Radish King questioned my use of the term "girl" to describe the figure in the Hopper painting at left (see my last post). I agree that her hair, shoes, and body suggests she's no longer a teenager, much less prepubescent. She's an adult woman. So does "girl" become an inappropriate way to refer to her?
It's an interesting (and fair) question. I'd venture that fifty years ago, these were common gender-based reference terms:
Gentleman and Lady (used to denote formality)
Man and Woman (used as a generic standard)
Guy and Gal (used to denote a peer)
Boy and Girl (used to denote youth)
It makes sense that feminists would have bristled at the use of the world "girl" in professional or other public situations, carrying as it did a connotation of immaturity. And there wasn't (and isn't) a lot of parity between "boy" and "girl" in terms of workplace usage. Rarely do you hear "the boy who..." used to identify someone in an office, with the possible exception of Jimmy Olsen at the Daily Planet.
Yet I've been known to call myself and others "girls" casually and with some regularity. It feels natural to do so. As a twenty-something, I'd posit that "girl" has migrated to the place (in American language) that "gal" used to hold: as the counterpart of "guy" and meant, in many cases, to denote familiarity versus diminution.
In an office where I'm the youngest by oh, thirty years, being called a "girl" doesn't phase me even if it IS age-based. In my first job out of college, I corresponded regularly with academics to whom I was simply a name on email. In this abstract space, they always referred to me as a "woman." Every year I'd meet a few of them face-to-face at an awards ceremony. A few times, I did notice a switch to "girl" after they'd seen me. But I didn't notice any corollary decline in respect; I didn't lose any sleep over it.
I'd hate to think that I might be leaching away the victories of feminism through laziness--a lack of self-awareness in my word choice. That said, I'm unmarried and living off my own salary in the city, sustaining a career in writing and holding leadership positions comparable to or outranking a number of men of similar age and educational background. I may not be Rosie the Riveter, but I'm no Betty Crocker either. = )
All of this to say that I appreciate the thought-provoking nudge.
Rumor has it that the new Barrow Street is out. I haven't seen it yet, but I look forward to neighboring poems by Ada Limon, Annie Finch, Campbell McGrath, Dana Roeser...a diverse buunch in here.
In prep for book-age (the latest release date: March 1!), I made up some mini-cards at Moo.com. For the graphic front, I collaged some images from the (as-yet-unrevealed) cover of THEORIES OF FALLING:
Because the cards are so small (actual size shown), the flip side only has room for "Winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize," the title, my name, and a couple of website addresses for ordering and author info.
For promotional postcards I'll be able to use the full book cover, and I'll have more room on the back for pertinent text. Any suggestions from folks on what to include, and what not to include? Should I leave a generous space to write in a particular reading date, etc.?