Happy International Women's Day! To mark the occasion I'm reposting my thoughts about the use of the words girl and woman from a year or so back.
I'm a woman and resent being referred to as a girl.
In my mind a girl is a female under 18, a young girl is a girl under 12 and a little girl is a girl under 5 or a girl under 12 of particularly small stature.
Some people say calling women girls doesn't matter, but think about it, would you call a male work colleague a boy? If you would then maybe it's fair enough to call your female work colleagues girls, but I'm guessing that most people refer to their male work colleagues as men (or possibly guys) and so should refer to their female work colleagues as women. I've only ever met one man who has ever referred to his male colleages as boys.
There's a time and a place of course to use the word girls - 'Girl's night out' for example, but in that case it's a choice made by a group of women to refer to themselves as girls and is directly equivalent to the use of 'Boy's Night Out'.
Using the word girl to refer to grown up women is just another symptom of the increasing sexism of today's society and it tends to infantalise women. The word 'Girlpower' is an attempt to reclaim the word girl from it's infantalising useage.
Sometimes I think focussing on the use of words detracts from the issues. For example news articles are sometimes devoted to analysing a politician's use of one word or phrase on one occasion while the issue behind the words isn't touched. However, the use of 'girls' to refer to women is persistant and can only I feel undermine a lot of the work done by feminism to move towards the equality of women and men.