Popular Usage of “Females” Connotes Transphobia 

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Over the last year or so, the usage of the word female to refer to women has become popularized. At first, there may not seem to be any harm done. Female is after all a biological word, so what is the problem? 

In biological terms, females can refer to any species containing eggs for reproduction. By this nature it is exclusive and transphobic. Not all women are females; trans women are women, but some do not have female genitalia. Not all females are women; people with female genitalia can be non-binary or trans men. The word is therefore not only incorrect, but it is an insensitive exclusion of very valuable people, who are in addition to this frequently excluded from popular cultural narratives. Not to mention that this can be an unpleasant experience for trans people whose identities are often invalidated because of their assigned sex at birth. Those who refer to women as females, however, are often not concerned with being politically correct, and are likely to be dismissive of this fact when made aware of it.  

Trans people already face very many hateful crimes against their community. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute,  Forty-one percent of trans people reported to have attempted suicide in their lifetime compared to the 4.6% average for the general population. While using the word female isn’t a top-priority problem to solve for the trans community, it only contributes to the small issues that make life more difficult, such as people using incorrect pronouns/dead-naming, job discrimination, choosing a bathroom, and other possible prejudices. Popularizing the usage of females when referring to women only makes the gender binary more difficult to overcome. It reaffirms the false misconception that there are only two genders, and even further that there are only two sexes. We also already have the knowledge that there are, biologically in fact, more than two sexes. Intersex is a phenomenon that occurs at birth where an individual has complex sexual anatomy that is often not distinguishably one or the other. 

Aside from the inherent transphobia and biological exclusivity, the word female has linguistic attachments to it that give the word a negative connotation. First and foremost, the term female is normally used as an adjective that alters a noun. Common ways this functions: female doctor, female lawyer, neither of which need to be altered to specify gender in the first place. The word female is also often associated with female dog, otherwise known as a bitch. Because the two are closely related, calling someone a female is only a step away from calling someone a bitch. Many of the instances that I see or hear the word female being used, it operates in such a way that makes one question the tone or intention of the statement. 

The word female alone is degrading. By calling a woman a female, without any indignation of species, a person resorts the woman’s identity down to her sexual anatomy. Being a female without specification means having eggs for reproduction. Being a human female means having a vagina. Not only is it disrespectful to place all identifiable value in a woman’s vagina, it is dehumanizing. When it comes to matters of a sexual nature, we all deserve the minimal respect from others to ask our consent before approaching us with sexual language. Although the word female does not have a sexualized connotation, it is a matter of sexual determinism. Using this word is to assume what is between someone’s legs, and frankly I would prefer one less moment in my life where a man uses his imagination to decide what my body looks like without my consent or knowledge. 

Men understand that when they use the word female, they aren’t doing anything bad on the surface. Because there is a level of analysis necessary to determine why it is that a woman is offended by the word females, men take the opportunity to gaslight women and tell them that they are overthinking, reading too much into it, or just want to be the victim. There is a line of excuses backed up behind a man saying females that serve as – in a man’s mind – a reasonable justification of the usage of the word. Not everything that is offensive is overtly so. Sometimes to reveal why something is upsetting an analysis is necessary. Diminishing someone’s voice because they have thought about an idea is a poor man’s way of feeling more intelligent. 

In summary, the word female is degrading for many reasons. It is transphobic, exclusionary, has linguistic connections to bitch, reduces identity to sexual organs, and is often sandwiched by gaslighting. I believe the word females is a replacement for the word bitches, after so many refused to accept such blatantly disrespectful language. I believe that people have found a loophole word to disrespect women in public without drawing attention.

What is the solution? Stop saying it. There is already a word for a female human: a woman. By avoiding this simple word, by avoiding this indication that a woman is more than who she is sexually, you are intentionally avoiding the action of recognizing a woman as your equal and referring to her as a person. Not an object. Use the word woman, because that is after all who you are referring to. If someone says that it is insulting or has offended them, then listen. Why argue? Why do you not call your counterparts males? Because you know exactly what your intention is when you say females, and you don’t want to show the same level of passivity to your peers. 

Allow me to elaborate on this concept of passivity or disrespect to peers. There are many ways that a man denies a woman the recognition that she is his equal. A man may speak over her, interrupt her, intrude on a reasonable amount of space or distance between them, and all sorts of other things. In almost every case, there is no specific thing a woman has done to instigate or provoke this action. A woman can be called a slut for accepting a date or turning down a date, wearing a short skirt or wearing jeans. There is no grounds for her being insulted other than being a woman. 

On the contrary, men frequently do not receive insults from their peers unless they have done something that they deem worthy for receiving said insult. If a man feels he has not rightfully earned his insult, then he retaliates, insults someone back, or resorts to aggression and possibly violence. This is why men do not refer to other men as males, or other choice words. They believe that a man has to do something worthy of being insulted, and they allow each other to recognize when there has been no initial wrongdoing. A woman simply has to exist to meet that requirement. 

To the men out there who do not say females: tell your peers to refer to women as women. If you want to be able to say, “not all men,” then this is one place where you need to step up. If you would like a woman to feel safe around you, then don’t allow your friends to use disrespectful language in your presence. Recognize when, “not all men,” doesn’t include your friends simply because they are your friends. On top of all the other ways that men degrade women and continue to attempt shoving them into a position of inferiority, we would really love to get rid of this little annoyance. Show us the decency and the absolutely minimal amount of effort possible. It takes about the same amount of effort as not swearing in front of a customer at work.