Lizl Morden

What to call a female person you (may or may not) know

Lizl Morden
Lizl Morden

By Lizl Morden

I have noticed that some people, mostly but definitely not exclusively men, call women they do or do not know some strange things. So I have decided to compile some tips.

First up, ‘hey girl’ is not acceptable (unless you are Ryan Gosling. And even then, he is not everyone’s cup of tea.). Likewise sweetie, baby, darling and other belittling and dismissive terms. This is especially true in professional situations. Yes, it happens.

Some more terms to avoid: bitch, slut, ho and their variations. Saying ‘hey bitches’ to a group of female friends especially annoys me. This might be because of its social connotations; as a derogatory term for women and as a way to assert dominance ‘make someone/something your bitch’. I understand that some people have no problem with this, but unless you have established that the women you are referring to are fine with it, just don’t do it.

That covers what not to call women. So what does that leave? When the girl/woman you are talking to was born somebody had the good sense to give her a name. Use it. If you don’t know it, be respectful. Or don’t call her anything. Or don’t even talk to her. I like this option – if you don’t know my name WHY are you talking to me. But I seem to be more anti-social than most people so this does not apply to everyone.

If you want to get a woman’s attention and you don’t know her name, may I offer the respectful and gender-neutral ‘excuse me’. Other options besides nothing at all and her name include: miss/ma’am if you don’t know her and the context calls for it and if you do know her use her name or whatever term of endearment you’ve agreed upon.

In summary: if you don’t know the woman, show some respect when talking to her. If you do know her, call her by her name or nickname she does not object to. And if you know she objects to particular term do not, I repeat DO NOT, use it. Calling a woman, or anyone, something they don’t like to be called is just plain rude.

I know by posting this on this website I am preaching to the choir but maybe people need reminding. It’s the little things after all.  See this as encouragement to talk to friends/colleagues/strangers (if you’re feeling brave) about how they refer to you/women. I know I often let this slide when I really shouldn’t.

But what use is a message if you can’t remember it?  I’ll leave it to The Ting Tings to get the message stuck in your head:

Do you have any names you hate? How do you handle being called something derogatory or belittling?


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