Sunday, August 26, 2007

Language Arts

I'm excited and delighted to be part of this panel.

In case anyone is wondering where we got our name, it was inspired by the line from the Country and Western song by Ed Bruce (who also wrote such other classics as "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies to Grow up to Be Cowboys") that goes like this, "There's girls, and there's women and there's ladies. There's yeses, there's no's and there's maybes." It makes me laugh every time I hear it. Here's the whole song; it's a good example of the C and W storytelling that endears itself to my Texas-born heart in spite of my feminist soul:

There was only me and her and him
The bar was giving last call so I thought I'd move on in
And I was slick and feeling like a man so I took the stool between 'em
And ordered one more round for me and her and him
I placed my arms across the back of her barstool
And I don't remember what I said but at the time it sounded cool
She pushed her drink away and never looked at me
She just paid her tab tipped the man and left me sittin' there alone with him
And he said there's girls and there's women and there's ladies
There's yes'es and there's no's and there's maybe's
There's teasin' and pleasin' they start learnin' when they're babies
There's girls and there's women and there's ladies
Well he pushed his old straw hat back and he grinned
And he said ain't they all a mystery ha ha sonny it's a sin
They're all sittin' on the world they're tryin' to win
Ah but you know I love a mystery
So let's drink another round to you and me and them
He said there's girls...There's girls and there's women...He said there's girls...

Language usage is one of the most important elements of any conversation about women in the world today. When Hillary Clinton recently said about herself, "I'm your girl", she stirred up a little dust. I tend to think we women have simply matured past the need to rail against the word once we had made it our own little joke and/or sign of mutual affection. We took its power back from men who in the past used it as a way to demean and infantilize us. I don't know whether Hillary's use of "girl" was contrived, but it strikes me as a bit of self-deprecating humor of the sort that candidates need to use from time to time to show they are human.

What do others think?


Patti Binder said...

The language around what women call themselves (as well as what girls call themselves) has held my attention for some time now. The girls/women/ladies triad here sums up the dilemma-- there are few words that women can use to call their friends or themselves that rolls of the tongue or doesn't have some kind of ramification. For me, the issue here is that if women call themselves girls, what is the demarcation between girls and women? What should girls under 18 call themselves? Having worked with girls and young women 6 and up in a bunch of different settings, it bothers me when girls are referred to as young women, and young women routinely call themselves girls. To me it blurs the line between girlhood and adulthood in a way that rushes teen girls in womanhood, and then pushes them back into girlhood as adults. In a world where a 6 year old, 16 year old and 46 year old can buy jeans in the same low cut hip hugger style, there aren't a lot of ways to preserve "girlhood." Our language is one way to do this.

Courtney said...

Great post Gloria. I'm fine with the way Clinton playfully used "girl." What gives me the willies is when "girl" is used as a marketing scheme and/or a patronizing parroting of black culture "you go girl!"
I'm actually a big fan of "gal" these days. There is something so old-fashioned and comforting about it (maybe because my grandma always used it). I also heard there's a new magazine called Dames. Now that's bringing it back.

muebles madrid said...

This can't succeed in reality, that is what I think.