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Is It Offensive When Men Call Women 'Females'?

Updated on February 2, 2021
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I love everything weird and colorful in this world, and I try to live a life that will make the world a little better once I'm gone.

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?

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?

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

See results

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

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)?

See results

Not sure you've heard this term as sexist?

Check out the search results for "females" on twitter

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.

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.

What do you think of the term "females"?

Pinki Mishra: I am a young girl ,but I have no problem with it. It is like that when we call men male and so also called women female. What wrong with it. It is normal. I am disagree it with that woman feel dis comfortable with called female. But it is also my personal opinion and different person have different opinion.

Ellen Brundige: It depends very much on context and tone. As you say, in surveys and data-gathering where "M" or "F" are listed right there together, there's no privileging of one over the other. However, I do twitch when I hear "female soldier" or "female politician" or "female athlete" or the like. When people are using "female" followed by a word describing a profession, but do not use "male" followed by that same word, then it is discriminatory, since it implies that the professional must be a male by default UNLESS there is a qualifier "female" attached to it. When language is used which treats a woman an exception to the rule, it's discriminatory.

Ian Stuart Robertson: Don't think it bad manners in context of 'Female intuition', 'Female superiority' or the 'Female of the species' is more deadly than the male. Female what ? Female official / delegate. Okay ! What i find degrading to women is when the London (England) media refer to policewomen as police girls or military personnel as army girls or airline crews as air girls.

Smith: It is so one sided, because its based on the premise that men are not ever referred to as 'males' which is not the case at all. Maybe its in a smaller frequency but it is and it isn't seen as a problem there, even when used in a negative way.

liz: I do find it offensive. Women are to be called women not females, just as men are called men not males. I have never heard anyone refer to a man as a male.

anonymous: I think it's just because men are hearing women being called "females" by police, paramedics and so on. Therefore, they just picked up the habit. Some men also picked it up from having to write it down on a daily basis. Also, some women call men males as opposed to men. Some women even call themselves females

anonymous: Really gir..ladi...other...women? I have no idea what is degrading anymore and I'm a female myself! I don't find it degrading AT ALL. If someone said "Yeah I saw so and so at the mall with a female yesterday." I would giggle. Because that is not normally the common word to use. Just scientific. Why are we so sensitive sometimes?

anonymous: I wouldn't have thought it degrading, however things are always changing and if it was generally deemed offensive I wouldn't use it

anonymous: No. What I find offensive is "girl" or "doll". I am an adult, and not a toy or food item. I prefer the term "woman".

anonymous: I honestly don't understand what's so offensive about it. Sure, some people use it in a context meant to degrade others, but any word can be used that way. Do we consider 'red-head' to be offensive? It is used to describe an individual's hair color, but there are many people who use it in an offensive fashion. Perhaps some of these men were in the military and haven't broken out of that habit of referring to others as either males or females?

anonymous: How the hell does it degrade women. You're either a male or a female. My gawd! wtf!!! The term "chick" I can somewhat understand but I'm a "female" "chick" and I use the term chick. Get over it. If you don't have a penis you're a female. End of story.

anonymous: I think it is absolutely ridiculous that anyone could take offence at a word as benign as female. Female is the most neutral word there is to objectively describe girls/women in general. Some people just seem so sensitive about everything and I just lose faith in humanity because of things like this. Why do some people feel they have the right do degrade everyone else's experience of life by "shaming them" and making them feel bad about themselves for nothing more than using an objective word that is 100% correct. Seriously I will enjoy the apocalypse slightly more knowing that some people who feel offended by the word female will not survive.

anonymous: Females are not males: Get over it! :|

Nan: Why should I find it offensive, I *am* a female after all. It's a scientific designation. What I find offensive is being called a girl - something I have not been since I entered adulthood over 2 decades ago.

anonymous: Better than bitches

anonymous: If you called me a Male i would have no problem with it.

Paladins: While I agree that the term "females" could deliberately be used to be degrading to women, I have never heard it used that way and I am 61 years old at the moment. Now I HAVE heard guys say "Women!" and mean it in a derogatory manner.

anonymous: I also find it offensive when men and boys are called 'Males' but most feminists don't care about that.

'Ello :): Sorry I am commenting even though I do not find it offensive. I am simply stating my opinion and by the way I am a simple person who does not English so please forgive any grammar mistakes made here... As a woman myself I never found being called a female offensive I find it to sound sophisticated. Same with being called a woman. I also understand some people wouldn't know how to refer to a teen. Seeing as she is no longer a girl but not quite a woman... I mean I don't know. Overall I don't... Exactly think this is that big of an issue... I mean I don't feel any need to think about this in such a problematic way but... You do you my peeps :P I mean at least you aren't being called something like... Ma'am or girl! By the way I am curious of everyone's opinion on calling a woman a girl or ma'am... Sorry this was so long and maybe I ended up sounding sarcastic and over the top. Maybe tooo formal but I try to sound intelligent when in these sort of discussions. Keyword there is try. (As you can see the mask of fancy talk has faded) Anyways hope we can find some similar grounds...somewhere and not think about it too much ;3

anonymous: Males are a waste of skin......

anonymous: @sprongify ""females" when referring to women says, in effect, that your species doesn't matter, that your personhood doesn't matter - all that matters is that you have a vulva and a vagina and a womb" same argument goes to words woman and girl. These doesn't take "personhood" into consideration either. It takes only age to consideration. Also "spieces doen't matter", what does that enen mean? There is no "spieces" we all are human. And if "female" is so wrong, why every woman uses "males"?

anonymous: Look up definition of female and woman. female is broad term that includes women and underage girls. So when speaking about women of all ages and including underage girls term is only one you can use. If this term offends you - it's your personal problem.

lynnasafriend: Am I missing something here? I never thought being called either was offensive, maybe I missed something along the way...

anonymous: Yes.....but men are dumb shits anyway......what can you expect??????

anonymous: to suggest that women are above dogs is disgustingly speciesist. women are degrading/demeaning to women. also, why aren't we all using "womyn"? i use words in my daily life such as "ladies" "gURLs" "women" and "females" to refer to groups of "women" (depending on the social context), in order to bring diversity to my speech. i guess im sexist but who the fudge isn't. srry bout it

anonymous: I think it is a rather degrading term because a "female" may be a dog, cat, or a horse. When you refer to a woman as a "woman" you understand is a human being. My dog is a woman, doesn't make sense, now if you say my dog is a "female" it makes a lot more sense.

anonymous: I really dislike this term. I thought it was limited solely to the african-american community where I encounter it a lot. To know that it's not just "a black thing" is oddly comforting. I find the term to be dehumanizing as well. It could be referring to anything. I don't understand why this usage has become popular.

anonymous: no one complains about calling boys and men "males". That's what they are, male. Female is not age specific. We need to stop handling females with kit gloves. Its not offensive to call a male a male and if he's unreasonable he can be called a dick. Females are females and if she's unreasonable she can be called a cunt.

anonymous: Not all females deserve the title of woman, which confers respect and maturity of the individual. At the same time it's offensive to call some women girls because they are truly more than that. Hence, we use Female to describe groups of women.

anonymous: of course the word 'female' in a certain context be offensive, but so can just about anything. in day to day conversation it's usually assumed that when someone refers to another person as 'female' is just that they are a human born with two x chromosomes. i'm personally female and have absolutely no issue with being called a female, it's simply fact.

anonymous: I found it hard to vote on the poll because it's so black-and-white. It's not that the term itself is offensive, it's that it's usually used in a context that dictates some kind of difference and comparison, almost ALWAYS in a negative manner. Also, even though it is an accurate term in certain situations (like the police report example), it is a term that describes physical "sex", as opposed to one's "gender", which does not always match physical parts in some cases. Not all biological "females" identify as women, so if someone wants to make a statement regarding those who live and identify as women, why not just use the term "women"? I find that the word "female(s)" itself is neutral, but generalizing statements using this term are very often offensive and in poor taste.

anonymous: If is offensive because it allows people to not give u.s credit for being Women its the equivalent to calling a man a boy....

anonymous: It is quite offensive, in my opinion, to call women and girls "females" while still calling boys and men "guys". It's dehumanizing and horribly objectifying. Calling a girl a "female" identifies her as a collection of distinctive womanly body parts; calling a girl a "woman" acknowledges her human emotions, ideas, opinions, and most importantly, that she deserves respect.

Frischy: It reduces a human being to her biology. That is demeaning.

anonymous: Dehumanising. Not all "females" are girls or women, after all. Often said by people who would in the same sentence refer to men as, well, men. Even more offensive than constantly referring to women as girls. Implies an "otherness". Based on my experience, people who use the term outside scientific publications show themselves to be sexist in other ways also.

Cecil Kenmill: I had no idea it was offensive. I was in the Army and people used it all the time. I was a medic but I still heard it all the time outside the hospital. I'll be more careful next time.

anonymous: "Female" is an adjective. Female supervisors, for example. "Woman" or "women" are both nouns. If you refer to a group of women, you are correct. Calling women "females" is the equivalent of saying we aren't humans. Female refers to any species. And I'm ticked off by the reference.

anonymous: I find it to be offensive not being sensitive to the issue at all but its the same as when a man is offended by being called a boy. A female is only a reference to xx chromosomes in any species even a plant if you look it up :/ its dehumanizing. Sorry that Im intelligent enough to know the true meaning of words before I allow them to be used towards me, Whats really sad is that the men that use it just dont get it. Have more respect for yourselves ladies.

anonymous: It definitely smacks of a desire to dehumanize women. The term 'female' connotes a different species and perpetuates the sexist notion that women are non-human, foreign, 'other', and incapable of being understood. It really comes out when men talk about women in a derogatory way. When males (hah, suck on that) complain about women they insist on using the word "female" to no end. Very irritating.

anonymous: Yes, because men who say "females" rather than "women" also follow that with some kind of overgeneralization (often negative) about women. Also, I think we women tend to associate the term "females" with the type of man who has a patronizing personality or a misogynist view of women.

DebMartin: Yes, I'm tired of it. Mindsets and old patterns have not caught up with the fact that women are now equal. I've tried to nicely educate men when I hear this and honestly, at least 60% or more of them look at me confused. They just don't get it. If anyone has a good, clean, clear, short comeback I can use when I hear "female" used as an unnecessary descriptor, I'd love to have it.

religions7: I don't know why, but it does sound offensive to me when women are called female. I guess I feel it objectifies us - that is: it feels like we're only to be talked about, not part of the conversation. We don't call men males in normal conversation either, do we?

anonymous: It's okay. Some times you want to refer to the opposite sex as a whole. I don't find it particularly pleasurable to listen to all the female gossip during lunch breaks at work, so I try to avoid eating around females, whether they are little girls or older women... they all irk me when I am trying to relax and they are chattering about silliness. I'd rather eat with the males.

anonymous: I am going to play devils advocate here. Where do we draw the line with words that are offensive. A racial slur I understand but now the word female? Where do we draw the line? Aren't words hurtful only when we give them power? There are plenty of women I know who use the word male or man in a derogatory manner. People need to empower themselves not to give words / people power to hurt them.

anonymous: I am female, in body. Biologically. I have two X chromosomes. But. I am bigendered. Meaning I identify as both a man and a woman. Female is what's between your legs. If you have a vagina, guess what, you're female. If you have a penis, you're male. But. If you identify yourself as a woman, you're a woman, and if you have a vagina, and identify yourself as a woman, you are a female woman.

anonymous: The term "female" is a biological term and is more accurate that is if anything, more accurate than the term "women". It's a word used to describe humans that have a XX sex chromosome configuration. If you are really this desperate to play the 'oppressed victim' then at least come up with a decent reason.

anonymous: I wouldn't say it's as offensive as a full-on slur but it's subtly dehumanising, especially since men using it don't tend to refer to men as 'males' at the same time. It has connotations of a biologist referring to unaware biological organisms in a detached manner, rather than fellow humans. Even if that isn't the explicit reason for using it, the implications are there.

Pastor Kay: I don't care for it.

anonymous: Its offensive to call females woman...because man is still in the word. and it really depends on how you use the term. "Go get me a beer woman." see what im saying? plus the term "women" gets flooded with sterotypes of the stay at home wife who goes along with the false gender role they are suppose to endure. i say "look at all the lovely females." i think it is proper and a compliment be called by the scientific sex. the term girl and women i believe as a male...its sexist and demeaning.

bechand: no problem with it

Othercatt: I have a bigger problem with being called a "girl". When I was in construction, all the guys would complain that I was a "girl". It irked me every time one of them assumed I couldn't do something because I didn't have the right genitalia. Of course, I got just as much satisfaction proving them wrong :)

anonymous: Because it is so accurate (it is the scientific term) I have no problem with it. A few years ago there was an uproar about the term "women" because it has 'men' in it... no matter which wording is used someone is bound to be offended so I think that the tendency now is to use the scientific term to avoid as much offense as possible.

lilymom24: I've never given it any thought before but I suppose it would all depend on the tone of voice in which the word is used. But the same goes for just about any word.

Tagsforkids: Never gave it much thought before, but not sure i find it "offensive". It may not be the best term to use, and I certainly use others, but I can think of far worse that some find perfectly fine to use.

anonymous: Calling women "females" defines them solely by their gender, and acknowledges none of their other attributes of humanhood, personhood or adulthood. We have the words "woman" and "girl" in order to acknowledge the states of being a female human in various stages of life. The use of the word "females" when referring to women says, in effect, that your species doesn't matter, that your personhood doesn't matter - all that matters is that you have a vulva and a vagina and a womb.

kab: @sidther - Men who use "females" to describe women do not use "males" to describe men. It is because this is the scientific term that it bothers me. It moves women to a level equal to that of dogs and pigs.

Ian Stuart Robertson: Women have the right to say whatever goes in our society. If a term is deemed to be sexist then the issue must be addressed.

anonymous: I always want to say "A female what?"

anonymous: Of course it is wrong. The terms female and male is meant to be used to identify a gender. Men are called men and not males because we are talking about humans specifically. The only reason women are called females is to make them seem less like humans and more like a group that doesn't deserve respect.

anonymous: I only think it's offensive when someone uses it as a noun... I have no problem with using it as an adjective, but has anyone, anywhere, ever, referred to a group of men as "males"? :/ It sounds just as awkward and clinical.

anonymous: This is specific of american misogynists - and this is coming from a guy who hates feminists. It's this kind of crap that gives feminists ammo against ALL men to use. A sad state of affairs.

anonymous: an species can be a female but only humans can be a woman. use of the terms female/male include an element of dehumanizing the person.

anonymous: Recently, I've started hearing people call women females, and it bugs me to no end. I've asked friends why people do this and they just looks at me and say it's the correct way to say it. It doesn't make sense to me why people can't just call men men, women women, and dogs dogs.

anonymous: Female is an adjective, and best used for technical or scientific writing. What bothers me most is that this is military language which has now spilled over to common usage. I noticed 28 years ago the US military referring to men and females. That is wrong with discriminatory overtones. Use men and women as nouns, male and females as adjectives, unless technical like describing suspects or specimens.

anonymous: It definitely depends on context. If you are using female to refer to gender (e.g. "I have a female doctor"), I don't think it's derogatory. When you use female as a synonym for woman/women (e.g. I saw the female having lunch with John) it's offensive.

anonymous: Now to me this is a very complex question, it depends greatly on the context of the conversation, who the person is in reference to me, and the tone in which they say it. I find it more creepy when some say it and find it perfectly fine when others do. I was asked to pick a side so unless its in a conversation similar to when making your first appointment with say... An OBGYN...they ask would you like a female doc or male? Or if someone asks of a person with a unisex name they have not met; for example is Sam male or female.. Then yes from past experience FEMALE has almost always been referenced in an offensive manor.

anonymous: Why is it this type of thing usually involves a reference to women? I don't hear women talking about groups of "males". If they want to call me a female instructor etc. and use the term as an adjective, that is acceptable. If they are referring to me a "female" (noun), I'm fairly certain that's an attempt to downgrade my importance. What's wrong with referring to women as "women", guys? How would you feel if all women started calling men "boys"? No you don't get to choose the term "male" - it's our choice just like men made their choice about all the different terms for women.

anonymous: If a person thinks they are being courteous or accurate by calling me a female in comparison to a "bitch or hoe" then they are mistaken. Unless it is a survey, police report, health form etc, then please refer to me with other respectful terms. I personally don't mind being called a "girl" or "young lady" especially when referred to by elders, but of course I do accept being called a women. Identifying me only, because I have ovaries and a vagina takes away the fact that I am a person. It seems like society wants to get around actually recognizing women as people. For example "bitches and hoes" was once the go to word and still often is, but some people were outraged over the word. Now "female" is another way to demean women, but is hidden by its scientific accuracy which is "supposed" to make it socially acceptable in all settings.

anonymous: It is degrading when they refer to a man as a man and then a woman as a female in the same conversation.

anonymous: Yes. Save "female" for livestock breeding, ape studies, and police reports. And just a word to men in the workforce: harassment is judged from the victim's perspective, not yours. If you want to be safe, use woman or women...whether you agree or not.

anonymous: I'm not sure if "degrades" is the right word, but I do find it off-putting at best and creepy at worst. I think a lot of guys (and girls) who use "females" are trying to be polite, but it rubs me the wrong way; maybe it's the scientific overtones or the fact that many men's rights activists and pick-up artists use it. Some other women have told me they feel the same way, and others have told me they don't really care. Anyway, I'd recommend just not using it in a social context. As for "males," I don't find it as creepy, but it does sound weird. I'd just go with "men" and "women"

anonymous: In social context, people are using the term females when describing someone in a bad way or saying their crazy. Even though I didn't agree with it, I honestly felt more okay with it when guys were the only ones saying it because they have a completely different view than women. But when women are using it to describe other women, they're doing it to be better or to degrade one another b

anonymous: The word, "female" is both a noun and an adjective. It sounds odd to refer to women as "females," in any situation but a scientific discussion; thus, in normal conversation I believe it probably is not meant in a flattering way.

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.)


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