogatory context. Context is everything.

JLeslie's avatar

Female sounds like a word to refer to an animal, not a human being. Except in the case of police giving a description as someone pointed out, and similar situations.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I see exactly what you’re saying. It just boggles my mind how prevalent it is and how it’s even in the back of my mind.

meagan's avatar

@JLeslie Exactly! Thats my entire point. There are so many people that say things like.. I saw this female in the club, etc.
It really is disgusting. I just don’t like it – at all

Just_Justine's avatar

No, I think I would be more offended if I were called a male! I am being serious though, I went through an “Annie Lennox” phase and was called Sir about six times in one week. I used to have very short hair and wear a lot of suites I guess that is why.

JLeslie's avatar

@meagan Yeah, I haven’t heard that yet. I live in the midsouth, so I am not sure if it is a southern thing, or where you live thing. Where do you live? Also, I am old, so maybe it is a young thing. LOL. I am 42.

meagan's avatar

@JLeslie Arkansas. ;P Woo Razorbacks!

Trillian's avatar

@meagan In the navy we used the terms male and female in our descriptions of people, so, not the context you’re talking about.
I think that the way you’re describing it being used indicates a certain mindset by a certain group of people who devalue and dehumanize women to begin with. They’re not the type of people that you or I would spend time with. You can’t change their mindset or their views about women, and the women they spend time with are the type of women who reinforce that view. What can you do except chalk it up to ignorance and go on with your day? This is one of those things that you cannot change. I know you didn’t ask for advice, but I hope you can put it behind you and not let it ruin your day. Life is too short, ya’ know? ;-)

JLeslie's avatar

@meagan Well, I am right next door in Memphis. :) You should correct people when they say it, let them know you find it offensive. Not angrily, just to inform them. There is another one. You can argue that angry is for people and mad is for animals. But that is a different subject.

meagan's avatar

@JLeslie I haven’t heard anyone say it personally “in real life” to me, but I see it far too much on television and hear it from “a friend of a friend,” etc
I’m sure I’d do more than correct a man that had the misfortune of calling me that ;)

JLeslie's avatar

@meagan On TV? What shows are you watching?

thriftymaid's avatar

No. I consider “lady” to be the derogatory term.

meagan's avatar

@thriftymaid What do you want to be called, Princess? ;P Joke, joke

bellusfemina's avatar

It’s an army thing too. Women are constantly referred to as “the females” lol. It drove me nuts at first, but now I catch myself saying it.

JLeslie's avatar

@thriftymaid Like “that lady needs your help” is that what you mean? Or, someone calling after a woman saying, “lady lady.” That does sounds bad. But, I am fine if someone says to me when I am with a group of women, “hello ladies how can I help you.” Just depends on the sentence. Or, were you kidding to begin with?

meagan's avatar

@JLeslie What’s so bad about Lady? Ma’am is just the same.. What should strangers call us? “Hey you”?
I’d rather be Lady than someone saying something sugary like Sweet Pea, Sweetie, etc

sleepdoc's avatar

Does Ma’am make you feel old? Sir does for me.

chelle21689's avatar

Not derogatory but annoying yeah. I hear a lot of guys say it..mostly the “ghetto” ones.

JLeslie's avatar

@meagan Say Ma’am in NY and they will look at you like you have six heads. Ma’am is for the south and the military. Maybe you find it a few more places, typically in bible belt states. Ma’am or Sir said by a child to a parent the worst. You must be beating the kid into submission and have unreasonably strict rules (I know that is not the case in the south, it is just what y’all considered respectful, but that is how it sounds to northerners. Such formality with your mommy.

meagan's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah but whats so bad about being called Lady? ;P Kind of missed my point.

JLeslie's avatar

How you used it in your question was fine. It really depends on the sentence. Like, if someone came up to me and said, “move over lady.” it’s rude. I think lady is added when people are being less than polite sometimes. You don’t hear it often. Or, “that lady gave me a hard time.” Somehow adding lady goes along with the negative sentence. Instead of someone said, “I felt I was treated poorly by that woman.” I guess as I write I realize that some of it has to do with who typically uses the word maybe in my mind. It may not be unniversal, might have to do with my own minute experience :).

meagan's avatar

@ Hmm. I’m starting to wonder if it all is just about how you use the word. Any word can be taken out of context.. in a way? haha

thriftymaid's avatar

@meagan @JLeslie The terms lady and gentleman don’t describe gender; they describe a preconceived set of behaviors. “She’s such a lady,” “He’s such a gentleman.” Many women are not interested in conforming to the behaviors associated with being a lady. The trend is stronger in some parts of the country than others. Feminism is not dead.

meagan's avatar

@thriftymaid Obviously. Look at this thread.

galileogirl's avatar

@thriftymaid I think “She’s such a lady” has a very different meaning than “She’s a lady” As a lifelong feminist I don’t think behaviour like courtesy and kindness are in the least outdated. Those are behaviors I associate with being a lady along with intelligent speech instead of meaningless obscenity, being well groomed instead of shorts riding up ones crotch and putting 42 D’s in a tank top without a bra and achieving one’s goals without lying or cheating.

thriftymaid's avatar

@galileogirl In some areas of the USA, especially the south, educated women have become offended to being called ladies period. I’m sure it’s because the expected behaviors or a southern lady were much more extreme in days past than perhaps other areas.

JLeslie's avatar

@thriftymaid I don’t get that. They hold the title lady to high esteem, but they don’t want to be called it? Maybe they expect to be called women? Which is now perceived as a more of a mature title, depending on the context of the sitation. I think lady is associated more often with young ladies, and said as such in common speech in the US, similar to Miss, or the French Mademoiselle (even though I admit ladies is sometimes still used when addressing a group in the plural form. The south prefers Ma’am, from Madam, while in the north they think you are nuts to use Ma’am (I know I said this before, sorry for the repeat) it connotes a feeling of age or marital status. Or, maybe lady has lost its meaning to them? Or, maybe I misunderstood?

thriftymaid's avatar

@JLeslie In the South educated women do not want to be called lady. That’s not to say every woman would be offended. Traditionally, to say someone is “a lady” meant she was quiet, ate very sparingly in the presence of guests, was polite even in the face of adversity, was not career oriented, felt that males were superior to females, and would have no thought of mingling traditional roles. That’s why the offense to the term is stronger in the south.

JLeslie's avatar

@thriftymaid I see. I never would have come up with that on my own. Makes sense in its own way. Thank you for explaining.

cheburashka1's avatar

Interesting question. In Russian, my native language, both terms “female” and “male” are considered offensive. It refers to physicality of all beings ( insects, animals and humans). To call a person a “male” or a “female” it’s like stripping them of their human attributes – intelligence and morality. To say “he is such a male” means he is stupid and his only interests are to eat, shit and have sex. Same applies to “female”. To say “he is such a man” is a totally different story, usually means honorable, strong, protective. “She is such a woman” is a compliment too, meaning clever, kind, beautiful and all kind of good things.

choppersangel's avatar

@Snarp, in England, a ‘Toff’ is used to describe someone who is either of landed gentry, or behaves as though they are. They are usually clear-spoken (the ‘Queen’s English), often sometimes educated, not often considered nice people when the term is employed. Hugh Grant might play a ‘toff’ in a film!

Regarding how women are labelled, all of this is about context and language. Here in the UK, we have bird, chick, babe, gal, gel, all of which may be considered derogatory; then lady, lass, lovely… used in the third person. To our faces we may be called love, darlin’, bird (That’s colloquial, I live in Cornwall where it is common and refers to a man or woman), or mate if we are male. The derogation surely comes from the style of use of any of the terms. Female… of the species is correct.

I think we are in danger of getting too offended, too ‘PC’ and essentially corrupting our own language, if we keep reacting to terminology other than our personal names! What about chap, guy, matey, fellow, fella, bloke, male…?

cletrans2col's avatar

Reading this makes me shake my head at how thin-skinned we have become.

brittanyns's avatar

When I hear other women use the term “female”, not referring to gender, but rather as a replacement word for something they realize is less desirable like bitch/slut etc. my inner-feminist starts clawing her way out. It’s really like nails on a chalkboard to me, and I always have so much trouble explaining it to people. I’m from the south and went to school in a low income neighborhood and I heard this all the time back home. @cheburashka1 Is right, it’s certainly used in a demeaning animal-like way.

If you would like real time examples of this type the word female in your facebook search bar, then when it loads click “posts by everyone” on the left hand side. At least half the posts right now are using it in the way we are talking about.

AGH.

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