Thursday, March 10, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about that word lately.


You know how if you look at a word too long all of sudden it starts to look unfamiliar? You wonder, Is it spelled right? What does it mean? You hold it far away from your face, squint at it, maybe check with the person who's near... oh ok. I guess that looks right.


I started to over analyze it when I got an email a few minutes ago that read:
Girl it won't be stressful. Just come on thru.

Even though it was written - email - I knew the exact tone. It made me think of when I have something I need to tell my Stister or any one of my besties...

Girl. (With a particular emphasis on the hard G sound.)

And they already know to ask, What's up?

Is this a woman thing? An urban thing? A black girl thing? I think mostly, it's a sister to sister (peer to peer) thing. Which is why I have to admit it was a little odd to see little Willow Smith address Oprah as such...

Girl please! Girl bye! Girl, if you don't... Girl, imma need you to... Girl.

And then I think about my fourteen months of living with gay men, and thus being around many of their friends. From time to time when talking with each other they'd address each other...


Hey girl, hey!

The first time I heard it, I was taken aback. You're men, I thought. Is that right? Sooner rather than later though, it normalized in my head. I'd even find myself in conversation with them about to say Gi..., and then I'd stop myself. Boy!

This word, which by definition defines sex (female) and age (young), has become gendered, racialized, and aged. Somehow, the word's colloquial use is central to women's lexicon. At some point, women became girls.

I'm going out with my girls.

You know, my girlfriend...

Thanks, girl!

And there are some black women specific phrases too:

Black Girls Rock.

Happy Black Girl Day!

This post is not a judgment call on the idea of (black) woman = girl, rather an observation. What do we think of this? Have other groups adopted the word for their own use (a la Willow, gay men)? What meaning, if any, did they bring to the term?

Indulge me in my random fascination with the word. (I'm a nerd, can't help it.) Are there connotations and uses that I'm missing? 

Holla at your girl and leave a comment...


Courtney said...

Girrrrrl, have I told you how much I love you and enjoy your nerdy insights? I'm down for the colloquial use of the term (between us girls), but I have to admit that it jars me a little to seen it thrown around so casually among men and others. The Willow to Oprah usage is a bit much.

Sydnie Mosley said...

Thanks for indulging me C. And no girl, you haven't said how much you like my nerdy insights... but I appreciate it. :) The Willow to Oprah thing I think is an example of this idea people have that she is "too grown." To use it between men in this case alludes to a greater (sub)culture/context that's outside of the traditional heteronormative ways we use a word like girl. What is implied when men call each other girls in a non-derogatory (or is it?) way?


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