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Is it offensive when men call women 'females'?

Updated on August 23, 2017

Using the term 'females' to refer to women - is it demeaning?

I often hear men referring to women as "females" in regular everyday social conversations, and frankly it bugs me to no end. I find it offensive. It's a simple term, and accurate at that, however the way it is used feels like it places women as inferior.

What do you think of the use of "females" in common conversation?

(Obviously, the use of the term "females" in a discussion of a scientific nature or in a police report is appropriate and not offensive. This is not the use of the term I find fault in.)

What do you think of the term "females"?

Certainly not all men use the term "females" to describe women, and thought I hadn't heard it myself, I can see online women referring to other women as "females". I wonder, is it a distinct subset of society that uses this term - both men and women?

What is your opinion on the use of the term 'females' when used to refer to a group of women?

See results

Do YOU find the term 'females' to be degrading to women?

What is your opinion on the term "females"? Are you okay with it? Does it make you angry, sad? Do you think differently of a person who uses the term "females" to describe women?

Tell us your opinion so we can all learn from each other. (You don't need to be a member to comment.)

Is it offensive when men call women 'females' in a social context?

Not sure you've heard this term as sexist?

Check out the search results for "females" on twitter

Language and Gender

Language can have such an important influence on how genders define themselves. The connotation that comes along with words can influence how one gender thinks of the other, and how a gender thinks of itself.

Language and Sexism
Language and Sexism

This book dives into how language influences gender issues in an interesting and approachable way. Verbal sexism and its effects are discussed.


Is this a regional term?

I have heard some people say that this term is a regional thing, used more in the US than elsewhere, and used more in the south. I am from the northeast, so I'm not sure that's accurate. Where do you live, and have you heard the term "females" used near you?

Have you heard the term 'females' used to describe women (in a way that was not clinical)?

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Consider how you use the word 'females'

Think about your own use of the word 'females' (which is, of itself not an offensive word). Are you using 'females' in the same ways as you are using 'males', or in the same way you are using 'guys'. If you are doing the latter, then ask yourself why you have chosen this word and not women or ladies. Is it a choice of your own making, or one picked up by your peers? If you don't like what you find, correct it.


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    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 19 months ago from London England

      The Female of the species is more deadly than the male!

    • profile image

      Kira 2 years ago

      I've heard people comparing "females" to men in the same sentence. It's heavily implied they mean "bitches" or something like that, but they know it'll get a rise out of people. So I personally don't like hearing it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Using the word "female" to refer to a woman is wrong. When used in that context, it is an adjecive... used in the scientific world to distinguish between the male and female species of an ANIMAL. When referring to human beings... the word, lady, woman, or girl is the correct format to use. It is insensitive and demeaning to me. I've heard it mostly used by African American men. Regardless of who uses this word in that way, it's gramatically incorrect.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I guess I never thought of it and haven't really noticed. I'll have my radar out now. I'm wondering if it's a cultural thing - not sure. Interesting topic for debate, obviously - love the participation!

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 4 years ago from London

      If it is true that by changing language you can change attitude and behaviour, I can think of some hefty areas where that might be really handy, like torture, animal cruelty, wars, pollution etc etc. Being offended by some twit who may or may not have used his words kindly towards me is not the first area I would choose to concentrate on.

    • NanLT profile image

      Nan 4 years ago from London, UK

      As a female, there are lots of things in this world that I could take offence at. Being called a female is not one of them.

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 4 years ago from Upstate, NY

      @anonymous: Female and Male are equivalent to each other. Man and woman are equivalent to each other. The problem comes when Man and Female are compared.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: women?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Come on, this is BS. Only insecure feminists operating under the assumption that everything men do to women is demeaning would perpetuate this. Female and male are equivalent to man-woman and boy-girl. But notice also that I, like many people, put the male terms first. Please relax feminists--that is purely habit and absolutely meaningless.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      When I hear a man refer to a woman as a "female", it's like fingenails on a blackboard. It makes me think he has so many issues with women that he can't even bring himself to say the word.

    • lynnasafriend profile image

      lynnasafriend 5 years ago

      Wow, I didn't know there was a problem, I must have missed something.... Good thing I don't watch TV.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What word am I supposed to use then to refer to the 51% of the population I actively try to avoid?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      While I do not female is a derogatory term I do like this lens and the discussion it opens up. As a society we need to openly discuss things like this.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 6 years ago

      Right! Think about how you talk about someone, anyone, before the words leave your mouth. I also hear the word "girl" used for a young woman. When I ask the person who has used the word "girl" why, they often tell me that she is so young that to them she is a "girl." I usually hear it about young women who work in the service industry (waiting tables, bank teller, sales associate, etc.) I ask the person what they would call the same service industry worker she were a he. Would they call him a boy? Usually I hear that they would call him what he does like waiter, teller or salesman. Sometimes I get "young man." Never do I get "boy." Thanks for letting me take this a little off topic and add my opinion about "girl" as well as "female."

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      Although I've rarely heard women being called 'females', it does sound like a deliberately disrespectful way to talk about women. Language hasn't really evolved well to match evolving attitudes about gender and sexism, and the limited choices we have to describe our gender are none of them perfect. I just don't like the "female of the species" implications (as in useful only for reproduction and rearing of young) of 'females' when used in a social context. Seems to be a term I connect with wildlife documentaries, but there are some other points of view here that I've found interesting.

    • LadyLovelace LM profile image

      LadyLovelace LM 6 years ago

      I would add that I find the use of females to mean women problematic in that women are a gender, and females a sex. One is social and the other biological, and by using the word 'female' when you mean 'woman', you exclude women who aren't biologically female.

      Also, I'd like to be thought of in the way I present myself socially rather than referred to by the function of my reproductive system, which isn't something I can (easily) control. It's just plain old polite to refer to people by their preferred title/gender.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @lilymom24: I agree with you. I am also an immigrant and did not know it was offensive until an American colleague corrected me in an angry tone

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 6 years ago from California

      That Twitter Search is really illuminating. I think everyone should check it as a way to get an idea how the word is used, then do a twitter search for "women" and see if there's any difference.

    • profile image

      Obscure_Treasures 6 years ago

      I am a female and I use the word at times. I don't find it offensive!

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 6 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      As a female, I use the word to refer to the female gender. I can't imagine how it is possibly offensive.

    • lilymom24 profile image

      lilymom24 6 years ago

      Maybe I don't get out enough because I never knew anyone had a problem with the word.

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      Ruth Coffee 6 years ago from Zionsville, Indiana

      To me the word female is one of the least derogatory words to be used. Like any word however, it probably depends on tone of voice, intent, etc. But then to me words like obese aren't derogatory either, it's a medical classification. Doesn't mean it can't hurt feelings I suppose.

    • Tagsforkids profile image

      Tagsforkids 6 years ago

      Although not a term I would normally use anyway in casual conversation, I never thought of it being demeaning to women in any way. Seems like there are far more that would be higher on the list, and are used in the south as well as elsewhere.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      I think it depends on the context, it can be good, bad or neutral

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have never heard that the word female is derogatory. Now the word bitch that is derogatory and is all over the place. It is time someone told the TV and Movie people to knock it off.

      Perhaps you should add that to your lens.