Why is the word ‘female’ controversial?

I happened to come across a certain tweet, when I was scrolling through the innumerable threads of death, disaster and occasional call for submissions of magazines in twitter. Now, it is a burning place so any tweet hardly goes down without a debate. A woman, in a single line asked everyone not to refer to women as “females”. Scores of people came out in support and also against her; one even declaring with an an angry indifference that feminism has gone too far.

Why is it wrong, if at all it is, to use the word “female”?

Image Credit- Art.com|Pinterest

I did a little research and found out the following points~

1. Female, in the dictionary denotes a sex that can bear offspring (basically, a biological distinction) and a characteristic which is related to women, or female animals. Some say, that using the word female (as in female officers, female teachers, female students and so on) is derogatory because it reduces them to their reproductive system, or certain characteristics that are considered “lady-like”

2. Female then, must also refer to the sex which bears offspring within animals too. Woman is essentially a human, but a female can be a dog (bitch, actually) or any other animal.

3. In a Time article, I found that the word female, has been used as a disparaging term for men. Men who appear “female” are weak, meek and inferior. That not only is outrageous but also is deeply concerning. It hides a subtle misogyny which is found in slang all over the world. Have you ever wondered why it contains a colossal amount of obscene terms about women and promotes misogyny with little equivalents for men?

In my native language, there is hardly a few slang terms which do not disrespect women. This says a lot about how we have, unconsciously internalised and normalised disrespect, as something which is supposed to be “cool”

4. Now, this poses an obvious problem. Female is an adjective and woman is a noun, hence how can a noun describe another noun (as in woman teacher)? If not female, then what should be the word to refer to women, or men for that matter (because of course, you can’t call someone a male teacher now)?

What do I think?

Some points in the argument are right, specially regarding the word used in a disparaging way for both men and women, which should stop anyhow.

But regarding common usage of the term, I am not sure of its derogatory undertones. We, in our daily life, use the word “female” often, with an honest intention. Now, if it becomes a slang, a derogatory word ever, it shouldn’t be used but right now, it seems excessive in a way to ask everyone not to use it. Nevertheless, we can of course use the word ‘woman’ instead. But remember, not using ‘female’ also mean that the word ‘male’ shouldn’t be used too 😊

Simply, we should be a little careful in our usage of terms and language. Boxing anyone in definite characteristics isn’t something we can/ should do.

Being a feminist, I feel really alarmed by the way pseudo-feminism has spread its wings far and wide. It’s because of their faulty logic that a whole movement for equality loses its true spirit. Some go to huge lengths tarnishing men, everything they do and propagating misandry. Sometimes, I really want to scream at pseudo-feminists (largely whom are women, sadly) that FEMINISM IS NOT ABOUT HATING MEN.

As Diane Nguyen said (a character from the web TV series BoJack Horseman)

I do wonder as a third-wave feminist if it’s even possible for women to “reclaim” their sexuality in this deeply entrenched patriarchal society. Or if claiming to do so is just a lie we tell ourselves so we can more comfortably cater to the male gaze

Diane Nguyen

Do you think third-wave feminism has largely given way to pseudo-feminism? Do you think the word”female” is derogatory? Lastly, what do you think about Diane’s statement?

Do share with me. I can’t wait to hear your opinions!

Take care and stay safe! Thank you for reading ❤

Reference article: Time: Why we need to reclaim the word female?

© Tryst with mind- 26/08/2020

20 thoughts on “Why is the word ‘female’ controversial?

  1. First of all Kudos to your research. You have done an amazing work. It’s detailed and easy to understand the terms on both the sides of a coin.
    Secondly. About the word Female, I personally don’t feel it’s derogatory. But yeah views differ. According to my opinion if someone is having problem with the use of the word Female then they should just use the words like Lady/Woman. And the thing about Female teacher and all, occupational Terminology shouldn’t be Crossbred with Genders. Male teacher, Female Teacher is bullshit. A teacher is a teacher, a doctor is a doctor. That’s that.
    And lastly. Yeah I do feel that pseudo feminism is rising problem and also yeah most of them are ladies, the thing is, They are weaponising the feminist ideology to gain Undue advantage of the society. The motto should be equality not special status, no matter what gender.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree with you on everything.
      Personally, I don’t think it’s derogatory too and we should just be conscious of what word we are using and how we are using it. And about occupational terminology too, if it’s necessary we can always use the word “woman” though it’s not really necessary.

      I absolutely agree that the motto should be equality, always.

      Thank you for sharing your views and appreciating me, which you do always 😁 Keep encouraging me ❤️


  2. Well researched post. Honestly I dont find any problem with the word female. But yeah everyone has a different opinion.
    Also people who wants to find fault will find any excuse to do so.
    Feminism is about empowering women, not degrading others.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I would just like to add to the notion of “empowering women”, that men should never lose sight of the fact that empowering women also empowers men. Let me illustrate that point with a remark a Southern American woman living in the 1850s once made about slavery. She observed that the masters and mistresses of slaves were not free to be themselves, but had to behave in certain highly restrictive ways in order to maintain control over their slaves. If I recall, her words were, “You cannot enslave someone without enslaving yourself.” Just so, men cannot subjugate women without thereby subjugating themselves. That’s not theory. That’s a lesson from history. Whether feminists intend to or not, by empowering women, they empower men, too.


  3. We had loads of discussion on this topic and by now u must have known my opinions too. So in brief I fully agree with u and I should praise u for ur research. And ya Feminism is not about hating men and gaining more power than men. It’s about gaining a position of equality and evenness. Nowadays there are these women who are ‘Fake Feminists’ and say that they don’t support ‘Fake Feminism’. So funny no!? Also they spread immense hatred for men and when the community of men start protesting these fake feminists say that the men are disrespecting and attacking them. Hilarious af. Well I promise to spread this news of not using the word ‘Female’ as it is derogatory. I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO REQUEST ALL THE READERS OF THIS ARTICLE TO DO THE SAME AND SPREAD THE NEWS OF NOT USING THIS WORD. And for Ramyani my best I am proud of u dear. Love u ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much ❣️

      And yes, it’s so ironical na? Pseudo-feminists are pretty block headed in their own ways, spreading hatred.. it actually reduces the whole feminist concept and the idea of being a woman.
      Thank you so much for supporting me. I love you too❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. wow i genuinely never knew that i was using a word , without knowing its true meaning . but after thinking a bit i realized language is all about conveying a message and a message has a context , and if we become mature enough then we should be able to understand in what context the word is being used , that no one gets hurt ( emotionally). and what you said about pseudo-feminist oh it is indeed outrageous , and to a large extent they feed and live upon misinterpreting words and phrases ignoring the context it was used it. i guess we need to teach people how to even use a language before they(not you) find faults in them. peace!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, absolutely.
      We need to be a little conscious when we use words and how we use them, that’s all. And I guess, it’s always okay to use ‘woman’ instead of ‘female’

      We need to look out for pseudo-feminists and just block them out. It’s really important for many to unlearn and relearn feminism


  5. I never knew that I was using such a common word , without knowing it’s actual meaning . I do agree with all your points specifically the rising of Pseudo Feminist ( sounds like a movie isn’t ..THE RISING OF THE PSEUDO FEMINISTS ) Anyways jokes apart . Hats off to your research work and you properly explained yourself . Now a days kids are Feminist ( not a normal feminist like us , They are Pseudo Feminists ) always blaming us for Everything .

    The word ” Woman / Women” doesn’t actually matter . What I personally feel is we should not use those terms at this moment when we are fighting for Equality and all . We should not specify gender . Other genders do exist . Why only Men and Women . Can’t a Transgender be a good teacher ?
    We need to clear this concept of old mentality people …. A Doctor is a Doctor and a Teacher is a Teacher or I think the better way is Sir and Mam ( we should not think like Teacher means only male teachers and not female teachers . To avoid this kind of thing I think we should use SIR or MAM )

    1st point where you wrote maybe you searched an old version of dictionary . I think everyone should take this thing seriously . Women are capable of doing each and everything .

    Few days back I booked an Uber Ride , I my driver was a lady . What I want to say is my UBER application didn’t mention or show that a lady driver is arriving or a male driver is arriving . If applications are not discriminating genders then who are we to specify he / She , Who are we to say that she can’t to this things .

    The word Men / Man has only 3 letters or alphabets where Women / Woman has more than 3 letters or alphabets . In we see scientifically women are better than us in all respects. They can carry a child for approx 9 months in her womb , they go through a lot .. while delivering the child the pain she suffers can’t be generated by the machine also .
    Why will they suffer more ? They are already going through a lot .. monthly periods, then aches and stuff ….
    Then y specificy them like Lady Teacher or Lady Doctor is it really necessary ? I think it’s not necessary .

    Intact I feel Man should be ashamed for their behaviour we are comparing us wid women’s . There is no point of comparison only . We are much much lower in Ranking than a women or woman .

    Now some PSEUDO FEMINISTS will reply 😂

    Anyways Ramyani u have correctly , perfectly explained yourself and the real meaning of Women.

    Even if we try we can’t improve all the People but we will still continue raising your voices …. and make sure the new generation that’s us is respecting each and every gender be it man or women or any other .

    And another thing that Native Language point is also perfect one the my favourite points infact from this blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much 💞 I actually tried to provide a very neutral position, along with my view as well.
      I understand and accept your point. There are many genders out there, queer and fluid .. and boxing them into just men and women is very bad. We should always give chances to others to explain their sexuality and understanding of themselves.
      And a woman is not better than a man. It’s supposed to be equal. Not just them, every gender is supposed to be equal, on a level playing field.
      Yes I am really proud of you that you have a beautiful, open mind.
      Pseudo-feminists der cherei de. It’s just that for them, the whole feminist concept gets mocked at and ridiculed.
      And if you think, bengali slangs disrespect women, maybe we shouldn’t use the ones that do.


  6. Thank you for an exceptionally thought-provoking post, Ramyani!

    Of course, I am against disrespecting women because of their sex, and that includes using the word “female” to intend or communicate disrespect, disparagement, contempt, etc. Doing so pretty much marks someone as a jerk, in my book. But having said that, I think it’s ok to otherwise use the word. After all, it’s sometimes quite useful to denote someone’s biological sex in a more or less clinical manner.

    Beyond that, I think a core problem with any and every mass movement is that, the more popular it becomes, the more it attracts ‘fringes’. Those fringes are comprised of many different types of people, but they seem to have in common the fact their ideas are lunacy. The most important thing to realize about them, I think, is that they are inevitable. That is, their presence has nothing to do with the worth and truth of the movement — which are separate issues. They are not a reflection on the movement, but on human nature. Every popular movement has its fringes.

    Last, Diane Nguyen’s point is an intriguing one. There’s a lot that could be said about it, but to even begin to do her comment justice would take up too much space. I’ll leave it at this: There’s a lot of work that still has to be done in that area.

    Just my two cents.


  7. Oh wow. I agree with you. Words that we use usually have honest intentions but when someone misuses them and it spreads, the word itself becomes toxic even if in the first place it was fine. The word ‘femenist’ became an insult here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s