Don't Call Me Girl
Susan was pissed. Her eyes were wide, and she was talking so fast Ricky Ricardo couldn't keep up. The more I stared, the faster she spoke, elevating to a shriek! "He called me, 'girl'!" I'm looking at her in disbelief. So…what? Was that really a big deal? I mean seriously, we all know she's not a girl. He was just being friendly. No. Big. Deal.
Fast forward six or seven years. I started a new job and was matched with a full-time employee who was super friendly and offered to help me get acclimated. Great guy, BUT! He keeps calling me "girl". It's like it's his way of being relatable. I don't feel any malice or underlying negativity. But it just rubs me the WRONG way.
I've been trying to decide if I should say something to my coworker. See, I don't want to hurt his feelings especially since I really don't think he means any harm. But it gets under my skin. I'm thinking, "I'm probably old enough to be your momma; who are you calling 'girl'?"
Now, I'm listening to former President Bill Clinton speaking at Aretha Franklin's funeral. I don't remember much about what he said. EXCEPT! I remember him saying before he looked in the coffin, he thought, "Girl, what are you wearing now?" because she was always stylish, and he knew she would be dressed well. Well, the sentiment was fine. But did he really just say out loud he thought, "girl"? My head whipped around. My thought was, you privileged ass. Whew! I have got to calm down. Surely, he was just being "friendly and familiar" because he felt a connection with her. Or was he? When we affectionately called him the "first black President", how did he interpret that? Did he think we were family and he was really "down like that"? Or does his white privilege allow him to have no filter? Does is make his comments okay because he is ignorant to potential interpretation?
ATTENTION WHITE MEN, YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO CALL BLACK WOMEN "GIRL". Period. When she hits puberty, she's a young woman. When she's old enough to have finished college and or she has children of her own and she's no longer a teenager, she is a woman.
You see, there is a line. There is a line that wreaks disrespect when it is crossed. If a black man I know and have a relationship with calls me "girl", it doesn't bother me. But when a white man says it, it FEELS differently. It's demeaning, belittling and derogatory. I don't care that Bill Clinton was the President, plays the sax and likes black cooking. He still does NOT have the right to refer to adult women, particularly black women, as girls. Now, if he has an intimate relationship with a black woman and they have an understanding, that's one thing. However, that should be private and between them.
In talking with a friend of mine, she said she hears people refer to women as “girls” all the time. She didn’t want to blow off my feelings, but was it really a big issue? So I asked her, would she call a black man, “boy”? Without thought, she said “no”. “Why?” I asked. She basically said ‘because it’s a put down, it’s derogatory. You just KNOW to not call a black man a boy’. Then her face lit up. She said, “ah… I get it”. I just never thought about it that way. Yup. White privilege at work again.
Here's the deal. No matter how much formal education we acquire, how much we do, or how much we serve, in this patriarchal society where "white is right", black women continue to be at the bottom of the ladder in terms of social mobility and socioeconomic status. Now, for any white man who doesn't believe that in 2018 this is true, trade places with a black woman in your socioeconomic category for a month. Then tell me if you still feel the same way. Many white men couldn't make it a day in the life of a black woman, and most wouldn't try it if they had the chance.
Yes, there are multiple things going on here. Our patriarchal society swings open doors of opportunity for men that must be pried apart by women like a person stuck in an elevator. That’s one layer the black woman deals with. Then white privilege adds another layer.
Maybe you, like me, are too young to have personally experienced the US during the Jim Crow era or the Civil Rights Movement. However, even without segregated water fountains and sit-ins at Woolworths, as a black woman, I FEEL the pressure of being a woman in a patriarchal society. I FEEL the ever-present pressure of being a member of a minority group that even in 2018 is not considered equally intelligent or gifted no matter how many degrees I earn, where I matriculate from or what talents I exhibit. So, calling a black woman “girl” is demeaning and an attempt, intentional or not to negate her accomplishments and social position.
So THAT is why white men, unless you're our daddy, you do NOT have the right to call black women, "girl".
Richmond, VA, USA. Daphne shares her talents with others as a life coach, workshop facilitator, and adjunct college instructor. Her passion is guiding women to live a life they absolutely, positively LOVE, one day, one step at a time. She has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and master’s degrees in Social work and Business Administration. Connect with her at www.coachdaphne.com.