Academic Females

Academic Females May 13, 2017

I’m used to seeing people (mostly men) using female as a noun outside of academic contexts. But it happens inside the ivory tower, too, which is sometimes more problematic.

Photo by Mikael Kristenson. In public domain (from Unsplash).
Photo by Mikael Kristenson. In public domain (from Unsplash).

I hate hate hate it when people refer to human women as females. It feels essentializing and awful.

I blogged about this very issue recently, in a post titled Stop Saying “Female” As A Noun.

It then vanished from my mind until I saw this Mr. Mentor column about a professor who’s on a committee with another professor who keeps calling her and the other women present “females.” I read with interest, and thought Ms. Mentor suggested some useful things (such as gently asking the guy to reconsider his language).

Then I realized that I’d let students get away with saying “female” as a noun for “woman” in class this semester, and I deflated.

It just didn’t seem worth the trouble at the time to get the students to stop saying it. I feel terrible, knowing that I let it slide and probably shouldn’t have. I know I tried to pack in a lot of material this semester, and mostly I feel I was successful…but if it came at the cost of language-level learning moments, probably I could’ve done it better.

So, I guess I’m not saying this to beat myself up, but rather to acknowledge a missed educational opportunity. It’s hard to be present enough to seize every instance to do more/better feminist work, but I’ll try to do better in the future.

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