I was reading this this morning. It's an article about why there are not many women airline pilots. It's a reasonably balanced article.
Because I'm masochistic, I read the comments. And in the comments I found something that has been irritating me more and more - the use of the word 'female' in place of 'woman'.
Here's an example:
" The only thing females have going for them is their smaller size for the cockpits. Flying is not a consensus job - the pilot makes command decisions instantly and the crew obeys instantly. No time for discussion or agreements. Those females who advance thru the piloting assignments are the best of the best but they give up alot for it. Females are still the only gender who can birth children, which tends to tie them to a place to raise those children. And we do not raise our men to follow a female pilot-wife around to duty stations which makes it hard for her to find a husband who is not a pilot."
Now, completely ignoring what the commenter is saying and focusing purely on the way they are using words. You will note that he (I am assuming he because of tone and content) refers to men as 'men' and women as 'females'.
What's the problem with that? Well from my perspective, it's dehumanising. 'Male' and 'female' refer to the genetic sex of virtually any living thing - and even some inanimate objects. So you can have female humans, dogs, tomato plants and electronic plugs. 'Man' and 'woman' refer only to humans. Thus, when you say 'woman' everyone knows you are referring to a human being. When you say 'female' you are lumping women in with every other thing that's considered 'female'. For me, that's alienating, as if I'm some kind of science experiment on which you can make observations.
Females are the only gender who can birth children, he says. Well no. Women are the only people who can birth children. A female could birth a foal, a kitten, or an apple.
See what I mean?
And I know it sounds petty but I see this use of language a lot, and it's usually in a context where men get to be 'men' and thus people while women are 'females' and thus not specifically people. The words surrounding this usage are often similar to the ones in that paragraph - chauvanistic observations about women. And the people using these words are often people who see themselves as nice guys.
I have heard some men say that they use 'female' because of objections raised by women to the use of the word 'woman' - I believe there is a group out there who believe that 'woman' by being an extension of the word 'man', somehow demeans women. I understand that someone who's been bawled out for using 'women' is probably looking for an alternative, and 'female' seems objectively distanced and connotation-free, and probably works for someone who's confused about this issue. But by the extension-of-man logic, 'female' is also an extension of the word 'male' and is equally demeaning with an added slice of dehumanising on top, so it's not better, it's worse.
Frankly, I don't know any women who object to being referred to as a woman - I suspect those people are part of a small group of slightly radical folks tbh. It's sad that they have caused this situation where some people feel they can't get it right and thus alienate a bunch of people like me through this usage.
But today I'm here to help you with Tats' Simple Rule Of Semantics: If you're using 'male' it's ok to use 'female'. If you use 'men' you'd damn well better use 'women' or I will think you are a dick. And possibly tell you.
I was looking through old photos last night and found the demented pixie one, along with a bunch of others taken at Canaan Downs 09. They made me smile.