So, men (or boys) can be “guys”. But what can women be? I need a cool, de rigueur female equivalent for “guys” for an article in a lifestyle magazine. Here are my options so far.
- Gals. Never in my life have I heard someone actually say this word, unless they’re doing it ironically and/or are from the American south.
- Ladies. This is a hugely problematic one. I’m sure you all understand why I can’t use it, but I’ll try to explain it – I was recently in a situation where an editor said, “Well, we can’t use it because how do we know if our readers are all ladies?”. So – the word “ladies” connotes a set of ideals that women need to ascribe to in order to be worthy of respect and admiration. It is not the equivalent of “gentleman”. Men don’t have to be “gentlemanly” to be liked or respected, but women come under a lot of (often very subtle) pressure to be ladylike. The word “lady” implies vulnerability, being soft-spoken and polite, inoffensive; it brings to mind things like correct comportment, tidy hair and not eating with your fingers – all things which are ascribed to women as a way to make them weaker, less threatening and just, well, less. I don’t want to buy into this set of ideals and don’t want to perpetuate a word which I think is, albeit in a very small way, quite damaging to feminism. Also, “ladies” just makes me think of savoury tarts and doilies, none of which I want to convey in my trendy, hip lifestyle article (though I’m sure by using the words “trendy” and “hip” I have exposed my untrendy unhipness).
- Dudettes. No, because the 80s.
- Females. This is not a police report or anthropological study, so no.
- Girls. I do not want to infantilise my reader, even if it’s something women do to themselves (why it’s a common thing to refer to your friends as young/insubstantial/vulnerable creatures, I’ll never understand). Men might do it too – “C’mon, boys!” (man to TV screen while rugby is on) – but “boys” has the connotations of fun, rough and tumble wildness, while “girls” brings to mind a group of people who need to be coddled and protected.
- Chicks. Is it just me, or is this very 90s? I’m also not convinced it does anything to remove the connotations of women being vulnerable.
- Women. Sounds too formal and too statistic-y and news-report-y (yes, these are the official magazine-y terms).
So, basically, I’m screwed.