I got a real education at our critique group a few weeks ago. Another man in the group wrote a scene where one of his male characters made a phone call to two women (late 20s, early 30s) and said, “Are you girls about ready to go yet?”
It was suggested by woman in the group that female readers might be offended by the word “girls.”
It was explained that a grown man would be offended by being called “boy,” so it follows that a grown woman would be offended by being called “girl”.
Now, I understand that a black man might be upset by being called “boy,” but I specifically remember one instance where I said to a group of men, “Come on, boys, let’s do this thing.” No fists were thrown, no threats were made, no objections were voiced about the wording of the statement. I tried to think of a time when I got pissed by being called “boy” and came up empty.
I’m not saying she’s wrong about using the word “girl.” Maybe the use of that word is a man thing, and if so, I accept that. After all a woman would know more about what offends her than I would.
I admitted that I got a waitress’s attention by saying, “Excuse me, ma’am,” and the women in the group agreed this was acceptable although Becky, in particular, did not like being called “ma’am.” I think it was unanimous that “madam” was out and “lady” may or may not be acceptable depending how lady-like the person considers herself. Gal wasn’t high on the list, either. Although I didn’t ask, I’m pretty sure that “honey, sweetie, sugar, babe, and sweet cheeks” are out too.
So, how would a woman like to be referred to? If any women are reading this, I would really truly like to know what would be generally acceptable, because ways to refer to female characters is kinda limited.
Whaddya say, girls?