FanPost

Gender terminology and WBB


While reading articles about Brittney Griner (yes, THAT Brittney Griner) during the past week, I noticed two different SB Nation writers refer to her as a girl (here and here).

This bothered me even more than it normally would because these discussions are, in part, about gender and how that plays into individuals playing basketball at the highest levels. We're talking about a woman having the potential (according to some) to play in the MNBA (thanks, wiz Albert!)/D-League/Summer League (setting aside how Griner would do in any of those settings, and whether women should feel the need to prove themselves there), and yet people are STILL referring to her as a girl.

This is troubling.

I understand that there may be some language/dialect issues that account for this. I don't know how that word is used where the writers who chose it grew up, but in my part of the U.S. we call people "guys" all the time. We use the phrase "you guys" like other people say "y'all." And there's really no feminine equivalent for that. I found an interesting description of that issue here. That's not exactly in line with how the word is used where I'm from, but it gets at a lack that I've often noticed: people will sometimes use "girls" in a way similar to "guys." However, that's not a perfect solution because "girl" also refers to female children, whereas "guys" refers to adults, be they just men, men and women collectively, or even just women. So you can never really be sure if the use of the word "girls" is meant to diminish the women in question or if it's merely an awkward result of the "guy problem" that the commenter in the linked blog post raised.

Given that I know there are dialects of English in which this "guy problem" exists, it's hard to know whether the SB Nation writers referred to Brittney Griner as a "girl" because there's no equivalent for the word "guy," or because they'd rather refer to her as a girl than as what she truly is: a woman.

It seems to me that in a case where gender is so critical it would be wise to call Griner--and all women who play basketball--a woman so as to eliminate room for doubt about where the writer stands on any of that.

This fanpost is not meant to call anyone out. Like I said, there are issues of dialect that come into play that may explain why some writers refer to women as "girls," and I recognize that. However, I find it interesting to think about language and I believe that as fans of women's basketball we should all pay attention to the way we talk about women who play the game. Language does matter, and we need to set a standard that more casual fans will be able to follow.

Kate Fagan is correct: what we say (and how we say it) about Brittney Griner and other female athletes says far more about us than it does about them. Let's say it in ways that cannot be misconstrued as anything less than respectful of what these women accomplish on the court.

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