By Amanda Vining, Regular ContributorNovember 1, 2015
image via cbs.com
CBS has been avidly promoting its upcoming new show, Supergirl. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen the trailer for the show, and it certainly looks like an entertaining piece of media.
But no matter how excited I am to finally see a female superhero being promoted on a major media outlet, I can’t help but question the rhetoric that is describing this new champion: Supergirl. Girl. Not Superwoman.
At first I wondered if the word “girl” was chosen because the character herself is an adolescent, but a quick Google search told me that the character of Supergirl is in fact an adult. Superman is referred to as the adult he is. It would be weird for him to suddenly be called “Superboy.” So why is it okay, even celebrated, for an adult female superhero to be called Supergirl instead of Superwoman?
In looking at modern society, it appears acceptable to colloquially refer to males as “boys,” “guys,” and “men” based on their age, but to refer to all women, regardless of age, as “girls.” I hear women being referred to as girls all the time, whether it’s in relation to politics, media, my community, or even in the interpersonal conversations in which I engage every day. A longstanding feminist critique of misogyny has focused on the way women are referred to in speech. We need to think about why we, as a society, describe the respective genders the way we do.
The words we choose to describe women are so ingrained in our social constructs, both through explicit and subliminal avenues, that most of us don’t realize that we subconsciously choose degrading rhetoric.
So how do we correct this pattern and imbalance in gender descriptors? First, we become aware of it. Then, once we recognize the habit of choosing certain words to describe women, we can consciously make an effort to override the social teachings with which we have grown up and begin rewriting the way we talk about women. The next time you hear a colleague or friend using the word “girl” to describe a grown woman, speak up. If you see media describing female politicians, actresses, or characters as less than they are, take the opportunity to start a conversation with the people around you.
The change starts with individuals like you and me.
I am all for “Girl Power” and “Celebrating the Girl,” don’t get me wrong, but I am also for females being accurately portrayed and receiving the respect they deserve.If Supergirl is anything like her male counterpart and is fighting for social justice, then she definitely deserves the respect of being properly addressed.
Before we laud CBS for being progressive and highlighting female strength, we need to take a step back and consider if the female characters being introduced in today’s media are representative of the way we want for all women to be viewed.
Do you often hear grown women being referred to as girls? Does this bother you? How do you feel about the title Supergirl? Tell us below!
Amanda lives in Austin, Texas, where she strives every day to be as BRAVE and BeautyFULL as she can be. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a self-designed degree in Children’s Rights, and Duke University with a certificate in Nonprofit Management. In her spare time, Amanda can be found scouring Pinterest for her latest craft project, drinking coconut mochas in her favorite coffee shop, and creating content for the sexual violence prevention organization and blog, Talk About Rape (www.talkaboutrape.com.)
Every girl is a work in progress. If you need more help, click here.