Huffpost UK Lifestyle

BBC Ban The Use of The Word 'Girl', But Is It A Sexist Term?

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When we're at school, we expect to be described as 'girls' - but is the term an acceptable way to address adult women?

The BBC took the decision to censor the word 'girl' in a recent broadcast on the grounds that it could be considered sexist.

Presenter Mark Beaumont was being filmed sparring with judo champion Cynthia Rahming and after he was sent crashing to the floor, he said: “I am not sure I can live that down - being beaten by a 19-year-old girl.”

mother and girl child looking angry

When the episode of The Queen's Baton Relay was originally aired in April on the BBC News channel, the remark was broadcast in full.

However, the word “girl” was edited out of a repeat of the programme.

The BBC's decision to censor the word has divided opinion. Rahming told The Mail on Sunday that she "wasn't offended" by the exchange, but it seems a lot of other women wouldn't have been quite so forgiving.

Lecturer in literature and public engagement and HuffPost UK Blogger B.J. Epstein does not think that women should be referred to as 'girls'.

"I really dislike the word girl! I think it’s appropriate to use it to refer to females up until, say, the age of 11 or 12, but not after that.

"I find it offensive when people refer to young women or adult females as “girls” because it diminishes who and what we are, and makes us seem young and unimportant," she said.

Epstein also highlighted the different ways men and women are addressed:

"I would never refer to colleagues as “boys”, nor would I call grown men “boys”, and yet people, especially men, continually do this to me and to other women.

"I don’t think we need to ban the usage of the word, as it is appropriate for some people in some situations. But I do think we need to encourage mindfulness about language in general, and the employment of this word specifically."

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Writing for The Guardian, Naomi McAuliffe said that the meaning of the word "girl" changes depending on the context it is used in.

Co-founder of The Vagenda Holly Baxter agrees: "In principle, I do think that the routine use of 'girl' to describe young women when their male counterparts of the same age are being referred to in the same context as 'men' needs to be rethought.

"But I agree with Naomi McAuliffe that the usage depends so much on who is saying it, to whom, about what, and in which environment," she told HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

Olympic Champion Anna Watkins told us she agrees with the BBC's decision to cut the exchange between Beaumont and Rahming.

"In rowing, we would call ourselves the girl's team informally (and also refer to the 'boy's team'), but publicly it's definitely the Women's Team, and Women's Double, and there's nowhere more public than the BBC!

"So I think it's right that they stick to that. 'Girl' is fine as an informal description but it also sounds a bit juvenile so I wouldn't want to be called that in a professional environment," she said.

Here at HuffPost UK Lifestyle, we're in agreement that the term 'girl' is acceptable when it is used by friends or in light-hearted conversation.

But 'girl' becomes a derogatory term when it is used to insult, belittle or suggest that women are, in any way, inferior to men.

We're not about to stop 'going for drinks with the girls', but in a professional environment, we'd like to be 'women' please.

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