The Use of ‘Female’ VS. ‘Woman’

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Despite being interchangeable words, using the term ‘female’ rather than ‘woman’ is often disrespectful. A vocabulary change is needed. (Photo in public domain)

The term ‘female’ has been circulating on social media to refer to women. The word is synonymous with ‘woman’ so what’s the problem?

The word has recently taken a derogatory turn. In most contexts, it is deliberately objectifying and disrespectful. Misogynistic phrases such as, “you know how females are,” or “all females are the same,” are frequently quoted on social media. ‘Female’ is used solely to disrespect women in these examples. What makes it worse is this only pertains to women. The word ‘male’ is not misused the same way ‘female’ is. In fact, it is hard to find examples on social media for this. 

Female is a biological term that describes sex, mostly used when referring to animals. In simple terms, it defines a body with a reproductive system.  

Therefore, the term often reduces women to their reproductive abilities. The phrase is degrading. It puts women down to the level of an animal as the word describes anything female. ‘Woman’ defines a human and ‘female’ is merely a scientific classification. ‘Female’ is a descriptor, not a noun. The singular definition fails to encapsulate a woman’s value. Being female is a fraction of a woman’s identity, it is wrong to label them by one characteristic. 

It may not seem like a big deal, but history proves otherwise. Throughout history, certain groups were intentionally dehumanized and separated through language. For example, rather than referring to someone as a ‘gay person, people use the term ‘homosexual’. Doing so reduces a person to their sexuality. Furthermore, it has a history of negative connotations. It gives the impression that they are different species; it highlights their otherness. The same applies to the use of ‘females’ rather than ‘women’. 

The solution is simple. Exchanging offensive vocabulary for respectful vocabulary is not difficult. It costs nothing to take time to listen and understand when a woman explains she finds a behavior offensive.  Change starts with the words we use. 

1 COMMENT

  1. According to merriam-webster, both “homosexual” and “female” are nouns.
    Also, “gay person” and “homosexual” are virtually synonymous, because both have a focus on the person’s sexual proclivities. If we were to embrace language that is actually neutral, we would just use “person”, “female”, “woman”, “man”, “male”, “lady”, “gentleman”, and the like.

    The usage of the word (such as using female in a derogatory manner, such as those you pointed out) is what matters, not the actual word.

    Also, it’s only offensive if you let it get to you 🙂

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