When does a girl become a woman?
Jun 19th, 2009 by teragram

A friend recently told me that she knows some people nearing middle age who hesitate to apply the word “woman” to themselves. They still consider themselves girls. It’s been rolling around in my head since, so I wanted to blog about some of my thoughts on the matter.

As with anything, once you start thinking about it, you see examples everywhere. A poster advertising a TV program seeking a new models refers to the (at least mid-twenties) contestants as “girls”. Marketing executives insist on referring to “females”.

I am a thirty year old mother of one. Married for nearly 6 years (6 years!). And I find I also hesitate to use the word woman for myself. Why? Girl certainly doesn’t apply, and lady is just wrong. Perhaps part of my problem is that I don’t know where the boundary between “girl” and “woman” is; I have never had a rite of passage that explicitly confirmed my new status. Do you stop being a “girl” when you have your first period? When you hit 18? When you get married, or have a baby?

The TV show I referred to above is (I think) called “Are you a model citizen?” (I can’t find it online) and it proposes to take some number of hopefuls and choose one to become a model. Thinking about why they used the word “girls”, I realised that “women” is not a word for attractive (read sexually-objectified) females. The word “woman” conjures up an image of a strong, stable, independent person, but perhaps also dowdy and unsexy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, vast audience.


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