A Pet Peeve – “Female”

Wikipeidia describes a pet peeve as a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to himself or herself, to a greater degree than others may find it.

RantThis morning, I turned on the television and Divorce Court was on.  I heard a woman use the word “females” when talking about her husband cheating.  That took me back to around 1991 when I was hanging out with friends who were playing rap music.  The word “female” was used often in the lyrics.

Then I began hearing individuals use it in conversation, such as, “I was talking to a female when he came up.”  “He was talking to a female when I came out of the restroom.”  “I would never hit a female.”

It made me cringe and I didn’t know why.

The medical profession identifies patients as “male” or “female.”  Law enforcement gives descriptions using “male” or “female.”  Why would people suddenly make it a common, everyday form of identifying themselves and each other that way?

Then it happened — that light bulb moment.   Dogs are male and female.  Cats are male and female.  Birds, elephants, fish, reptiles, etc.   But, ONLY HUMAN BEINGS ARE MEN AND WOMEN.

Have we reduced ourselves to a level of animals, no longer seeing ourselves as human beings?  When someone says “female” to me in general conversation, I ask “female what?”

That’s my soap box venting for today.  What are your thoughts?



Posted on 04/02/2015, in Potpourri and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 68 Comments.

  1. OH, I never thought of that before. Men and Women. I was thinking male and female were better words than some might use. 🙂 I totally get what you’re saying.


    • Mindyme,
      Hey woman! 🙂 I had not thought of it before either until hearing individuals use it in real life. Even then, I did not know why it agitated me at first.


  2. yahtzeebutterfly

    I see what you mean, Xena.

    Words like woman, lady, mother, grandmother, aunt, wife, etc. describe “personhood”.

    The word female focuses attention on the sexual part of an individual leaving out the humanity.


    • Yahtzee,
      You explained it perfectly. “Female” also cunningly denotes a life form that behaves by instinct or rather, non-thinking.


  3. Today, with my sister in my car, I was driving to our destination, and stopped for a red light. On the corner, there was a young person holding a sign in the shape of an arrow, advertising a barber shop. It was hard to tell if the person was a woman or a man. Dirty-looking jeans, plain shirt, and baseball cap. Upon further scrutinizing, I decided it was a “female” person and said so to my sister. I had never done that before (used “female” instead of “girl.” And I caught myself doing that, and couldn’t explain why. I kind of felt disappointed in myself for doing it, and mentioned it to my sister. I questioned my action.


    • Sunshine,
      Was your drive before or after reading the article, because if it was before, then your gut told you there was something wrong in using “female” instead of “girl.”

      It’s common for people to adopt words they hear. The younger generation raised on rap music probably never thought about it — they simply repeat it.


  4. I hear ya…….what’s your take on me saying “You chic’s really have it together” ??

    I had to, you know me…………


    • Racer,
      Chics?? LOL! You caused me to research that term. It actually means “elegant and stylish.” So, thank you for the compliment. 🙂


  5. yahtzeebutterfly

    “It’s common for people to adopt words they hear. The younger generation raised on rap music probably never thought about it — they simply repeat it.”

    Yes. And, then in a subtle, unconscious manner, I think it is possible that a gradual erosion of an individual’s complete identity might set in. Young women do need to think what is behind the word “female” when uttered especially by a man or lover in conversation. Women need to examine whether she/women are being viewed as less than whole with all of their individual attributes that make up their whole self. (Are they simply being viewed as sex objects? Are they being dominated or not appreciated for the whole and unique person that they individually are?)


  6. butterflydreamer2


  7. Thank you for this Xena! I had never really thought about it, but you are so right. I have felt a bit uneasy with the world female for women but I didn’t know why until you explained it!

    Along these same lines here are my pet peeves:

    Saying Hispanic for Latino. The word Hispanic was derived from Hispaniola (Spanish speaking island) and the word Hispanic is meant to indicate all Spanish speaking people (including Spain), but leaves out Portuguese speaking people (Brazil). Also onomatopoeically Hispanic sounds really bad.

    * Hiss-panic
    ‘hiss’ – the sound a snake makes – associated with evil
    ‘panic’ – what people do when they are fearful

    * Hi-span-ic
    * Hi-sp–ic
    These to ways of hearing the word make is sound like both a stereotype and a racial slur.
    They sound like either Spic-n-Span – a cleaning product, or ‘spic’ a racial slur for Latinos.

    I also dislike when people use race terms when it’s not necessary.
    Caucasian is commonly used but it’s a race term that upholds belief in biological race.
    Caucasian is from the family of race words: Caucasoid, Negroid, Mongoloid
    The terms Negro is no-longer politically correct, and neither should Caucasian be widely accepted unless trying to indicate people from India to Europe – what the word really means.

    And I don’t like that people never say European-American when they understand it makes sense to say African-American, Latino-American, Asian-American.

    Giving European-Americans a free pass with identify as only White makes them not sound like foreigners to the Americas – but they are foreign colonizers of the Americas. European-Americans are the first alien people in the Americas. European-Americans were alien to Native-Amerindians.


    • yahtzeebutterfly


      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and also for enlightening me. I am going to now favor the word “Latino” and not use the term “Hispanic” (which, as you point out, really just identifies people who speak Spanish.) Are there still Americans from Mexico who identify as “Chicanos”?

      I have always believed we should use the term “European American” (or European Latino) for the same reasons you point out.


      • Hi yahtzeebutterfly,

        Yes Chicano is still popular among Chicanos, but that term is so specific that outsiders can not use it without intimate knowledge of the person or group they are talking about.

        For example, my son and daughter are Chicano, but their mom and I are not.

        I prefer the word Chicano over Latino when I know the person is Chicano, Chicana, Chican@, Chicanx 🙂

        It was Chicanos that lead the Brown Berets (Brown Power) movements during the Black Power movements.

        Speaking of that, Brown Power and Black Power are about Brown Empowerment and Black Empowerment. They are about political and economic empowerment. They have nothing to do with White Power (a chant of racism by racists with goals of dis-empowering and oppressing people of color.)

        What the uninitiated don’t understand is that Latinos and Blacks are very racially mixed and their power / empowerment is a struggle to get out of their dis-empowered situations. Their movements actually fight against racism. And they fight against the dangerous racism, the racism that believes in the doctrine of white supremacy and anyone can be that kind of racist.

        Well, that was a long answer, and probably preaching to the choir 😉


    • Glenn, in the event that others want to keep up with your work, I’m posting the link to the article on your blog.

      Being from Chicago, we always used “Latino” rather than Hispanic. Like you, I’ve always understood that Hispanic refers to language. There have been so many changes to how Americans define each other based on race, that it actually gives me a sick feeling. I remember when people of Japan and China were Oriental. Now, they’re called Asian. I remember when people of Egypt and Libya were African. Now, they’re called Asian. People of the Middle-East were just that, but are now called Asian. If I remember correctly, it was after 9/11 that it became common to identify all people who are not European White or Black as Asian.

      Speaking of which, the term “African American” was coined to identify Blacks who descended from American slaves as opposed to Blacks who descended from Africans who were enslaved in other countries. For example, there was a time when Blacks of African descent who were born in Cuba were referred to as Cuban-Americans. Now, the government places them in the category of “Black Hispanic.”

      Also a culture from Chicago was that people identified themselves based on the country of their ancestors, such as Italian-American; German-American; Polish-American; etc. That might be due to relating to others from the same culture and because Chicago is a huge city with little cities based on cultural background.

      Regarding “female,” at first, I did not know why I was uncomfortable with the use of that word either. Funny — I went to an animal rescue shelter where the workers referred to the dogs as “boy” and “girl.”


      • Thank you Xena for sharing my post.

        Regarding the boy and girl dogs, I’ve also heard the saying “Dogs are people too.” 🙂
        Animal rights activists must love that one. There is also a group who is fighting for animal rights called ‘The Nonhuman Rights Project’. Their work is ground breaking.

        My parents are 81 and they get so confused with terms for people, especially my dad. He still thinks the term Negro is okay. I try to school him all the time but my lessons never seem to sink in with him.


  8. Well, I am woman, watch me roar. Anyone calls me a female again, I’ll dot their eye and kick them out the door. Just kidding. I love the post. And all of you are correct. Think of all the paper work at offices or etc. Are you Male or Female. Subject… for cops, are the Male or Female. Geesh. It is used a lot. My own application’s are like that. Hummmm. Maybe I’ll just have to change that rule in my business (Man or Woman)……….. Yea. Thanks for the Idea xena.


    • Shyloh, identifying people on paper based on gender is one thing. That has always been acceptable. In general conversation however, referring to humans by gender fails to recognize them as human beings. Here’s a story …
      I was talking to a pastor of a church who was trying to promote church membership. He said that the church had “male and female choirs.” I asked him how he justified that based on Galatians 3:28.

      There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

      He hesitated, and I realized that I made him uncomfortable but still said, “Show me a church that makes a difference between male and female, and I’ll show you a church that is not in Christ.”

      Remember when forms asked “Sex”? I was always tempted to fill-in “sometimes.” When asked for race, I always wrote “human.”


  9. I so need spell check. I see the mistakes after I send it. Dang!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry


  10. I tend to use the term male to describe the ‘black males’ being shot by police because they’re a mix of children, teenagers & men young & old. I don’t know what else to say because I’m not calling an 18yr old kid a Man. just can’t.


    • Shannon, I understand your point and personally, have no problem with it because you are referring to a subject group in relationship to how they are identified by law enforcement. I’ve read your writings and when you reference an individual, you always refer to them as “a kid” or “a teen” or “a man.” Then too, on Twitter, people have to speak a difference language to say anything in 140 characters or less. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s strange, I was thinking along the same lines as I started reading this post… Say what? Where did woman, man, girl, boy go to? Good thing I don’t write like that… I’d never sell a book. The female…. and the male said… It isn’t normal. I even call my two cats, my little boys for crying out loud! Good pet peace, I like it. 😉


    • Oh Kev, I can only imagine reading a book where “the female walked over to the group of males” and thinking, are they writing about humans or animals? I refer to my dog as “girl” all the time, and she knows the difference between “good girl” and “bad dog.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oops, pet peave, that is… bloody auto correct! 😀


  13. I’m in my mid sixties and I hate when someone calls me “honey.” I always respond that I am not your honey. I can’t recall using the word female as a substitute for woman. This is probably my senior thinking showing.


    • LOL@Gronda. “Honey” and other terms of endearment I can live with, but as I’ve gotten older, more people address me as “ma’am” which is a big change from years of being called “Hey you.” 🙂


  14. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

    I had a similar issue with songs that glorified suicide in music. 😦


    • Jackie, I’ve not heard songs about suicide, although I have read about some of them. Why on earth would any record producer want to record songs like that? My idea of a suicide song would be anything song by Ozzie Osborn. LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

        When my depressed daughter was in middle school I found her playing it over and over. I told her to never bring that in our home again or I would destroy it. (I also told her how important she was to me, etc.) When I accidentally heard it again in her room I marched in there and ripped the cassette to pieces with my bare hands. She said it belonged to a friend; I told her she could pay her friend out of her allowance.

        I realized I could never control what she does outside our home but I set clear limits for our values and rules.

        I do not remember the artist or the title but I remember the words glorifying suicide. There was another incident where a teenage book had similar sentiments in it and I advocated successfully to have it removed from the school library – the librarian never knew what was in the book. I believe in freedom of speech and all but this was directed at young, impressionable girls. And again, it was so long ago that I do not remember the book title or author.

        Reading why my girls read was important to me because all media has an impact on developing children. I read many Babysitter’s Club books but my favorite book was “The Cay” by Theodore Taylor and “The Giver” by Lois Lowry.


        • Jackie, I had no idea those types of books were out there. Like you, I’m all for freedom of speech, but when it is intentionally directed towards vulnerable individuals who are not mature to make their own decisions, I call it “brain-washing speech.” I feel the same way about religious groups who give their literature to children without the parents’ permission.

          Thanks for sharing the information. It’s very important and the public needs to know.

          Liked by 1 person

  15. yahtzeebutterfly

    I like this poem by Victoria Nunoo who, I am sure, would not want to simply be called a “female”. Each of us possess so many attributes, gifts, talents, and soulful feelings that to be labeled as simply “females” would be a disservice to all that we are.

    “I Am ‘The Woman’ ”

    I walk
    I talk
    I possess an image
    That image
    I am the woman

    The woman who is
    In absolute possession
    Of the courage
    As brave as a warriors staff
    The woman who knows her rights
    And fights for it
    I am the woman
    With the “man”

    I feel
    I heal
    I possess a heart
    That heart
    I am the woman

    The woman with
    An inner child
    With an overflowing joy
    With no worries bigger
    The woman whose gleeing spirit
    Brings hope to all
    I am the woman
    With the “womb”

    I make
    I create
    I possess an art
    That art
    I am the woman

    The woman herself
    Stringing together
    All pieces of earth
    And soothing the broken
    The woman whose arms
    Wraps those she loves
    I am the woman
    That woman…


    • Yahtzee, I think that women more than men, are truly effected by the names they are called. It’s subtle, but it is there.


      • yahtzeebutterfly



        • Yahtzee, why? Because for centuries, when lost their identities when they married. They became Mrs. John Smith. If they didn’t marry, they weren’t called single but “old maids.” Also, there is a difference between pet names and degrading names. Personally, I could not have a relationship with a man who called me a female dog, so referring to me as a female falls under the same category.

          As my mom used to tell us, a man will always be called “Mister” regardless of his behavior, but society created various names for women.


          • yahtzeebutterfly

            Good points about identity and the power men have had over the centuries.

            As my mom used to tell us, a man will always be called “Mister” regardless of his behavior, but society created various names for women.

            Exactly…male-dominated society created various names for women.


  16. Annie Cabani

    Wow. So many pearls of wisdom arose from your pet peeve!

    Just a couple days ago, my neighbor told me that Middle Easterners are now called Asians – as Xena has pointed out, above – and I didn’t believe her! I said she must have heard that wrong. LOL!! Shame on me, I guess!

    I mean, technically, the Middle East IS in Asia. But that’s kind of arbitrary, when you think about it, because why is Europe carved out as a continent separate from Asia? My guess is because Europeans did the defining, and they considered themselves similar in their region and considered everyone else “others.”

    I visited Istanbul a few years back. Part of that beautiful city is in Europe and part is in Asia. Now, that’s what I call arbitrary! 😉


    • Annie, I remember during the presidential campaign in 2008, a woman stated to McCain that Obama is an “Arab.” She might associate Islam with being “Arab” or “Arab” as being a nationality rather than a race. But, the point is that it is interesting how people identify others. And, too often we see where people accept that identity without thinking how it came about or why. I have friends from East India who refuse to be called “Asian.” The country of their birth is important to them; they choose their identity.


    • According the the U.S. Census, people of Egyptian heritage are supposed to check ‘White’.


      • That was true before the mid 1970’s for Orientals and Latinos as well. I have a friend born in Puerto Rico who is Hershey bar chocolate. Her birth certificate has her race as White. When she enrolled in nursing school in Chicago, she had several confrontations with personnel in admissions because of that.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, after the U.S. bought North Mexico the agreement was that Mexicans who remained in the U.S. could be ‘White’ (not ‘Black’) on the census and also not be subject to enslavement or segregation. Enslavement had been outlawed in Mexico before in the U.S.


          • Hey Glenn,
            There were portions of the south that exercised segregation over those of Mexican descent during Jim Crow. Wasn’t slavery outlawed in every civilized nation before it was in the U.S.? And, no other nation had to have a war to decide the issue other than the U.S.?

            Remember the old farmer I told you about who still says “colored”? Well, he also said once that Puerto Ricans should not be allowed U.S. citizenship. That led to a half-hour lesson on Puerto Rico being a U.S. colony and its inhabitants, U.S. citizens. It ended when he said that he couldn’t tell Mexicans from Puerto Ricans. (sigh) You can only teach those like him so much in the course of a lifetime.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Xena, i think your correct on all that. I never realized the US was the only nation that had to have a civil war to end enslavement, but now that you mentioned it it seems true. I don’t know Brazil’s history to say for sure though. They had the most people enslaved from what I know.

              I know that Latinos were segregated in schools – and they still are via de facto segregation.


            • Glenn, through the years, I’ve struggled with the segregation in school problem. There is segregation because of communities where people gravitate and want to live among others like them. That’s okay as long as the schools in that community receive the same quality of education in areas where Whites attend. The same is true for city services.

              Now that you’ve mentioned Brazil, I think I’ll do some research.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Exactly. Pluralism is okay. From what I’ve heard though, lower income schools are not providing an equal education. Maybe this will change with Common Core though?


            • Glenn, what happened in my neck of the woods after a federal lawsuit was filed to integrate the schools, is that none of the kids received a good education. We had the lowest reading and math scores in the state for years running. It was an interesting situation that led to segregation. The schools started off integrated. The school district closed some schools because of interracial dating and sent White kids in one direction, Black kids in another direction, and Latino kids in yet another direction.

              Liked by 1 person

            • I suppose they had segregated colleges and work places too. Drives me nuts.


            • Had? HA! They still do. The only 4 year college in my neck of the woods is a private college. They are picky over who they admit. There is a junior college and although I don’t know about now, as late as 2003, they had staff in accounting and administration that did not have as much as Associate’s degrees.

              That leads into the employment problem. It’s based on patronage, nepotism, and the hiring of family regardless of qualifications.

              As a glimpse of how things work in my neck of the woods, the following article is about a former college trustee. When his actions were first exposed, he sued the weekly newspaper for reporting it. That suit was dismissed.

              After pleading guilty to a Class 1 felony theft, the former college trustee was sentenced to 120 days in jail.


              Liked by 1 person

            • Here’s a link to a blog that captured the Wiki version of events involving the Community College. It shows the inner connections. One reason I’m pointing out this case is because the connections and dealings are operational in mostly all things that happen in my neck of the woods. Power and authority is in the hands of a few.


              Liked by 1 person

  17. Annie Cabani

    As for your pet peeve, Xena (and others), it’s kind of funny to me because I’ve never been troubled by female vs. woman and always considered them interchangeable except as just a usage preference depending on the context (which, really, is your point, too, I suppose).

    Maybe my relative neutrality stems from my nursing education. In medical terminology, there are often two word roots that refer to the same anatomy, so you have to be kind of “bilingual” and accept two word variations for the same thing. One line of terminology stems from ancient Greek and the other from classical Latin.

    So … as for lungs, a doctor will do a pulmonary exam to determine if a patient has pneumonia – the “pulm-” root comes from Latin and the “pneum-” comes from Greek. That’s why psych-iatrists (Greek root for the “mind”) diagnose ment-al (Latin root) illness; and mammo-grams (Latin root) sometimes lead to mast-ectomies (Greek root); and hyster-ectomies (Greek root – which is also related to “hysteria,” which reflects what ancient Greeks thought of women/females!) are performed to resolve certain diseases of the uter-us (Latin root).

    OK, I admit it: I am a word geek. I actually find that interesting…! :-/

    Now, back to the woman vs. female thing. I remember learning somewhere along the way that the word “female” has old French origins and “woman” has old English origins. (And there were many other examples of such synonyms, but I can’t think of any at the moment. Augh!!)

    Anyway, the point of the lesson was that modern day English speakers tend to favor, or feel more comfortable with, the word that stems from old English. Therefore, when faced with synonyms – one stemming from old English and one from French – choosing the word that originated from old English will usually sound more appealing to your audience.

    So that’s my word-geek take on the debate. (Except that, like Shannon, I think “woman” implies a certain age or maturity, so “female” is more generic and, therefore, preferable in certain circumstances.)

    You all can check out this article to see if you have a preference for or feel more comfortable with old English vs. old French word variations. 😀


    • Annie, I don’t think it is a language preference with me but more so spiritual in terms of creation. Even animals are male and female. When I realized that women were being commonly referred to as “females” was via rap music. It was at the time when rappers were known to be former convicts. They brought how law enforcement identifies people over to their personal lives, and then introduced it to the public through music. At least, that is how I became aware of it.

      I can understand those in the medical and other professions needing the distinction for their reports and such, but I’ve never once heard anyone in those professions speak of women as “females” in general conversation. Think about this — you are at a family reunion where the kitchen is filled with women getting the plates and food ready. You want to join them. Is it common to say, “I’m going to join the women in the kitchen” or “I’m going to join the females in the kitchen”?


      • Annie Cabani

        You are definitely correct. I would say “join the women” every single time. 100%. No doubt about it.

        And I can’t imagine anyone I know saying, “join the females” either! If it were to happen, I’d think they were weird, at best (giving them a humongous benefit of the doubt, at that!). More likely I’d view them as bordering on psychopathy (that’s a Greek root, BTW 😀 ).

        Truth be told, though, I’ve never actually heard any such weird usage. For one thing, I’ve never been able to understand rap lyrics (too fast for me, though I love the rhythm). Furthermore, I live in a “land” that lags far, far behind any new – or even recent – trends in the so-called US of A. So I don’t so much disagree as I enjoy pondering the matter from different perspectives.

        That said, I am a believer that language is a “living” and evolving thing and try to remain neutral about its complexity and evolution to the extent possible….


        It’s Duke vs. Wisconsin – and my money is on DUKE!


        • Annie,

          Truth be told, though, I’ve never actually heard any such weird usage. For one thing, I’ve never been able to understand rap lyrics (too fast for me, though I love the rhythm).

          That was back in 1991 when words to rap weren’t fast. 🙂 But the thing is, I just heard a litigant on Divorce Court use it the other day, which inspired me to write about it. I’ve also heard it in passing on the street and it’s been said in conversation by several men and women. That is how I came about asking “female what?”


          Okay, I think football season is over, and baseball hasn’t started yet, so this must be basketball or hockey.
          Basketball player dribble

          Hockey Skater


          • Annie Cabani

            Okay, I think football season is over, and baseball hasn’t started yet, so this must be basketball or hockey.

            LOL! Super cute!

            Xena, Darling. It is basketball. Collegiate basketball. Men’s final, championship game, to be played tomorrow – Duke vs. Wisconsin. I’d love to see Duke, an ACC team, take the title, but I’d be OK with Wisconsin, cuz I have family there, both alum and non-alum.

            Women’s championship (NOT – notice NOT – ” females’ championship) the next day/evening: UConn vs. Notre Dame. I’d love to see Notre Dame, another ACC team, take the title, but would be OK with UConn, cuz CT is my true home state.

            Not a sports fan, eh, Xena? Me either … but in this part of the world it’s quite hard NOT to be well informed about collegiate basketball,


            • Annie,

              Not a sports fan, eh, Xena?

              No, I’m not, but I do like it’s called “women’s championship” and not “females.” 🙂

              You lost me on the “ACC” (don’t know what it means), but your enthusiasm is contagious, so I share the excitement with you.

              By the way, I too have family in Wisconsin. It’s the state where I was conceived.


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