grown women are not “girl bosses”

To all the marketing people who keep emailing me pitches where they call grown women “girl bosses”:

This is gross and sexist and you should stop.

They’re women, not girls.

And the default for “boss” is not male. “Boss” covers all genders. You don’t need to modify it with gender, just like you wouldn’t (one hopes) say “girl pilot” or “girl lawyer.”

Or “boy boss.”

We don’t need job titles with gendered markers, and we don’t need to talk about adults as if they’re children playing at being in charge.

{ 668 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    I’m stunned this is still a thing. I remember maybe 30 years getting a flyer for a leadership program for teens where they were training ‘leaders’ and ‘leaderettes’ but really thought we had moved beyond that. I mean does anyone even say ‘lady doctor’ anymore, which was common in my youth? ‘Girl bosses’ — just WOW!!!

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Aaand I should learn to read the rest of the thread before I post. Thanks @Irina for pointing that out!

      1. Irina*

        I no longer use that term b/c there are some trans men who need gynecologists and trans women who don’t.

        It’s a small thing, but one thing I’ve tried to retrain myself to do.

        1. MayLou*

          Do any medical professionals specialise in treating only female titled members of the aristocracy? I can’t imagine there’s much of a market for that in the USA at least, given that it’s a republic.

        2. Alexander Graham Yell*

          YES! Freaking exactly. There are all kinds of terms that on the surface sound okay but when you think for a second about the implications are very much not.

          Besides, I hate this whole need to act as if proper gynecological care is something we should be ashamed of and need euphemisms for. I have a cardiologist, sometimes a pulmonologist, and a gynecologist, I feel no need to hide what they actually are or cutesy them up.

          (This post brought to you courtesy of the beer my boss bought us at lunch.)

          1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            And while I appreciate Irina’s point, some people have disadvantaged education levels or language barriers and don’t always know the proper names for all of the medical specialties or the difference between a cardiologist and pulmonologist, so …

            1. TechWorker*

              My friend (a doctor) used to refer to obs + gynae as ‘babies and vadge’ so there’s always that option…

              1. Kat in VA*

                I might tweak that slightly and refer to my OB/GYN as the “babbies and vagene doc” from now on! Thank you!

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Good point! A friend baffled his insurance company when their software had no option to bill for what he called ‘service on the originally issued equipment. “

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I once had a female gyn whose personalized license plate was LADYDOC. I thought it was clever.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Yes, along the same train of thought as “foot doctor” for a podiatrist, or “heart doctor” for a cardiologist.

          1. Jaid*

            There’s a podiatrist with a YouTube channel, calling himself “The Toe Bro”.

            Just…putting that out there. ;-)

      1. Zelda*

        Our British readers should please correct me on this, but AIUI in Britain the actual freakin’ JOB TITLE is WPC, for “Woman Police Constable.” At least for the uniformed ranks, a man and a woman officially DO NOT HAVE THE SAME JOB. Someone please tell me that isn’t true anymore.

        1. Buzz*

          It’s not. I think it might still get used in the media occasionally, but it’s not officially used any more.

        2. UKDancer*

          This stopped officially in 1999. One sometimes sees it in the tabloid media still which is annoying but I’ve not seen it in a while.

          Currently the most senior police officer in the Metropolitan police in London is now female. Having seen her speaking at a conference I don’t think anyone would dare call her a lady cop, not in her hearing anyway.

        1. Boomerang Girl*

          I used the term “male nurse” once. I was a candy striper in a hospital as a teen and there was a teenage boy patient. He was fine, and probably in a lot of pain, but his friends were a little obnoxious. They were teasing me by saying that their friend needed a sponge bath. I said “Sure. Let me get the male nurse to do it.” That shut them up.

          1. Matt*

            The dad of one of the boys in my son’s Cub Scout den uses “murse” as part of his email address, because yes, I believe he happens to be a male RN.

            MY dad has also been an RN for over 30 years, but I doubt he’d even use the term “murse”.

      2. Sleve McDichael*

        The only time one should hear the words ‘lady cop’ is when talking about the novel Lady Cop Makes Trouble and that book is set 100 years ago, and the title comes from a real news headline!

      3. Vicky Austin*

        I’ve never heard that. Some people call female cops “policewomen” which is not sexist because they also call male cops “policemen.”
        I’m not sure what they’d call a nonbinary cop.

      1. JessaB*

        There was only a couple of stories in the press where I thought female pilot was relevant, one was a crew specifically picked out to be female to carry a group of specifically chosen underprivileged girls to a STEM thing, and the other was an all female crew landing a plane in Saudi Arabia before they loosened the rules on women driving there. I mean that was an actual thing to make a big deal about them being women “We landed our plane but we can’t drive to our hotel.”

        But 99% of the time there is zero reason to mention gender.

      2. Crazy sexist Asians*

        I remember that Singapore Airlines calls its female flight safety professionals “stewardess” or even “Singapore girls”, how disgusting. No wonder they couldn’t use the brand in the movie.

      3. pandop*

        Why be a mere ‘female pilot’ when Aviatrix sounds so much cooler. If I could fly a plane I would so be describing my self as an Aviatrix ;)

    1. Stephanie*

      Yikes! I was a teen a little more than 30 years ago, and I can assure you that teenage me would have found that choice of word to be offensive.

      And don’t even get me started on “girl boss”. Feh.

      1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*


        Kill that word with fire. Salt the ground beneath it, that nothing ever grow there again, as it dies squeaking its last micromisogynist vowel and its coiner watches in horror as we mouth, “You’re next.”

    2. Mx*

      I still hear people saying the lady doctor. It annoys me ! Strangely enough, they never talk about the lady nanny or the lady receptionist.

    3. Ktelzbeth*

      Lady or woman doctor is still a thing, unfortunately. In fact, just last week I was getting a ride with a few other people on the car repair shop’s shuttle and asked to change my drop off since my PA could meet me there, we could round, and then he could drive me back to the office. “Sure,” said the driver. “So, you’re a nurse?” said the passenger. I’m a doctor.

      1. PeanutButter*

        In most ER’s I’ve worked in the gender ratio was pretty even among nurses, and patients would call the male nurses “Doc” ALL THE TIME. And most of the time they had a good idea that the woman in the white coat with the clipboard who was telling them the treatment plan was the person they needed to get authorization from for meds, but they would still call all the men “doc” and all the women “nurse”. Like, “Hey doc [to male RN], can you please ask my nurse [referring to the female PA/MD/DO with their case] if I can have another breathing treatment/more pain meds/sandwich.”


        1. Artemesia*

          Early in my career in a brief stint at a small college, when members of the board visited at graduation, my colleague with the MS would be called Dr. and I with the PhD would be called Miss — and many would assume I was just graduating and would congratulate me although the colors in my hood were not those of the college. Women can be grad students, but professors — a stretch.

      2. Jay*

        “Where do you work?” “XYZ Hospital.” “Oh, you’re a nurse?” Lather. Rinse. Repeat. For 35 years.

        I do home visits these days and I wear my stethoscope around my neck all the time. The other day I stopped in at a coffee shop and the barista said “What kind of doctor are you?” I didn’t have my ID on. I almost fell over. And I tipped VERY well.

      3. anonLemur*

        My mom told me about something that happened to her recently. When she was talking to someone she’d met, she mentioned that her adult children are a doctor and 2 programmers. He said something that made it clear that he thought that she had 3 sons. She has 2 daughters and 1 son.

      4. Kat in VA*

        One of the most blistering feminist smackdowns I’ve ever had the pleasure of enacting was over (current) BossMan’s usage of the term “lady lawyer”.

        It was truly a thing of ferocious beauty. I don’t quite know what he thought of it, but he damned well doesn’t say “lady lawyer”, “lady doctor”, or any other “lady” designation before a profession any more…at least in my presence.

    4. Philomeeeena*

      There’s a big sign advertising “Lady Doctor” in the suburb where I grew up, but there’s also a lot of tourism from conservative countries where women will only see a woman doctor, so it’s actually a fair call.

      1. whingedrinking*

        Except on “The Man Who Has It All”. And then the comments are flooded with people who don’t get the joke.

        1. Venus*

          I’m glad someone brought them up! The comments are great (especially when they ask for suggestions on gendered wording in the opposite direction – “My brother is looking to write a book on how to manage men, does anyone have suggestions?” “Today’s Debate: Should men be allowed to age?”

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ugh, “Girl Boss” is incredibly annoying, in part because it has the added benefit of being infantilizing.

        But “women lawyers” or “lady lawyer” drives me up the wall (I hear “female lawyer” less frequently, but I suspect this is regional). The other one that irks me is using “gentlemen” on correspondence to all counsel when you know we are not all men. Unless a person is reporting empirical data about the gender disparities in the profession information, then we’re all lawyers, thankyouverymuch.

        There was a really funny Twitter exchange between Neko Case and Rolling Stone, where they named her on their list of “women who rock.” She basically told them to F themselves because their failure to take women (and women’s musical contributions) seriously in their “top rocker” lists meant that they clearly didn’t understand that the terms “rocker” or “musician” included women.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh, one note, though. I haven’t decided if I prefer being called a “woman lawyer” or “lady lawyer” to what happens more often, which is being called a courtroom clerk, court reporter, legal secretary, “college intern,” or paralegal.

        2. Media Monkey*

          and also because it appears to be used by every MLM (because of course they aren’t pyramid schemes) to recruit women into “running their own business”

    5. Jay*

      Yup, still a thing, although much less frequently than when I was in med school 35 years ago. And honestly? I’ll take it because at least it registers that I’m a doctor.

    6. Turtles*

      YES THEY DO. I am a doctor in specialty training, and my consultant (attending) used the phrase ‘lady doctor’ in reference to one of the other consultants, TO A PATIENT, yesterday. I was fuming.

  2. LQ*

    Entirely agreed, it grates on me. Girl bosses, like real bosses but not. Like knockoffs.

    Also every time I hear it I think MLM/pyramid schemes.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Girl bosses, like real bosses but not. Like knockoffs.

      This is the exact implication. I just shake my head when I see women actually referring to themselves this way.

      1. Eli*

        When I hear a woman call herself a “girl boss”, I assume she’s the talk the talk, not walk the walk type when it comes to gender equality. I’ve never been wrong.

    2. anon for now*

      Yes, I usually hear this in relation to MLMs, along with “boss babe.” I find both titles to be so inappropriate for professional working people.

      1. Joie*

        I have seen some of this trend moving towards personal life things makes you a boss babe which I kinda dig (like there was a woman who threw a perfect clutch in axe throwing and she tagged that) but then I also see someone tagging that with a clean kitchen photo and then end up questioning how scrubbing your kitchen qualifies you as a Boss Babe. Unless you live in filth, literally everyone cleans their kitchen regularly.

        1. Kendra*

          Maybe they’re using it as an adjective, like a babe who’s boss (as in, the old slang term for “excellent” or “great”)?

          1. anonaccountant*

            That’s how I’d take it too, in this instance. I think the connotation behind boss babe in most contexts is more just “accomplished” or “bada**.” Definitely the adjective usage of boss- like how you say “What a boss” or “Boss move” when someone does something impressive (like throwing axes). I’m not personally a fan, but I don’t think it warrants the vitriol that girl boss does.

            I agree that girl boss reads significantly more sexist (especially because it refers to a literal boss, and not a character trait).

            Of course, some people use them interchangeably, but I agree with you that there’s a distinction.

        2. Marmaduke*

          Eh. During the worst throes of PPD it took me an entire day and every ounce of my energy to clean the kitchen while keeping up with the baby. Sometimes even the little things take Boss levels of effort, depending on your situation, and it helps to celebrate them.

      2. Katie*

        I was just about to comment that “boss babe” is also a big one…if I see one more #bossbabe I will jump off a bridge. It’s the worst.

      1. sunny-dee*

        These are all MLM nicknames and are usually used (and embraced) by women with zero professional experience or understanding. It is super cringey.

      2. Joie*

        That one there is actually some history on.

        It was a magazine that ran in the late 80’s early 90’s actually called Mompreneur and it featured woman who built business from home while juggling home life. I actually currently work at a company that started like that (and the owner was a cover feature in that specific magazine)

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          This makes me crazy– it should be Momtrepreneur, right? Mompreneur would be like enpreneur, and that is not a word *headsplode*

      3. Artemesia*

        Makes me shudder even more than ‘leaderette’ (there was a bumper sticker for the Leaderette program)

    3. Doug Judy*

      Every time I see a mug at Target that says Boss Babe or Girl Boss, I want to smash it on the floor. (I am female, for the record) or mom boss, wifey, or any other stupid hashtag Instagram bullshit.

      1. Lady Jay*

        I kind of (as in, not really but it’s fun to imagine) want you to do this. Just go into Target and start hurling the mugs to the floor, and when somebody comes up to stop you, you can tell them you’re “smashing the patriarchy.”

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Now I’m imagining a movie with this scene, like that scene in Father of the Bride when Steve Martin is ranting about hot dog buns.

        2. Doug Judy*

          I would LOVE to do it. If someone wants to bankroll the cost of the mugs and bail money, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh, now I want to see this happen and someone to record it and make it into a meme or .gif.

        1. HotSauce*

          I told my husband before we were married he was never to refer to me as “wifey”, “ball & chain” or “his old lady” on pain of death.

          1. anonaccountant*

            Ugh, yes. “His old lady” makes me sound like his mom. I just get such an icky feeling from that one. I had a male friend ask me where “my old man” was once. Like, we’re two years apart. I don’t want to think about being married to an old man who is responsible for me. Yuck!

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              That’s so weird! Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never heard “old man” used to mean husband like that — in my experience, it always means father.

              1. Artemesia*

                You didn’t come of age in the 60s then when one’s partner was one’s ‘old man’ — I don’t even object to ‘old lady’ which I now am — but the rest of those, shudder.

              2. Crooked Bird*

                The only place I ever heard it was that song “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”. Took me awhile to catch on, too. I was like, “a big yellow taxi took her dad away? Why did she still live with her dad anyway?”

          2. Burned Out Supervisor*

            Aww, I kind of like “my ol’ lady.” I hear it in that gruff old biker voice. This is 100% personal preference though. Wifey and hubby are the worst tho.

            1. Daydreaming Admin Assistant*

              On the internet, some women refer to their husbands as “DH”, which stands for “Dear Husband”. (Ex. “I made this casserole last night, and DH ate half the pan in one sitting!”) To me this has always had major polygamist cult vibes.

              1. WantonSeedStitch*

                I have found this in knitting communities, but we tend to be fond of our acronyms there in general, as we put another SSK YO S2KP into our latest UFO, run out of yarn before we get to the BO and have to hit the LYS for another skein of yarn in the MC or CC. :D

                …good gods, I’m as bad with this in my knitting as my DH, an LTC in the USAR, is with his DOD acronyms.

                HELP. I CAN’T STOP.

        2. ellex42*

          “Wifey” puts me in mind of the anecdote about Jason Momoa meeting Emilia Clarke for the first time:

          “I walked in and from the other side of this enormous lobby I hear ‘WIFEY!'” Clarke said. “And this huge Hawaiian man comes bounding over to me, picks me up, and genuinely gets me in a rugby tackle to the floor. It was only when he picked me back up and kind of dusted me off that I was like, ‘Who are you?'”

          So to me, “wifey” indicates “rugby tackle by Jason Momoa” or “I will burn you to death with my dragons”. Although I still wouldn’t call anyone that term.

          1. Donkey Hotey*

            Given some of the more recent developments with our Khal Drogo (vis. destroying a co-star’s book so she would pay attention to him rather than read), it certainly colors some of his previous behavior.

            1. Skeptic*

              This story upset me too but I’m much more skeptical now after everything else that’s come to light in that costar’s previous marriage. I’m taking the book-ripping with a grain of salt.

        3. Kitrona*

          I only like it because I think it would be hilarious to get two of them for me and my fiancee/future wife.

        4. Disgruntled Pelican*

          My husband and I hate wifey (and hubby) and never refer to each other as that. A friend recently texted him happy birthday and she hopes ‘the wifey’ spoils him. I have known her for 20 years, we grew up together, he met her through me. She knows my name.

          A common term here is missus(sp?). I’ve noticed that before my husband and I were married or engaged, I would get called his missus. He was never called my mister.

        5. OtterB*

          I have to admit my husband calls me wifey sometimes and it is amusing but that’s because we both know it’s 100% ironic, and he would never say it about me to someone else

      2. hiptobesquare*

        I don’t mind boss babe (I do in fact own a mug that says boss b*tch that was purchased after a board member called me just the b* part at meeting) but Girl Boss makes me punchy.

        1. Properlike*

          Did you get a matching one for the board member that says “Not The Boss” or simply “Boss’s B****”?

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Isn’t the boss bitch essentially the lead prostitute who acts as her pimp’s enforcer when it comes to other women under his control?

          Also, wtf kind of board member calls someone a bitch??

    4. Anon thing*

      I have a friend who is neck deep in a MLM company and the whole #girlboss #bossbabe thing is A THING in MLMs. She can’t post anything on social media without one or the other.

      1. LQ*

        Congratulations, this is worse than she-e-o which I read for the first time today. I feel like this is a competition for the worst way to say, “You know, like a real thing, but fake and for ladies.”

        1. Bluehelianthus*

          I can’t stand wifey,hubby. The cutesy baby talk should just be for babies and even then there are words that bug me like wee wee and pee pee, huha,etc. They have names already. Penis,vagina! Saying pee if they have to go to the bathroom is fine. But tinkle,doody, poopies? Come on!

      2. Tiny Soprano*

        Now I read fempire and immediately thought ‘a sanguinarian creature of the night who presents or identifies as femme.’

        1. LGC*

          I mean, if you think about it, MLMs also suck the life force out of their victims for their own benefit and are often frighteningly difficult to destroy…

    5. whingedrinking*

      Lindsay Ellis uses the term as shorthand for an archetype of marketable female empowerment, as seen in Disney remakes of late (as in, “They made Belle into a girlboss so people would stop saying she had Stockholm Syndrome”). There, I think it’s appropriate.

    6. Peaches*

      Also every time I hear it I think MLM/pyramid schemes.

      YES! This was my exact thought, too. I feel like I’ve seen it on MLM people’s instagram headline.

  3. Nancy Pelosi*

    As always, Alison is right on point. There’s a show on Netflix called “girl boss” that I refuse to watch. The title alone tells me I’m not going to like it for all the reasons she mentioned.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        The show is based on an autobiography of the same title, written by a woman who spent her twenties building up her eBay empire into a multi-million dollar company. She was, unsurprisingly, big on social media, so I think that’s a large part of how this annoying #GirlBoss trend took off because if it was big on Instagram or Pinterest five years ago, you know that the blandest of bland companies are only just getting around to emailing Alison about it now.

    1. Jordan*

      I watched that movie and it has literally nothing to do with that lol it’s a title that the woman gave herself several years ago. I’m not a fan of the phrase either but you’re not watching a perfectly good show for a reason that doesn’t really have anything to do with the content of it lol. Not trying to argue just letting you know that it’s a great show about a multi-dimensional female character starting her own business!

      1. Alexa*

        A woman who chose to use that label and thus perpetuated and reinforced the gross sexism at issue here.

        Yeah, I’ll pass. Sexism isn’t less gross just because it’s a woman saying it.

          1. Lyra Silvertongue*

            She is not a likeable or good person in real life, Nasty Gal was notoriously a very horrible company to work for when it took off. (Their material quality is also… not good).

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Agreed, I tried a few episodes and just could not go on. The main character is supposed to be unlikeable, fine, but I found nothing else in the show worthwhile to make up for that.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I rejected “Cougar Town” for the same reason. Sometimes the title you choose is bad and makes people nope right on by, even as fans protest that “but it is actually empowering to girl cougars and nothing like its title.”

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Or “The Good Wife” who put her whole career on hold so long all her skills were out of date? That feels like something out of my parents’ generation, not mine, and I’m around the same age as the lead actress.

          1. Media Monkey*

            don’t not watch the good wife because of the title – it is great with loads of good female characters – and then watch the good fight with Christine baranski which she is the epitome of an axe throwing (she actually does) female boss.

          2. Lawyer*

            I’m a lawyer at a big firm who does a lot of hiring and TBH the lawyer with out of date skills who’s trying to return to the workforce after 10 years as a SAHM is definitely something we still see. I’m 40.

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            I don’t watch the show but my understanding was that that title was meant to skewer the old-fashioned idea of The Good Wife ‾\_(ツ)_/‾

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Cougar Town actually also rejected its title and tried to get it changed but the network wouldn’t let them and they regularly poke fun at it on the title card.

          It’s a great and funny show that started with a terrible conceit as it was supposed to be a show about Courtney Cox dating younger men but then they quickly realized that was dumb and they had a great cast with good chemistry so became instead a show about a group of friends who drink a lot of wine and she got an age-appropriate love interest and the title no longer described the show at all but they were stuck with it.

          They also did a sort of crossover with Community and it cracks me up every time.


    2. sacados*

      Yup, based on a real person.

      I think it’s very telling that most of the women who go around calling themselves “girl boss” or “SHE-E-O” have been proven to be actually pretty awful and toxic bosses, especially toward their female employees.
      It’s this whole pop-culture, performative, capitalistic brand of “feminism” that mostly revolves around empty buzzwords.

        1. Stormfeather*

          Oh, man. If I heard someone say She-E-O it probably wouldn’t even click with me (or at least before seeing here that it’s a thing), I’d just assume they had a weird occasional slurring that popped up sometimes when talking.

          1. Mel_05*

            Me too! I’ve never heard this one, so definitely would have thought they had an oddly specific lisp.

          2. Platypus Enthusiast*

            I always read it as Shoe instead, and wonder why anyone is referring to themselves as footwear.

          3. Jules the 3rd*

            I didn’t understand what it was for until this, 3rd mention of it. Did not click at all.


            1. Environmental Compliance*

              I had to read it several times and then finally read it out loud before it clicked.

              (She-sheds also annoy me, though that’s probably much more irrational of an annoyance than She-E-O. )

        2. SusanIvanova*

          It sounds like you should follow it with “daylight come and I wanna go home”, and now I have the Banana Boat Song stuck in my head.

        1. KayDeeAye*

          I’ve never heard this one before, and what’s more, I never want to hear it again. I may not get my wish, but a person’s gotta dream.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            The former co-founder and CEO of Thinx did this! But she and Sophia Amoruso both commercialized feminist ideals while reinforcing the patriarchy and harassment at their companies.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        It is sad. I worked under a SHE-E-O and it was a more sexist environment than when a man was CEO. Suddenly all the women had to prove every idea, but all the men’s ideas were implemented with no questioning. There was an obscene amount of sexual harassment that was then acceptable. And all executive roles were filled by men.
        You’d think having a woman as CEO would make things better for the female employee, but women can be just as biased/blind as sexist men.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It may also be the effect of being under the microscope. There have been limited empirical studies that show, for example, that when folks from marginalized communities are recruited into previously all-male/all-white spaces, they sometimes end up being even more stringent about reinforcing inequality. Apparently it’s because they’re worried they’ll be seen as “helping their own” or “biased” if they try to embrace or operationalize DEI in their behavior.

          But it’s also true that if a person has grown up in the U.S., there’s a high likelihood that they’ll have certain biases and blindspots that have been baked in since childhood. And those blindspots can be really hard to surface and correct against.

      2. De Pizan*

        I was so blissfully ignorant of the She-E-O term until now. I also hate the term she-ro (again, implying that all heroes are men by default). Especially because if you’re going to insist on using a gendered term for it, we already have heroine.

        1. Kendra*

          If I saw “she-ro” somewhere, I’d assume they were misspelling She-Ra and probably be very confused. (I’ll just be over here in my corner playing with my 80’s action figures and feeling old.)

          1. As Close As Breakfast*

            Completely off topic, but in 1980-something, my parents made the unfortunate decision to let their 4 year old daughter name the new cat. And that is how the family cat came to be called She-Ra.

          2. One of the Sarahs*

            Check out Noelle Stephenson’s version on Netflix right now – very different, very good.

      3. GooseTracks*

        Yes, this is so important! The faux female empowerment stuff is shallow and gross (if you don’t buy my MLM products, you’re not supporting women!1!!!) and more than one high-profile woman leading a woman-centered company has been pushed out or faced a lot of bad press for being a terrible person despite all their public rah-rahs for women (Thinx, Nasty Gal, etc.).

          1. Anne Elliot*

            Those of you who have introduced me to “momtrepenour,” “fempire,” and “She-E-O” owe me a nickel each for pain and suffering.

        1. WhatsUpSusan*

          Oof, get ready for the onslaught of buy-MLM-or-you-hate-other-women social media posts this weekend.

      4. Public Sector Manager*

        It’s like the head of my agency. She at least acknowledges that in my division we have a gender imbalance at the management level and we can’t get enough women to promote (and there are so many fantastic potential candidates in our division that it’s disheartening). So it’s great that our agency head addresses it. But so many of her decisions negatively impact potential management candidates and those decisions frequently target perks that are used by a vast majority of our female employees–our division doesn’t have work from home privileges but the rest of the agency does; our division is directed to have a “butts in the seats” policy from 9 am to 5 pm yet the rest of the agency has flexible working hours; our division won’t allow remote access after hours but the rest of the agency gets that access, etc..

        1. Honeycomb*

          YES. I am female and after 3 bad experiences no longer have any desire to work for a female manager. Too many Queen Bees out there.

          1. Brittasaurus Rex*

            Take heart; good women bosses do exist. The first two bosses I had who were women were terrible. They were incredibly sexist, and I was paid a lot less than the man doing the same job with the same title as I. My next boss, also a woman, recitified that with a quickness. My last two bosses before I left the corporate world were women, and they were the best bosses I’ve ever had. So they’re out there!

    3. SciFiSeamstress*

      I recommend listening to the episode of the podcast “Without Fail” where they interview the woman who tbe show was based on about how the company eventually she headed eventually all fell apart. Really interesting about cult-of-personality management and overhyping.

      1. kristinyc*

        Tina Fey’s book was BossyPants (and is hilarious).

        Sophia Amoruso’s book is GirlBoss (and is the one the show is based on… not very good.)

    4. jk*

      I watched it and regretted it. It’s basically about some narcissist girl/woman/child thing who has no work experience but wants to run the world. It taken from a true story… so yeah. There’s a woman who perceives herself like that out there. Must find cliff.

  4. Marny*

    Thank you! It angers me even more when I specifically hear women use it to refer to themselves. Stop perpetuating it, bosses!

    1. Roz*

      Yes – Why do some women do this? And with such pride?? It hurts us all to diminish us like this and you are in a posiiton of power so own that ish!

      1. Me*

        Because patriarchy is a systemic sociological issue and not everyone is as informed. We all have internalized biases that we need to be cognizant of to be able to work against. It’s okay not to like it, it’s okay to educate, but I cringe when I see woman aggressively giving other woman crap for stuff like this.

      2. Gaia*

        Because the patriarchy is invasive and systemic and anyone can be a part of perpetuating it, often without realizing it.

    2. KayDeeAye*

      It bugs the HECK out of me, too. I used to hear it from women who came of age before the “Call Adult Females Women, Please, Not Girls” era, but I hear it now a LOT from much younger women. I know they don’t mean anything bad by it, but they need to break themselves of this habit because all it does is encourage all those people who use “girls” as a patronizing term. Stop it, stop it, stop it!

  5. Sleepytime Tea*

    For all that is holy – the fact you are getting “professional” pitches with this kind of ridiculous language is wildly disturbing. If someone called me a “girl boss” or “girl teapot analyst” or “girl-anything” I think I’d have a hard time keeping my mouth shut.

    1. Mid*

      I wouldn’t keep my mouth shut. I’d call them “boy [title]” until they realized how ridiculous and condescending they were being.

      1. Stormfeather*

        Would that even have that effect though? I’d kinda suspect they’d think you were just playing along. :/

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          The men that have done similar things to me for some reason just cannot stand being called “boy” anything. Apparently it felt degrading. Whodathunk?

      1. Artemesia*

        Over 60 years ago — when I was about 12 I read on a Cream of Wheat package how it was good to build Strong Men and Strong boys and Big Girls and Little Girls and was so offended I wrote to the company a very articulate letter about why that was awful. I got a letter back that said ‘We were just trying to demonstrate that Cream of Wheat is healthy for everyone.’ Yeah. Never bought the stuff since.

    2. Arya Snark*

      I have a co-worker that refers to any female he encounters as “girls” I’ve lectured him on it (because I cannot keep my mouth shut and I have the capital to do it), complained to his manager and he still does it.

      He is Sales Boy now.

  6. Daniela*

    I have the same reaction to this that I do to my university calling all of the women’s sports teams “Lady + mascot” when the male teams are just “mascot”. Ugh.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      To be fair, there was a time when people thought that you could be a lady OR you could be a hard charging athlete. At the time it showed that women could be both. But generations have changed and it’s time we abandoned it.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        And in case anyone gets upset about my name (and they have commented the past)
        I wanted to be an astronaut/scientist since I was 5. I was consistently told “girls don’t do that” and told that I really wanted to be a teacher. Well, dream fulfilled – I did it. I was the first female for several engineering groups. And I opened it up for others. And since I blazed the trail and paid the price I shall call myself whatever I want.

        1. sunny-dee*

          That is tragically hilarious — and good for you.

          It’s one of those things that makes me appreciate my family. When I was 5, I said I wanted to be a lawyer, and my family said it was a waste of my brain and I should at least try to be a doctor, preferably a scientist of some kind. I didn’t realize it as a kid, but it’s the kind of thing I thank them for now.

        2. Irina*

          I think it’s a beautiful thing since it’s an echo of your childhood self.

          That’s totally different than if someone else just called you “a girl engineer.”

        3. Pebbles*

          You rock Engineer Girl!

          Similar story (but not the user name): I was told early in my childhood that being a software engineer was not “ladylike”. I should have wanted to be a nurse or a teacher. When I first started at this company, I was one of two software engineers. After almost 20 years, the ratio of male software engineers to female software engineers has only marginally improved. :(

          1. Scrooge McDunk*

            Ugh, the word “ladylike” really chaps my a**. My high school gym teacher tried to get me to quit playing rugby because it wasn’t ladylike. We taped a photo of him to the scrum machine we used in practice and pummeled it thoroughly.

              1. Scrooge McDunk*

                Oh man, he was MAD. He complained to our Principal, who laughed in his face and made sure he came to all our games that season.

        4. Qwerty*

          *fist bump* Similar story here. While I complained below about people defaulting to calling me a girl developer, there were a few years where that was my affectionate nickname from some coworkers in another department who thought it was ridiculous that we only had one woman in tech. Since I was a top performer, it helped reduce (and sometimes reverse) unconscious bias as they came to associate being female with “being great at her job”.

          Also I’ve always liked that the position came first in your username. I feel like “Engineer Girl” sounds more powerful than “Girl Engineer”. Kinda like how I’ve heard people say they have to go talk to the “boss man” but never the “boy boss”. I’m sorry people have given you a hard time for the name you use.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            I used to go for the title “Software Queen”. The intelligent men knew hat I was better than most at my job and the “queen” title showed the superiority.

            1. Sleve McDichael*

              Oh my goodness that’s great! I’m going to start using it at my work when people come in and say things like ‘Oh, here’s your female engineer.’ I’m mech eng though so maybe Engineering Queen? AutoCAD queen? I’ll think about it.

              Now if only I could get people to stop asking me where my colleagues are like I’m their secretary or something. The joys of being the only woman in the building.

          2. whingedrinking*

            I had a stage manager who would affectionately call me “boss lady”, which I was fine with – “lady” is at least an adult. It also helped that sometimes it was just “boss”, and there wasn’t anyone else in the production who got that nomenclature.

          3. Róisín*

            I picked up the habit of referring to my managers as “managerman” and “managerlady” when I’m talking to my girlfriend, because she doesn’t know their names nor are they relevant to whatever story I’m telling — I just need her to know it was one of the managers. I could just say “a/the manager” all the time and be genderless, I guess, but it feels clunky.

            Oh, and the ones I hated were “managerbitch”. Whether male or female.

        5. ellex42*

          I feel like there’s a subtle but definite difference between “Engineer Girl” and “Girl Engineer”. The first sounds like a superhero (superheroine) and the truly important word (engineer) comes first. The second sounds like “girl” is the important term, which makes it sexist and cringey.

        6. Safetykats*

          As another female engineer, I support your right to call yourself what you like! And I think, honestly, that you have to critically judge intent when other people apply this kind of label. I have a direct report whose young daughters were so excited to meet his “lady boss” – a label he had apparently used in talking to them about me to emphasize not only that they could absolutely aspire to being the boss, but that in a lot of ways he thought the “lady bosses” he had worked for were better than the rest. I’ll take that any day, in the spirit in which it was intended.

    2. Mandatory reporter*

      One of the weirdest examples of this I’ve ever heard of is Iowa City West HS, where the boys are the Trojans and the girls are “Women of Troy.”

      1. Queen Anon*

        Since Trojan Women is a truly tragic play I can see avoiding it that name. I don’t see why they can’t just be Trojans as well. (Of course, considering what happened to the Trojans, I’ve never understood its popularity as a sports mascot at all. Yep, we’ll fight to the last one dies but we’re still gonna lose!)

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I don’t understand why ANY school is still the Trojans. Every teen within a 50 mile radius is cracking condom jokes about it.

            1. Quill*

              Our rivals were the “blue devils” so there were constantly adults complaining about how “inappropriate” that was… while they laughed at us and the condom manufacturer must have thought my hometown was an inexplicably good market because sports team prankings against us usually included a lot of loose (in their wrappers so we could see the logo) condoms all over the parking lot.

          1. Sorrischian*

            It’s especially bad because West High is known locally for their swim team – I’m sure you can imagine the sorts of jokes we (when I was a student at the other high school in IC) made, but you might be surprised at how many variations there were!

      2. KayDeeAye*

        I used to work in a town where the HS mascot was the Wildcats and they called the girls’ teams – try not to choke or vomit or anything – the Wildkittens. Blech! Soooooooo horrible. So Lady Wildcats (which is what I think they use now), while not ideal, is definitely a step up from Wildkittens.

        1. Platypus Enthusiast*

          I’m suddenly less resentful of our girls’ teams from HS being called the Lady Bulldogs… also, half the towns around us also had bulldogs as mascots, so during games it would inevitably be the “ABC Lady Bulldogs” vs the “XYZ Lady Bulldogs”, which got incredibly wordy when there were towns with long, hyphenated names nearby. Half the time it sounded like anyone commenting on the game was trying out a new tongue twister.

        2. anonaccountant*

          My neighboring town’s HS mascot was the Huskies (like the dogs).

          Female teams? Husky Girls.

          1. Anne Elliot*

            [ Off-Topic Tangent ] My favorite newspaper headline from the Pacific Northwest is “Husky Girls Pound Ducks”. [ /Off-Topic Tangent ]

        3. Quill*

          And they couldn’t go “Wildcats men’s soccer” and “Wildcats women’s soccer” and trust people to figure it out?

          Heck, my high school could have cut out all the lady stuff and announced “the Trojans soccer team won their championship this weekend,” we would have ALL known that it wasn’t the boys.

        1. Donkey Hotey*

          Small town in our state is located near a very large hydro-electric dam.
          Local team’s name is “The Shockers.” Don’t go on Urban Dictionary, but trust me: Lady Shockers is right down there with Lady Beavers.

    3. Junior Assistant Peon*

      These get especially ridiculous when it’s something like “Lady Bulls,” “Lady Rams,” “Lady Stallions,” “Lady Roosters,” etc!

      I know of a high school that has the “Drakes” and the “Lady Drakes.” A drake is a male duck.

      1. Gumby*

        There was a meet several years ago when the Arkansas team wore leotards that said “Lady Hogs” across their chests in big letters. That seemed unfortunate to me. But I don’t have the connection to the mascot or the school so probably it was not as hideous for the women actually wearing said leos.

        THBS, looks like they no longer use that for the women’s teams any longer. So, yay!

      2. Quill*

        My high school mascot was “Trojan man”

        … yes, like the condom brand. At least nearly everyone else in the town other than our rival high school did animals and didn’t differentiate between the male and female sports teams in terms of branding.

        (Shoutout to my hilariously misnamed middle school’s track team, the [school] lightning bolts)

      3. Environmental Compliance*

        My college was the Red Men. Our mascot looked like the villain from the Incredibles except if he was an Incredible. The women’s teams were the Lady Reds. The co-ed spirit team is the Red Hots.

        This was after the mascot was changed from a Native American and apparently they went from the Redmen to the Red Men. The “space” became part of the chants. Very confusing as a freshie when the mascot looks like a comic book superhero and everyone’s yelling Red SPACE Men and there’s no astronauts in sight.

        1. iglwif*

          My high school had the (yes, super racist) Redmen. I don’t remember what the women’s sports teams were called but I’m gonna guess Redwomen? Definitely not Lady Redmen, I’d have remembered that level of terrible. This was 30-ish years ago and the school teams are now called something completely different, THANK GOODNESS.

          My university had the Yeomen and Yeowomen, which … boring af but at least not racist or creepy, I guess?? I think they’re now called something else, too.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            We had several petitions circulated around campus to finally change the entirety of the names to literally anything else. I don’t recall them ever succeeding.

            All the alumni stuff still says Red Men, so that’s…….something.

      4. Sorrischian*

        University of Central Missouri at has The Mules and The Jennies – still a little weird but at least it’s accurate?

    4. RecoveringSWO*

      Gross. I’m happy to report that my college referred to all teams as either womens or mens “name of sport” so the default was not the mens team. There was also no “lady mascot” nonsense. That seemed to be the norm in the Northeast. Hopefully it’s catching on everywhere…

      1. Quill*

        Ugh, we had the “redmen” and the “lady reds” and apparently you can’t re-brand while building a new stadium because it will upset the donors, but look, NEITHER of those options was any good, you just get to pick between sexism and racism.

        “but our mascot is a dude in red” no mr. dean, that is NOT what people picture when they read that.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      This is why Cowboys is the ultimate team name. Cowboys, Cowgirls. Is there another one that works that way? (Assuming, of course, that one feels the need to differentiate teams this way, rather than just saying Men’s Cowboy Polevaulting Team and Women’s Cowboy Polevaulting Team?)

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I think cowgirls works because cowgirls have always been independent, strong, hard working. They’ve never been seen as wilting fragile things.

    6. Kendra*

      Yeah, this got weird with my first university’s mascot, the Lumberjacks. Then I did my master’s at a school who’s mascot is the “Fighting Illini,” which is deeply problematic for a whole other reason.

    7. Ace in the Hole*

      My high school did that.

      Worse, our mascot was gendered and had both male and female equivalents. Something along the lines of being called “Kings” and “Lady Kings.” Ugh.

    8. A. Ham*

      ooo ooo I’ve got the best/worst example of that!
      there was (is) a catholic school in my hometown that was named after a pope. The team name was “The Popes” which was bad enough.
      the girls teams? The Lady Popes”

    9. SusanIvanova*

      In the mid-80s, a martial arts protective gear company came out of a line of pink sparring gear. The women’s sizes were a big hit – with men. Because nobody is going to say anything to a male black belt wearing pink sparring gear. Probably would’ve sold even better if they didn’t have “Lady [gearbrand]” plastered across the knuckles.

    10. londonedit*

      Women’s football is having a bit of a moment here in the UK (hoorah!) and to their credit the clubs and leagues and whatnot are doing a lot to quash the whole ‘ladies playing sport’ thing. It’s the Women’s Super League, and the teams are all just called by their names, so it’s Chelsea and Manchester United and Arsenal. If they need to be differentiated from the men’s teams of the same names, you’ll see ‘WFC’ after the name, or Chelsea Women etc, but it’s never ‘Ladies’ anymore. Before this year’s World Cup, the English FA did a huge rebranding exercise under the banner ‘Two Teams, One England’ and the men’s and women’s England teams are treated the same in terms of social media output etc. The England women’s team is known as the Lionesses, but that’s because the men’s team are the Three Lions and lionesses are badass so why not. The Lionesses just played a friendly match against Germany at the national stadium, Wembley, in front of 77,000 people. Often the men’s team don’t get that many people in for a friendly. We have a long way to go, but there is a real feeling that it’s all moving in an extremely positive direction.

  7. Kramerica Industries*

    Yes to this. I can think of so many more ways to empower successful women than to call them “Boss Babes” or “She-EOs”. I can’t imagine anyone would ever use the term “CEO stud” to refer to a man, so it’s equally not okay to gender these titles for women.

    1. fposte*

      “Boss Babe” seems to be a big thing in the MLM community, which often is making the pitch that you can be a full-time mom and run your own “business.”

  8. !*

    Yes, this is still a thing, my male boss is always surprised when I, a woman, handles far more technically complex issues than my male counterparts. We are ALL technicians I’m just an exceptionally good one!

    1. Windchime*

      I was on a conference call yesterday that included a couple of men (whom I have never met in person). They are also report developers, but in a different area. I was asking where the numbers from a certain report came from, and they were vague: “Oh, I think it’s pretty complex.” or “It’s really complicated”. Finally one of them told me the system where the reports came from, and I said, “Oh, I know that logic. I wrote it.”

      There was definitely a “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it, missy. Let the menfolk worry about the details” vibe. Super annoying.

  9. EnfysNest*

    Yes, so gross! My department has a new assistant chief starting soon who happens to be a woman and when we first found out her start date, several of the people in my department (it was a couple of men and one woman) kept referring to her as “the new girl”. I stood there interjecting “She’s not a ‘girl’, she’s a woman” three or four times within the same conversation and it felt like they didn’t even hear me. So obnoxious!

    1. Andream*

      On a side note, how does everyone feel about boss lady. As in boss man and boss lady. Ive heard this in rural areas where the farm hands refer to the man in charge as boss,, usually the farmer who owns the land. And in many instances the farmers wife would be called boss lady. I do t think that this is bad. I come from a rural area where it was commo. For people to get Nick names and such. So if I was called boss lady I thi k it would be ok. Because they are being respectful (lady historically has been a respectable position in society). Especially if they would refer to a male counterpart as boss man.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        I’m okay with anything where they’re doing the same for men and women. So if the male boss is the Boss Man, the female boss can be the Boss Lady. Same thing with calling adult women “girls.” I have coworkers who will talk about “the boys in maintenance…” (for example). In that case if they also mention something about the “new girl” that’s fine by me.

        1. Jackalope*

          Me too. I have a good friend who refers to everyone as boys and girls, never men and women (she’s an elementary school teacher which I think is the reason). I never mind situations like that.

  10. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    This is my feeling exactly with “Boss Babe” too and it’s perpetuated mostly by women who have small side hustles (MLM or not). It’s so gross.

  11. Amber Rose*

    This is majorly a thing in MLMs. If you can find me one woman in an MLM who doesn’t post #GIRLBOSS or something similar on every single post, I will eat my own shoe.

    1. Mediamaven*

      It so is. There is so much need in those industries to elevate and prop themselves up. It’s the same reason they call themselves CEOs and business owners when they really just sell another business owner’s product.

      1. soon 2be former fed*

        ITA. They own nothing, and don’t understand that being an independent contractor is not being an owner. Owners control their businesses, shillers of pyramid schemes control no aspect of how these businesses operate.

      2. annakarina1*

        I have an acquaintance who sells a product in an MLM, and it does bother me how she calls herself an “independent contractor” when it’s really just being a small cog selling products for a major company. And she’s someone who talks a lot about woke progressiveness, but doesn’t seem to question how, when she attended a major event for this company, that the majority of women this company recruits are white affluent women who have a very similar look, seemingly excluding a lot of other ethnicities, and continues to promote it on social media in a “women doing it for themselves!” kind of way.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yes, it’s part of the scam that the companies targeting these woman are doing. They’re implanting that “You’re a business owner now!” seed and feeding them false concepts of being a business owner.

        It’s not just because they’re selling someone elses products. Every retail operation does that. They’re still business owners. But they are not making their own policies or procedures at all, they’re not in charge of anything but their sales tactics in the end. You’re just a sales person for them.

        But people also tell Uber drivers the same thing as well. “Contract work” is often spun to something bigger to make it into something that seems more powerful. Yay, you’re on the hook for a ton of taxes, so you’re a business owner right!? No…you’re still very much not.

        1. Anon this time*

          Agreed 100%
          I know a woman who sells for one of the make up MLMs, and she’s always referring to herself as a small business owner, or talking about how she is building her own “makeup empire.” MLM makeup is a huge national business who you’re just a salesperson for, and that empire has already been built before you did anything. It’s not yours.

          1. Remizidae*

            Yeah, a lot of women in MLM are really just housewives. Housewives with a hobby that they lose money on.

    2. Quill*

      Makes me think that the #Influencers who do essentially the same thing online are consciously modeling themselves the same way…

      1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*


        I am always around. I read every day. I don’t contribute as much because of time but also, the regular commentors here are so good, there is never much of a gap that I can fill.

        I don’t have time for Friday open thread much anymore though. :(

  12. Mid*

    Thank you. It drives me up a wall. I have some female entrepreneur friends who call themselves “Boss Woman” or “Boss B-tch” or “Boss Lady” and I think it’s obnoxious. Why are you not just a Boss? Why do you have to make a separate title? Of course, it’s their choice, and they can refer to themselves however they wish. But I think it undermines their own credibility and strength. And if anyone calls me “girl” at work, they’ll see lasers coming out of my eyes.

    1. John B Public*

      I automatically put the phrase in the box labeled #tryhard which is disappointing, people already have an unhealthy amount of imposter syndrome, why add to it in the minds of others?

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      Well I have said once, “I’m the boss, B-tch” The only time those words belong together.
      FWIW, that was to a male coworker as well.

    3. ...*

      It is quite annoying but I like that you stated people can refer to themselves as we wish. We do not have to agree with it, which it sounds like we don’t, but if someone choose to refer to themselves as that, then that is their free choice.

  13. Mockingjay*

    There was a news report last week about a public school in South Carolina that set up separate career/future leader days for boys and girls. The boys wore shirt and ties and met with local businessmen and community leaders as a “summit”. The girls wore red t-shirts and sat on the floor in the gym and made empowerment posters as a “retreat.”

    From the school’s FB post: “Male role models from the community spoke with the boys about leadership and the importance of character. The Pickens Varsity cheer team spoke with the girls about how to work together to help everyone shine.” Officials later changed the post, saying community members and student athletes had spoken to both boys and girls.


    1. Me (I think)*

      Rural South Carolina. So I’m not really shocked, though I am appalled. I guess they didn’t teach the girls how to serve coffee, so, you know, baby steps.


      1. Smithy*

        “Rural South Carolina. So I’m not really shocked”

        Its funny how people can be so progressive in some ways and still so prejudged in others.

          1. Smithy*

            Um, but not everyone in rural South Carolina is the same? That’s where the prejudice is. Every female is a girl. Everyone in rural South Carolina is backwards. It is not okay to decry sexism and turn around make a stereotypical comment against rural dwellers.

            1. Róisín*

              …Except it’s a pretty well-established fact that rural areas are **generally** less progressive and take longer to adopt modern attitudes and practices than urban ones. And that the American South is further behind on that for myriad reasons. Sure it’s a stereotype, but it’s one that’s a) based on reality, and 2) designed to give a baseline to our outrage. California? Someone needs to be fired and blacklisted, because you should all know better by now. South Carolina? Okay, someone probably just needs sensitivity and sexism training; you may not have really been able to see where you effed up here.

              Also all evils are not equal, and it’s okay to be upset about one without applying the same gusto to all the others.

            2. J.B.*

              In South Carolina you also have the issue that state and local governments are much less likely to step in on stuff like this. North Carolina has been much worse about this recently – passing laws saying that local governments CANNOT have anti-discrimination statutes, they may only go by the state minimum. There’s a huge long history of laws and policies that perpetuate unequal treatment.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        Or here in Illinois. Especially here in the Chicago area. And I strongly doubt it would fly anywhere else in this state.

    2. ...*

      That is more irritating that someone who is likely unsuccessfully trying to sell some “Girl boss seminar” scam or something. Bc adults can see through the mumbo jumbo hopefully but the kids don’t have a choice

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Makes me remember when I tried to apply to the Robotics Club at school. The flyer on the official board said “BOYS ONLY”, in big, bold caps.

    4. SusanIvanova*

      Every single time upper management has talked about how “we’re going to empower you to ___”, it has meant “we are trying to distract you from realizing you have no power at all.”

    5. J.B.*

      When I was in second or third grade we had some people talk to us about what kind of jobs we might want in the future. “Say if your husband worked for a car company you might want to be a nurse so you could find another job after moving.” I shot my hand up and asked what if my husband had to move for my job. They were a teensy bit shocked I think – one of my proudest moments ;)

    6. ThatsMyStapler*

      “Male role models from the community spoke with the boys about leadership and the importance of character. The Pickens Varsity cheer team spoke with the girls about how to work together to help everyone shine.”

      I just threw up a little. What a fricking joke. Terrible.

  14. banzo_bean*

    I think it tends to be a little ageist too- all of these campaigns lean towards a younger group of women (millenials and cusp gen x-ers) without ever really discussing or representing the issues that women born before 1980 face in their careers.

    1. Lygeia*

      I don’t know. As a millennial woman, I don’t appreciate being called a “girl”. I’m in my 30s! I think it’s less to appeal to younger people and more continuing a pattern of diminution of women. After all calling women “girls” is not a new language quirk.

      1. banzo_bean*

        Oh I’m not saying I approve of it for millenials, I am a thirty something millenial woman who despises being called a girl in almost every setting, I just think its coded language. A lot of the girl boss stuff I see out there is targetted to women who fit solidly into the millenial territory, specifically Sofia Amoroso’s blog and show.

      2. Quill*

        Yeah, in my experience this is cyclical. One set of women (in their 40’s and 50’s now) will go “Girl boss!” even though their daughters are already in the working world, the next group will go “ew, infantilizing much?” and then there will be another wave focused from a different industry – so, “influencers” instead of Avon Ladies and the like.

        At this point I treat it as a dogwhistle for “we want to recruit women because we think we can more easily manipulate them.”

  15. This one here*

    My offspring is 35 years old. Once, when they were a little tyke, I said something about a woman boss, and they replied “Bosses are men!” I corrected this notion immediately. Their father (now my longtime ex), told about it later, thought it was hilarious, though.

    A few years ago, a character played by a popular comedian was added to a popular sitcom. The promo said “Wanda Sykes is on ‘Blackish’ and she’s girl-bossin'”. What?

  16. kristinyc*

    A while ago I kept getting an ad on Linkedin that started with “Are you a female manager?”

    Uh….most of the team I manage is male, thanks.

  17. Not a girl.*

    OMG! YES YES YES. I have been fighting a losing battle for years to not have my boss call me a girl, as in when emailing a client, “I will have the girls get that done for you”. Creative department, designer, my name, just not freaking GIRL. His defence is that his wife has “girls night out” all the time so it is obviously an ok term.

    1. KC no band*

      I work in an industry where “the girls in the office” is a common term but the word boys is never used. When I have a chance I correct people but so much of the time it goes on deaf ears.

      1. Joanne’s Daughter*

        My Dad used to refer to the “girls in the office” and I would respond “How old are they? I thought we had child labor laws in this state.” Made him mad every time but eventually he stopped.

  18. Auntie Social*

    Dear Boy Marketers:
    I have no interest in your message or your product.

    Vice President, Operations

    1. banzo_bean*

      Oh, it’s definitely coming from women just as much if not more than men. One pretty famous woman has made it her brand.

  19. DogTrainer*

    I had an employee a few years back who, as a gift, gave me a purple nameplate that said “Girl Boss” on it. I thanked her and immediately threw it away.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I hate those. They’re very prevalent at stores like Marshals, TJX and such: coffee mugs, name plates, note pads with that stuff on them. And also the weird, overly ornate and feminine office supplies and decor.

    2. J.B.*

      A former budget manager (who was totally awesome and on the ball!) had a wine bottle in her office labeled “B!+ch” (edited to get past the filter). That was awesome. I think she would have had the same response as you to the nameplate.

  20. Holly*

    TBH I feel like a lot of women use that term to describe THEMSELVES… way more than other people use it to describe them. It’s like, “I don’t feel comfortable with being a boss but I’m going to step up and do it anyway!”

    It’s like an “empowerment” thing for people who already feel uncomfortable being the boss but are somehow forced into it against their will.

    1. Holly*

      The visual I have is like, someone whose etsy store took off and then they have to hire people even though they feel uncomfortable with having employees.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Someone mentioned it above with a lot of women self-labelling as “girl bosses” as part of their burgeoning side hustles and that definitely doesn’t surprise me. I’m in the process of developing my own side hustle and the amount of “confidence” language that is popular in this particular area is staggering, so I can see how it ties into the “I’m not comfortable with being a boss but if I use this type of jargon, then maybe I can fake it until I do feel comfortable.”

      1. Apfelgail*

        Don’t get me started on all the life coaches calling themselves business coaches that know nothing about business. They’re some of the worst offenders for “confidence” language. I worked as a business coach/strategist for a while, and being tired of explaining at networking events that no, I’m not a career coach, life coach, or promising six-digit first year in business, easy and online! is part of why I’m moving away from it.

  21. R*

    Not work related, but my Dad once referred to his ‘running instructress’. When I lost my sh*t he was very confused and upset. He calls himself a feminist.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      It is weird not to call her teacher or instructor, but was there any chance *she* called herself an instructress? It’s a real word, and I’ve seen stuff as weird in small business marketing.

  22. Qwerty*

    This drives me crazy how much the tech industry refers to me at as “girl developer”. What bothers me the most is that I usually hear this the most from other women. If I say I’m an engineer, they correct me and say that I’m a “female engineer”. Or they purposely stick all the women together on a project so they can brag about having a “girl team”.

    I’ve had so many interviews where the hiring manager felt the need to tell me exactly many women were at the company by listing off “You’ll be our first lady developer, but we have a lady tester and a lady project manager”.

    1. Lehigh*

      I want to see their face if you reply, “Oh, sorry, I’m actually common. Not a lady, sorry. I’d just be a regular developer.”

    2. Anon Here*

      “I actually don’t develop ladies. I work with computers. I write in special languages so that computers will do all the things they do. I can explain in more detail, and I’m happy to answer questions. But if this is a lady development role, it won’t be a fit because I’m a different kind of developer.” Spoken in the most condescending tone possible.

      (Based on actual conversations with men who didn’t realize I’m also a developer.)

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      I’ve often used the term ‘girl geek’ in the past and I think it’s partly because it rolls off the tongue nicely. I know ‘geek’ is the proper term, and I’ve been retraining myself – but what is the proper way to welcome and acknowledge a new geek on my team who shares my gender, since it’s nice when another joins who is a woman? In other words, I want to acknowledge the womanness, but not use ‘girl geek’ or another gendered term. Maybe “Welcome to our team, and yay, you’re not another guy!”?

      1. The New Wanderer*

        TBH I wouldn’t make it the first thing you do in welcoming someone. Feel it, sure, but don’t necessarily express it. What tends to happen, in my experience in predominantly male teams, is that when the women do happen to talk and there are no or few men around, someone will bring up that it’s nice to see the shift in gender diversity/more women on the team, that sort of thing, and that’s kind of a more natural time to share that feeling.

        1. Pebbles*

          I agree with this. I feel the sentiment behind “oh thank you for not being another guy!”, but it’s rather inappropriate (IMO) to make that the focus of the new person at work when presumably they were hired for the skills they can bring to the team and not their womanness. That being said, I prefer “geek chick” when referring to myself, where the “geek” part comes first.

      2. Batgirl*

        You could ask about when her interests began? I actually think geek + girl go well together for the same reasons that boss + girl is a travesty.
        The former relates to interests which were developed probably as a teen and it can be a youth identity people remain true to. The later just sounds absurd because it’s an oxymoron.
        For the same reasons I’ll accept “I’ve always been a romantic type of girl”, but not something like “girl politician” because when you’re talking about leaders you’re certaintly talking about the identity of an adult woman. Especially when you have oversight of others you have to think about wider implications than just what you prefer.

    4. SusanIvanova*

      When I need an adjective in front of “engineer”, it’s “$Framework” :)

      I did get introduced once as the “first woman on our engineering team”, but: it was 1992, the team had about 20 people, and the CEO who did the introducing was one of the early female pioneers in software research and very pleased to be able to say that.

  23. nnn*

    Ugh, I never realized those things were actually targeting adults! I thought they were targeting, like, ambitious six-year-olds.

    (I didn’t pay much attention to the details because I’m not in charge of any children.)

    1. Holly*

      Yeah but also like, what kid wants to grow up and be a “girl astronaut”? I just wanted to be an astronaut.

      1. Tisiphone*

        When I was seven I went around announcing that I would be the second woman president. Because of course there would already be a first by the time I reached age 35.

    2. Lehigh*

      My general impression is that the target audience is in their twenties, and still making the mental transition from “college girl” to adult. Still… “Boy” tends to get left behind somewhere before or during college, doesn’t it? Whereas “girl” does seem to cling and cling…

        1. Quill*

          Boys will be boys when they’re 32 but a 15 year old girl is an “underage woman.”

          Sir, that is a child.

        2. Junger*

          All the power and none of the responsibility!

          We can’t control our own actions or feelings, which is why we should be in charge instead of those emotional girls amirite?


    3. Catsaber*

      My four year old is a “girl boss” in that she is a girl and bosses me around. :) Actually I don’t like to use the word “bossy” with my kids…I want to encourage assertiveness paired with kindness and respect. So if she’s being “bossy” I tell her she needs to speak “kindly”, instead of “stop being bossy.”

  24. AndersonDarling*

    Along with this, I hate articles about women bosses talking about fashion, shopping, and pedicures. Because, you know, a women CEO wouldn’t have anything interesting to say about technological advances or industry innovation… they just sit around going “Eeek! Pretty designer purse!” all day.

    1. Quill*

      Yeah, and also it contributes to the pressure to be *more* feminine the more authority that you have… hence the idea of heels and manicures being “more professional” even if they’re physically restrictive in the course of doing your job.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      One cool thing about Ginni Rometty (CEO IBM) – I don’t think I’ve ever seen an interview with her about her style. It’s all new tech or diversity or New Collar and business-focused stuff. (s)It’s almost like she won’t take interviews / questions on it, as if she’s a boss or something. (/s)

  25. Choux*

    To me, I don’t think “girl” is qualifiying “boss”, but rather “boss” is qualifying “girl.” The women who use these terms tend to cling pretty tightly to their identity as women. To many of them, being a boss is a masculine thing, and they still want to be seen as feminine. At least that’s my take.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think that’s probably the case. “Yes, I’m a ‘boss,’ but don’t forget I’m a girl!”

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          I can bring home the bacon…

          I might occasionally sing that to Mr. Jules, as I make bacon, one of the few foods I’m pretty good at making. I bake it, though, not fry.

  26. Faith*

    The only marketing campaign featuring the word “boss” that resonated with me was “Ban bossy”. I liked the whole premise of “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss”. It did not carry any of the infantilizing connotations of “girl boss” or “she-e-o”, but it got the point across.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I associate “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss” with toxic managers. The types who demand people come to work when they have food poisoning because “you didn’t ask for the day off two weeks ago.”

      Mostly these have been men in my experience.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Someone gave my boss (who is a woman) a mug that says “Yes, in fact, I AM the boss of you.”

  27. SS*

    I threw a temper tantrum at my television recently. The Today show was doing a big report a big outing that was occurring to take female students out to learn about STEM profession and I was okay with part of the story because it was talking about the young girls (under 18 students) that were going into STEM areas so using the term “girl” was appropriate. But then they proceeded to talk about various role models in society that are working in STEM fields and yet they referred to most of those adult professional women as “girls” throughout the article. They would talk about the accomplishments of this female astronaut, and yet keep calling her a “girl” when discussing her. I was loudly yelling at the television because of the deliberate minimization of these women in an article that was supposed to be about empowerment.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      Agreed and frustrating.

      And as a tangent, strongly recommend the “Lady Astronaut” series by Mary Robinette Kowal that confronts a lot of these issues head-on.

    2. Pipe Organ Guy*

      I’d like to see some of these disrespectful people try to call a vocally-heavyweight dramatic soprano a “girl.” These are the women who sing the biggest of big operatic roles–the Wagnerian and Straussian sopranos who sing long roles over and through a hundred-member orchestra, without any amplification. I think they’re the highest paid of opera singers. There have been very, very few male singers who can keep up; most try to conserve their resources just to get through their roles.

    1. Qwerty*

      My brain keeps reading “boy boss” as “boy band” which is adding an amusing spin to comments like this.

  28. Mediamaven*

    What interesting to note about this phenomenon is that women themselves created these names, not men. While the original intention was positive, but I’ve always been grossed out by it. It’s infantilizing and demeaning. Fellow women let’s stop doing this to ourselves and our peers!

    1. SS*

      Agreed. I want to reach out and shake other women when I hear them use the term “girl” in reference to another female adult.

      1. Quill*

        I just don’t think it’s appropriate unless you were actual girls together… if you met as adult women it feels infantilizing. If you’ve known each other since high school? Sure, habit and all.

      2. SimplyTheBest*

        I think some of that comes from the fact that there is no middle word for women. You have girls and you have women. Whereas you have words like guys and dudes that are middle words for men. Men and women can sometimes feel formal, so in places where someone would use guys instead of men, they use girls instead of women since there is not female equivalent of guy.

  29. Massive Dynamic*

    There is an amazing parody site, “Man Who Has It All” housed on Facebook that’s recently started issuing M/F lines of clothing with shirts like “Scientist” for the women and “Male Scientist” for the men. Corporate gifts, anyone?

    1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

      Yes! I didn’t see your comment and posted about this below.

      I am totally buying a Crazy Cat Gentleman for someone for Christmas this year.

    2. littlelizard*

      Yesss, love that page. Especially love the comment community who flesh out the topsy turvy world the page represents.

  30. Holy Carp*

    It’s been decades since a female sergeant referred to me on the phone (within my hearing) as a “lady lieutenant”, as in “Sir, there’s a lady lieutenant here to talk to you.” I was appalled but didn’t have the self-confidence at that time to ask HER why she felt it was necessary to make the distinction to her commander. I did feel it gave me more of a disadvantage in being taken seriously; nowadays I DO call people out on such sexism.

  31. Free Meerkats*

    We had a vendor come in to the plant to pitch his product and the first person he ran into was the plant manager. He asked her if she was the cleaning lady and if she’d go get the plant manager for him. She walked into her office, came back out and said something like, “Hi, I’m Claire, the plant manager. And we’re not interested, let me show you out.”

    That year for Christmas, we presented her with a frilly apron embroidered with “Claire, Cleaning Lady” which she gleefully wore at every potluck ever after.

    She’s now running the engineering group at another agency.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Claire is a kindred spirit.

      I have had this similar interaction a couple times over the years. “But I need to talk to the boss.” “Son, I’m the decision maker here. And yeah, we don’t want any. Here’s my business card if you want some proof, now scoot.”

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        And the only reason I give them my card as proof is to hopefully avoid their GD sales call that will indeed be picked up by me as well. I’ve had people call back trying to get someone new before or stop by after I told them “no” thinking they’ll run into someone else. NOPE STILL HERE, STILL IN CHARGE, BYE.

      2. Pipe Organ Guy*

        I work in a church office. No, I’m not the pastor. No, I’m not the rector. No, I’m not the priest. No, I’m not the chaplain. I am, as my husband says, “all things keyboard.” I’m the church organist. I’m the one who prepares the weekly service booklets. I’m the one who attempts to keep the database in order. I’m the one who puts redacted hymn texts together with tunes to print in the service booklets.

        I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to redirect people to the parish administrator, because what they want is in her purview, not in mine. Some of these people are in great need (financial, food, rent assistance, etc.) and some of them can be very stubborn in their perception of roles. I’m a man, and therefore I must be the pastor, they think. The ways in which we as a society try to shut down at least half of our species’ brainpower and leadership are legion and awful.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This just made me sigh heavily because I know all too well that side of things as well.

          Please turn your attention to our nurses who are males and are often mistook for doctors *face desk*

    2. KC no band*

      I used to be an engineering manager and have a name that could be for a male or a female, something like Jo Smith. The receptionist would transfer calls to my phone, but when I answered the phone, prospecting salespeople would ask for my boss Mr. Smith. Needless to say no purchases were made. I got calls like this from men and women.

  32. Box of Kittens*

    This is a huge debate in the book world with titles! Book titles are obviously a very different animal than being called a girl at work, and I do lean toward Alison’s perspective in this case. But this did make me think of the essay “The Girl with ‘Girl’ in Her Title” by Irish author Catherine Ryan Howard. I didn’t agree with everything in her essay but found it an interesting read so I’ll link it in a comment in case anyone else in interested in another take.

    1. Koala dreams*

      It’s interesting, thanks for linking. I’ve missed that “girl” is considered cliche in book titles. I guess I read the wrong books!

  33. ThatGirl*

    Reminds me of that scene from Fleabag, where she and Belinda are talking at the bar. Belinda talks about women in business awards being a “subsection of success”. Oof.

    1. Me*

      Yup. Total double edged sword. Recognition for minority groups is due to being over looked but also contributes to the concept of otherness.

      1. Justin*

        Almost like we need to change the fact that, if these specialized awards didn’t exist, marginalized groups would still be overlooked.

    2. Filosofickle*

      Such a good moment in Fleabag.

      This phenomenon is really noticeable on Jeopardy!, which I nerdishly watch all the time. For example, there’s always a distinction between Authors and Women Authors, where Authors will be mostly men.

      It’s true that men have the numbers when it comes to “important people whose names are remembered throughout time”. I assume gendered categories is someone’s strategy to make women more visible. But it’s frustrating to see women consistently shunted off into a subsection.

      1. Quill*

        It would not be a problem if they didn’t use it as an excuse to shunt every historical person who was a woman into a special “women’s notaries” subsection and still have 3 times the material on dudes.

        Either make women’s stuff come up equally as often or sprinkle the women back into ‘notaries’ as well.

  34. Anon Here*

    I’m 40 and people still call me a “young lady” when talking about my accomplishments. I’m talked about and talked to as though I’m a child. It’s bizarre.

    1. Me*

      Also a year shy of 40 and majority of the time treated like a child. I’ve posted comments before looking forward to looking “old” so maybe it will stop. So gross.

      1. Catsaber*

        Same here, I’m thrilled with the way my grays are coming in. Maybe I’ll finally stop being mistaken for a student worker!

    2. Blarg*

      I had this happen yesterday while meeting with a (female) recruiter. “There’s a young lady here…” Yea. I’m 39. I’ve been working in this field for more than a decade. Ugh.

      1. Blarg*

        Also I had to do an online assessment for this employer that included the question “are you a habitual smiler?” Which made me want to never smile ever again.

    1. Crcala*

      Truly a question for the ages–how much boob IS too much boob? I love Rachel Bloom.

      And shut it Derrick.

  35. Emi*

    I actually know a girl boss, my niece can get a of kids group together to play any game she makes up. She is 9 years old, and by the time she’s a grown up, I am absolutely sure that she will be The Boss, no qualifiers needed.

    1. Meepmeep*

      My 4 year old daughter is a “girl boss” too. I frequently have to remind her that she is not MY boss. I’m sure she will be the leader of something or other by the time she’s a grownup.

      And now I kinda want to get a “Girl Boss” t-shirt for her.

  36. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    Throwing in a rec for the amazing Man Who Has It All on FB and Twitter (and “he” also published a book!). He sells shirts with #bossgentleman and #boyboss as well as “Crazy Cat Gentleman” and they are amazing.

    1. Róisín*

      This genderfluid kitten foster parent wants a “crazy cat gentleman” t-shirt and never knew it. Hot damn.

  37. Mediamaven*

    I had an employee who wanted to send a package on behalf of our company and sign the card from the girls of the company. I said, I am a woman, not a girl as are you. I said, I do not want you signing something “from the girls” from this company. Many women don’t appreciate that. She argued with me about it and told me I was in the wrong. I got pretty upset. She resigned shortly after, thinking I was not hip and cool because I didn’t want my company of professional ladies referred to as girls. #bai

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have no problem with “girl” and use it frequently while referring to myself and friends.

      However it’s different here.

      This focuses on the fact that it’s some kind of cutesy idea of “OMG a girl is a boss?! That’s so badass…”

      Nobody ever says this to me. The most I’ve gotten was the “Boss Lady” title, which is fine to me because we do indeed call the dudes “Boss Man” or “Boss Dude” even.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I feel like the primary issue I have with calling adult women “girls” is the way our culture prioritizes youth in women. Women in the public eye face a lot more scrutiny for aging than men do, so using language that emphasizes the idea that women should be seen as young in order to be valuable doesn’t sit right with me.

    3. ...*

      No I don’t mind it at all either. I actually discussed it with a similarly aged female report of mine and we came to the conclusion that if its a group of women and we say hey girl, or are the girls coming to X work thing, etc its fine, but if its an older guy using it to say “can the girls take care of the snacks” thats different. But also work in a super female industry with a team of all women

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        I said this above, but I think large part of it comes from there not being a middle word for women. There is no “guy” equivalent that is widely used (you could argue gals, but I don’t think it’s nearly as widely used). So in a situation where you would refer to people as guys instead of men, you tend to revert to saying girls instead of women.

    1. Quill*

      I’m not a babe. If I want you to think about whether or not I’m a babe, attractive, or what the hell ever, I’ll ask you out on a date.

      (spoiler: I will never do this, keep your hormone induced thoughts in your skull where I don’t have to know about them, please.)

  38. Anonon*

    I hope millennial women will make an end of this. I grew up thinking that doctors were men and nurses were female wanna-bes, that male aviators drove planes while an aviatrix served coffee in the cabin. When you’re a little girl and sexism is all you see, you internalize it. In school we had boy tracks and girl tracks: no boys allowed in home ec, no girls in shop or mechanical drawing. We had different career aptitude tests because everyone – kids and adults – accepted that there are girl jobs and boy jobs. As an adult I’ve come to suspect that our midwest community thought that this would protect us from the temptation to cross Old Testament gender boundaries. So it makes sense to me that women who live in conservative communities like where I grew up would say “Girl Boss,” meaning, “Yes I manage people but don’t take it the wrong way. I’m a god-fearing straight woman with family values!”

    1. Amber Rose*

      I took a robotics class in junior high and really screwed up one of my projects because I misunderstood some instructions. The teacher’s response was “Who let girls into this class anyway?!”

      I kinda… didn’t wanna do stuff like that anymore for a long time. It sure has a big impact on kids to hear and see that kind of stuff, people don’t even realize. I’ve been having this battle with my husband and other people lately who got upset over the change of one word in the Canadian anthem to make it gender inclusive because it was “unimportant.”

      It was. But it’s just one more small unimportant thing in an ocean of them, and such an easy change to make, if it helps boost up girls then we should.

      1. Quill*

        I took shop because my experience with home ec included a dude stabbing his hand really badly with a sewing machine and the teacher fainting. Same class, different day, was a massive food fight with hot cookie dough. I didn’t want to go back.

        In shop we mostly messed around with balsa wood.

      2. iglwif*

        OMG that one-word anthem change!! I got into SO MANY pointless Facebook arguments with siblings-in-law about that. Finally I wrote a whole big essay, with links, documenting all the times the English words have been changed, which I’m sure didn’t change any of their minds but did make me feel better XD

        Last time O Canada was on the program for my choir, one of the tenors spoke up to remind the conductor of the word change. Conductor is like, right, yeah, and rolls his eyes a little bit … and I had *HAD IT* and said, “Don’t roll your eyes, [name]! Some of us have been feeling excluded by those words for decades!” … and half a dozen younger women came up to me after rehearsal to say they were glad I’d said something, which made me REALLY glad I had.

        It’s amazing how you (general you) don’t notice who’s excluded when it’s not you…

    2. Anon Here*

      Sadly, I’ve seen just as much of it in liberal and/or secular communities. But it’s framed a different way.

  39. obviously*

    Female is an adjective.
    Woman is a noun.

    “Female doctor” is a doctor who is female.
    “Female pilot” is a pilot who is female.
    “Woman pilot” is someone who flies women.
    “Woman doctor” is a gynecologist.

    1. Amber Rose*

      But a “Doctor” is not gender specific. Why bring gender into it at all? Usually you only do that to be patronizing or belittling.

      And as pointed out above, due to trans men and women, Woman Doctor is not an appropriate term for gynecologist either.

        1. Quill*

          If you can’t handle the clinical terms for “woman parts” we have a completely separate problem. The specializations have names (Gynocologists and Obstetricians) and the fact that they’re related to reproduction doesn’t mean you can’t say them like you’d say a Dentist, an Orthodontist, an Osteologist, a Surgeon, a Proctologist…

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          I’d go with “lady bits doctor”, myself. Or maybe even “lady bits doctor dude”? (Because of course the doctor is a guy!)

      1. techRando*

        Sometimes you do want to talk about a group for a valid reason.

        “Female engineers were more likely to have been asked out by coworkers than male engineers, some of the female engineers even reporting that 5+ separate coworkers had asked them on dates. Many reported that it made them feel alienated and disrespected, as well as saying that it ‘sucked majorly’.”

        But yeah, there’s usually not a valid reason to break things down by gender.

        1. techRando*

          I do want to say explicitly: I am 100% including trans women in “female”. The idea that trans women are actually male or male-bodied is gross and stupid.

          And we don’t need to reserve male/female to talk about biological sex because “biological sex” is already murky and weird as a concept. If someone being fertile is relevant to a discussion, mention that. If someone having a [specific body part] is relevant, than say that. Trans people overwhelmingly don’t match the statistics related to their ASAB (assigned sex at birth) anyways, even for medical conversations. (Example: trans women do not get osteoporosis at the rates cis men do. It’s just inaccurate to assume they’re “medically” men.)

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      So are you saying we should say “female” instead? Because there are issues with the use of “Female” in general.

      The point is a doctor is a doctor. A pilot is a pilot. Their gender or sex do not need to be included, ever.

      1. Quill*

        You can also just, you know, trust people to be able to figure it out from pronouns.

        “Leading Cancer researcher says she is developing a novel treatment method.”

      2. obviously*

        I don’t think we need qualifiers at all, but what I am saying is that using nouns in place of adjectives weirds the language.

      3. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

        In the last couple years, I was elected Chair of our local Democratic party.

        And some of our old school men started calling me Madam Chairwoman, which, I get, I get the history. And I get that even though we are a blue state, I am one of only a few women in the chair position for a few counties and you haven’t had a lot of practice. However, imma like, no, you can just call me “Chair”, thank you very very very much. And I correct them, and will correct them, for as long as it takes.

        I’ve been fighting this battle in the workplace since 1981. Never surrender. :)

        also, #NotAGirl

        1. Media Monkey*

          interesting fact – if the lord mayor of london is a woman, her husband is the lady mayoress. i love this.

    3. Cruciatus*

      I have been seeing this everywhere! No one else seems bothered by it, but I see it on headlines all the time by NBC and USAToday and all over the place– “Woman author”, “woman doctor”. I agree that just “doctor” or “author” should be fine, but I find “woman _____” to be worse than “female ____.”

      1. Holy Carp*

        In the same vein, I’ve seen many news stories over the years that refer to a “grandmother”, and I always think – how is that germane to the story? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a male subject referred to by his grandfather status.

    4. Pilot That is Female*

      I hate being called female pilot. I am a pilot that is female. My gender has nothing to do with my ability to fly an aircraft. None of my coworkers are called male pilots. I am a qualified pilot, not a token.

    5. whingedrinking*

      I know you’re catching a lot of flak here but I actually agree. Mostly because of how much I hate it when people use “female” as a noun. I find it incredibly dehumanizing.

    6. The New Wanderer*

      I think obviously’s point is that Girl Boss and the like aren’t even conveying the message they intend. As in, the performative meaning of girl boss is female leader wrapped up in a pithy name, but technically it means boss of girls.

      Girl boss is just as diminishing as “female boss,” but somehow catchier in the mind of marketers and MLMs, both of whom use it as performative feminism. Weirdly, I think the term “girl boss” is embraced by a completely different demographic than “female boss,” which to me speaks more to internalized bias.

  40. Scott G*

    I agree as does my boss. One thing I do however is use the term ‘guys’ as a gender neutral pronoun. Nobody has ever said anything but I’m curious to know what you all think of this.

    1. nnn*

      I strongly suspect the question of whether “guys” or “you guys” is heard/intended as masculine or all-inclusive is geographical, and I really want someone to make something like the pop vs. soda map to chart this.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Geographical but also generational. It seems to be more in use by the younger millennials and gen X’ers.

    2. Mediamaven*

      We (all ladies) had a client call us “you guys” and then apologize profusely. I felt bad because he literally didn’t know if it was ok or not. I said we weren’t bothered by that at all. I feel like maybe it’s not always the best but it’s a fine catch all.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      It’s harder for me to police it in my actual speech, but if I’m writing emails to colleagues I nearly almost always stop myself and write “Hi Everyone” or “Hey All” or “Hi Team” or whatever works best in context. “You guys” can usually just be shortened to “You” without problem, as well.

      It just seems like something that a lot of people have said they don’t like and isn’t onerous for me to change, so why not make an effort at work even if people in your personal life are fine with it, you know?

    4. SometimesALurker*

      I think that for a lot of people, it doesn’t even read as gendered when “guys” is plural, but if a specific person asks you not to include them in that, you should go with what they say.
      I’ve also heard people say “‘guys’ isn’t gender neutral, it’s male-as-default, unless you know any straight bros bragging about all the guys they banged in college” and I … don’t have a counter-argument for that.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        “guys’ isn’t gender neutral, it’s male-as-default”

        That’s pretty much why it’s not great. I mean, I’m sure there are far worse options in terms of collective nouns you could call groups of women (or groups containing women), but it also seems like we could strive for something better at this point.

      2. Strange Woman Lying in a Pond*

        It’s slightly different because “guys” is only functionally gender neutral when used as a term of 2nd person address (“hey, you guys”), not in 3rd person reference (“I slept with all those guys in college”).

        I think it is accurate that even in a 2nd person context, it has been able to become functionally gender-neutral by relying on the masculine-as-default thing, but that is how English usually works. (Universities give out “bachelor” and “master” degrees, a mixed group of graduates are “alumni,” and a mixed group of people who act can be called “actors,” etc.)

        1. Zephy*

          I don’t think I’d want a “mistress” degree, though…

          But you’re right, male-as-default being “gender-neutral” is a pretty terrible artifact of English.

          1. Strange Woman Lying in a Pond*

            Lol, me neither (or a “bachelorette” degree!). I didn’t mean that those examples were something we need to necessarily fix, just that it’s a common thing in English.

    5. Roz*

      I struggle with this too – I’m female and have always used it as a way to acknowledge a group of people regardles of gender. But I can see how no one knows the intentions in my head and they would hear it through their lens, which could verywell be that to them it only recognizes people as men. I have been trying to catch myself, but this one is so hard for me to even notice when i say it that I’m failing so far in changing this speech habit.

    6. MayLou*

      I have made quite a big effort over the last year to replace this usage with the term “folks”. Same informality, zero gendering.

      1. Krabby*

        Omg, love it. I’m Canadian so “guys” is such a default for me (living the stereotype). “Hey folks” sounds so much more natural than, “Hey all.”

        1. iglwif*

          Yeah, I have been struggling with my tendency towards “guys” and “you guys” for a while. (I particularly have to avoid addressing my spouse and offspring as “you guys” because my daughter will absolutely retort with NOT A GUY, IMA.) In writing I’m comfortable using y’all, everyone, folks, or all, but y’all sounds weird in my accent–like, I still say it, but I’m aware that people look at me funny–and if I’m not thinking I will just say “hey, guys”. It’s a work in progress…

      2. LQ*

        Yeah, I’ve shifted pretty hard over to folks. It fits in with the rest of the casualness of my speaking and writing style so it works well for me. I do think that language choice can be contagious and can change the way we think about things. I know there have been studies around the languages that people grow up with impacting the way they think about the world. I know that there are studies around things like which word choices are used to describe you impacting your performance. (You are welcome to quibble with me about the reproducibility of these if you have a good knowledge of it!)

        I definitely have a clear voice when I speak (the people I work with joke about LQisms and someone made a list of all the made-up words I use, I’m very pro-verbification!) and I’ve heard plenty of LQisms in other people’s speech patterns over time, even spreading to people who don’t work directly with me. So if I’m contagious why wouldn’t I do my best to make deliberate, more inclusive linguistic choices to add to the contagion over time.

      3. The New Wanderer*

        I’ve seen this a lot at work lately. I actually don’t like the word “folks” (it’s like “moist” – useful but unpleasant to my ears) but I tend to use it more than “guys” because it’s become more common.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Everyone is leaning more towards “Hey All” or “Hey Team” to avoid this gendered wording.

      I’m still retraining myself as well, since my usual go tos have been “guys” and “bro”, being submerged in a male dominated area.

      I learned this only after realizing how weird it feels when someone comes in and says ‘Hey guys! Oh and girl!” or whatever, rather often they’ll correct themselves really formally. “Hey Guys, oh! And ma’am!”, which draws more attention the awkwardness that wasn’t actually there before this conversation swerved.

      So it’s not that people are naturally bothered by it but it’s still good to delete from your speech before it’s a problem since you can see from the jump it could be an issue, maybe not today but maybe tomorrow, you know.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Same for me – this is part of a general retraining I’m trying to do to reduce my overall use of gender.

    8. Platypus Enthusiast*

      I’ve never thought much about ‘you guys’, because I was raised in an area where that was the default. I’ve definitely been hearing more and more that it’s exclusionary, and I can understand that. What about dude(s)? I’ve always used it as “ah, hello fellow human being with whom I have a casual and laid back friendship”.

    9. Platypus Enthusiast*

      I’ve never thought much about ‘you guys’, because I was raised in an area where that was the default. I’ve definitely been hearing more and more that it’s exclusionary, and I can understand that. What about dude(s)? I’ve always used it as “ah, hello fellow human being with whom I have a casual and laid back friendship”.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        dudes has the same problem, it’s just at a different point in the assessment / awareness cycle.

        I’m finding it’s mostly possible to address people without any gender specific term, perfectly naturally, I just have to think about it instead of going with my youth / teen defaults.

        1. Platypus Enthusiast*

          At work, I usually just say everyone or everybody, which works well, but I have to take another moment to think about it when I’m in a casual setting with friends. I’m trying to actively correct myself whenever I catch myself thinking in gendered terms- I just realized recently that dude is gendered as well (I realize how oblivious that sounds, but I truly never thought about it growing up).

    10. Andream*

      Yup I do too. I had a professor who would start his emails as hey guys and gals. He was not from the south. I think he was trying to be inclusive but it just felt weird.

    11. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

      And…I am from Philly and maintain, strenuously, that “guys” is gender neutral in local dialect. I’ve gotten into (friendly) arguments on that subject in this community in the past. I use it, I approve of it.

    12. Ermintrude*

      Since ‘guy’ is from Guy Fawkes and the effigies of him burnt in bonfires, I personally don’t avoid using it and ‘guys’ but I understand why others find that problematic.

    13. InfoSec SemiPro*

      It’s not gender neutral, it’s male as default.

      I strongly urge people to find other collective terms to use. You shouldn’t make someone have to speak up about how you’re making them uncomfortable by excluding them in your speech before you change the habit. You know it makes some people uncomfortable, work on the habit now before you make someone you care about uncomfortable.

  41. No longer Boss Lady*

    I apologize for feeding into this with a prior handle I’ve used in this forum. I love that this place challenges me on the things I’ve picked up and don’t always think critically about.

    1. Sleve McDichael*

      I always thought of you as being the opposite of ‘Boss Man’ which is a thing people really say.

  42. Whatever*

    It is so gross. I will admit, I rather like the other new term I’ve heard lately: HBIC. Head Bitch in Charge. You bet I am!

    1. Saraphina*

      I had a friend edit a cover letter for me once, it was for a position at her university. She added the proper formatting she knew they liked, and then sent it back. Thank god I looked closely before I sent it off, because after my name I had two credentials listed, and she had added “HBIC”. I quickly texted her saying “do you know what that means?” She said no, but she had seen it on my facebook page and thought it was something science related. She was so embarrassed when I told her I put it on facebook as a joke :)

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I have referred to myself as the HBIC before, including one memorable time when I was dealing with a jackass man who thought he could talk down to me. I would LOVE to include “AvonLady Barksdale, MA, HBIC” in my signature… but I don’t even include the MA so I guess I’m SOL.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      New term?

      That’s not new…and please don’t. We aren’t bitches either. We don’t call dudes “Head Prick in Charge” or “Head Asshole in Charge”. Bitch is not empowering, it’s a slur unless you’re talking about an actual female dog.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          So what?

          It’s still offensive, rather it offends YOU personally or not.

          Yay, they didn’t offend YOU, yay for YOU. See where that’s going.

          1. banzo_bean*

            That’s a little unfair, there is a significant movement of women behind reclaiming the term bitch, and that movement has been around since second wave feminism so its not new. I think it’s ok for women to feel both ways about the word without being selfish or wrong.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Woman here, it sucks by me. I actually hate all the dehumanizing terms, like b*, cougar, etc. We’re people, talk about us as people.

      1. ThatGirl*

        There can be reasonable disagreement on that, but even so, I wouldn’t use it in the workplace, that’s for sure!

        (Also acutely aware of my own screen name here, but it’s a holdover from when I was a girl and also a vague Marlo Thomas reference)

      2. banzo_bean*

        I would object to using the word at work, but I do think a number of women find reclaiming the word bitch empowering. Much like queer in the LGBTQ community.
        And there are feminist academic texts that argue for bitch’s usage as a reclaimed term of empowerment. There is even a whole feminist media outlet that operates under the monocre.

        That said, it’s totally fine to object to someone labeling you with that word- whether its in a feminist tone or not. But there is a significant feminist population that does find using the term empowering.

      3. Jackalope*

        I will confess that a large part of the reason that I get less bothered by that word than some is that my first several years of exposure to it were almost exclusively through reading James Herriot. It still has something of a positive connotation to me even decades later.

  43. Mbarr*

    Let’s face it, men tend to gravitate towards high paying careers like doctor, lawyer, software developers, and CEO. Women on the other hand tend to gravitate towards lower paying careers like female doctor, female lawyer, female software developer, and female CEO.

  44. Koala dreams*

    I see it usually as an empowerment thing where people want to under-score that the days when women were told to act like the men to make career are way past, nowadays even the most feminine woman can be the boss. People call themselves “lady boss” not because they are uncomfortable being the boss, they do it because they want to make a point.

    Of course, the implications change when it’s applied to someone else, who didn’t choose this expression themselves.

  45. Queequeg in his coffin*

    Well the real problem is that men are naturally pulled towards high-paying careers like boss, doctor, and pilot, whereas women gravitate naturally towards lower-paying jobs like female boss, female doctor, or female pilot. That’s probably why this language is persistent.

    (/s and it’s not my joke, I stole it from a meme.)

    1. Meg*

      almost got upset there!

      But seriously–I am in a low-paying career field with a majority of women to men. Like, seeing a male in my field out in the wild is like catching a unicorn. Anyway, on average men are STILL paid more than women in my field. On the fact that they are the minority.

      Ironic, I guess?

  46. Pipe Organ Guy*

    Amazing, astonishing, horrifying that there’s still so much overt sexism. Then I think of the diocesan convention I went to a couple of years ago during which the delegates were electing a new bishop for the diocese. There were three candidates: two women and one man. A nearly unheard-of thing happened: the new bishop, one of the women, was elected on the first ballot. Women have powerful voices in the Episcopal Church, I’m glad to say, in ordained ministry and in many lay ministries. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in a great many other denominations.

    I think of the field in which I was educated, classical music, and think of how many battles women have had to fight. However, today’s orchestras are filled with women in all sections. Women are making inroads, slowly but surely, as conductors, the area where men have fought hardest to keep women out. Women have always been active as composers, but until relatively recently, they’ve been invisible. That’s ending, and we’re the richer for it.

  47. Retro*

    How do we feel about HBIC (head b in charge)? I see it being in the same vein as girl boss, but find that it’s used more to describe when a woman is using her expertise and assertiveness to achieve a good outcome. But then again, it uses the word b which isn’t very positively used towards women in the workplace.


    1. Mockingjay*

      HBIC has very negative connotations that she had to be aggressive, grouchy, mean, backstabbing, etc. in order to achieve the outcome. All of these are personality traits, not business skills. The HBIC label completely ignores the reality that a woman planned, managed, budgeted, and scheduled effectively to make the project a success.

      1. banzo_bean*

        Oh, I guess I’ve never really heard it used in that way. In fact when I hear or see the term HBIC, its normally not in a work context setting but more in a personal life/character description. I always most frequently see people describe themselves as the HBIC. Sort of like a “boss hoss” type thing.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m against the negativity behind it. You can be aggressive by having a powerful title, you don’t need to throw in “bitch” that’s been historically used to tear woman down and strip down their humanity, by likening them to dogs. It’s classic discrimination tactic to remove the human out of it and treat someone like a beast of some kind.

      I get the “reclaiming” idea behind it. It’s an interesting concept but no thank you.

    3. Meg*

      No, I don’t care what anyone says about stereotyping the term bitch. I consider it an empowering term and it’s a flexible term to me. Basically, you just have to know the women you use the term with–don’t just use it freely with any woman out there without having a relationship with her.

    4. Koala dreams*

      It’s funny how people can have different reactions to the same word. I have a much more negative feeling toward “bitch” compared to “girl”. A lot of people have it the other way around.

      1. Meg*

        Yes, actually, I do get offended by being called a girl. Because I’m pushing 40 and I am not a girl. But bitch? All my best friends are bitches.

        No one is wrong, btw. It’s just what we prefer to use to describe us.

      2. whingedrinking*

        To me it’s very much all about the intent and the context. I call myself queer, but that doesn’t lessen the sting when it’s hurled by someone who hates me. “Bitch” is the same. Someone who uses it on herself is a different thing than someone else using it to take her down.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          That’s the problem with taking back a word with such negative associations. I get that it’s better than pretending the word doesn’t exist or trying to make people (or just out-groups) not use it, but there’s no way to own the way other people choose to use it.

          At least bitch has some power to it. Babe really doesn’t, it’s decorative.

    5. SimplyTheBest*

      Along with HBIC, I’m curious about people’s thoughts on BDE (big dick energy). It’s not the same in that it doesn’t include language that is sexist towards women, but anytime I here someone use BDE to refer to a woman I can just feel my hackles raising.

  48. Nicki Name*

    Preach it!

    I’m in tech, where there are any number of organizations aimed at supporting women in tech which have names containing “girl” or “chick”. Ugh.

    1. Pebbles*

      I’m also in tech and I gotta say, I hate the use of “girl”, but “chick” doesn’t bother me. I’ve used it when referring to myself, as in “geek chick”. The geek comes first so maybe that makes it more acceptable to me? Dunno.

  49. Southern Gentleman*

    Somewhat related, hope it’s not a derail: This week I attended a high school soccer match, female participants. I noted that one team referred to themselves as “Gators,” while the other was “Lady Tigers.”
    As a frequent reader of AMA, i know there’s a strong anti-“ladies” sentiment here; but moreover I thought we were long past gender designations for sports teams.
    What do y’all think?

    1. Meg*

      i’m not sure what you mean by “anti-ladies”. I don’t care if people call me a lady.

      But it would have been more clever to name the team Le Tigres…. After the band.

    2. Retro*

      I think in school settings, “lady” can be added to emphasize pride that we are women or girls doing sports/whatever activity that is usually associated with boys. So I think the intention is good, but I don’t actually think it should be used because it specifically calls out the gender when it’s not necessary. Tigers is a general term covering both female and male tigers.

      It’s sort of like how my high school only had a women’s soccer team. But our announcements always say “The *girls* soccer team defeated Other High School this weekend” instead of “The soccer team defeated Other High School.” The distinction isn’t necessary, so why make it?

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Any time people add “Lady” before some collective noun, I tend to read it sarcastically so it makes me laugh a bit. *Lady* Tigers!!

      In England, a lot of the professional women’s soccer teams were called “[Club Name] Ladies” and so there’s been a bit of movement in the last year to get them to change it. Naturally, most just changed it to “[Club Name] Women”, which to me doesn’t actually fix the problem of the fact that you’re bothering to delineate the women’s team one way without doing the same for the men. If you watch things like the Olympics, you’d definitely see Men’s Soccer and Women’s Soccer like it’s no big deal (because it isn’t), so I always have to laugh when we think changing something from “Ladies” to “Women” is somehow a really progressive change.

    4. Koala dreams*

      Where I live we are a long way to go before we can do away with gender designations for sport teams. The more enlighted people refer to the lady team and the gent team for adult participants, and girl and boy for the youth participants. The less enlighted ones don’t use any gender label for the male teams, only for the female teams. (I hope it’s okay to use male and female in this context.)

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Everything takes time and there are still plenty of schools who are refusing to change, it depends on the school boards and the parents in the end at how fast they change terminology.

      One of our schools back home recently changed their name from “Axe Men” to “Axe” to remove the gender issue. But we still have teams with racist AF mascots out there =( one bite of the elephant at a time.

    6. Forrest Rhodes*

      The only sports venue where the use of Ladies is okay with me is Wimbledon, because both divisions are labeled: Ladies’ Singles/Doubles, Gentlemen’s Singles/Doubles.
      Re terms of address for work: a favorite long-age freelance client and I (both female) referred to each other as SWMBO: She Who Must Be Obeyed. She was SWMBO regarding project assignments, deadlines, etc.; I was SWMBO regarding the project’s nuts-and-bolts-level stuff.
      When the kids in my life were small, I taught them, “When SWMBO speaks, she should be heeded,” and it was pretty effective!

  50. Meg*

    I liked the term when I first heard it– I read it as the title of Sophia Amoruso’s book, and I like her a lot. But then everyone started using it, including MLM women, and it was everywhere. And yes I’m sick of it. Including Boss Lady and other variants.

    The only one I like is Boss Baby. For comedic reasons.

    1. Quill*

      Yeah, if it goes out of its way to emphasize Girl Boss, Boss Lady, having it all… it’s a predatory MLM, not empowerment.

  51. JSargeant*

    Relieved to know I’m not the only one who gets just pissed off about this sort of thing. Seriously, people need to pull their heads out of their arses and realize that yes, while there are some differences between the genders, one of them is not the ability to lead.

  52. You're not the girl boss of me*

    I have to wonder how much of this “girl boss”, “girl whatever” thing stems from the fact that so many men are uncomfortable with or intimidated by women who are strong and/or in positions of power. Heaven forbid that a woman actually manage them.

    1. Meg*

      I think originally when Sophia Amoruso used the term for the title of her book, it was because she was a young woman and successful, still at the point where she thought of herself as a girl. It made sense.

      It was then co-opted to mean any female in charge–even if they are 50 and nowhere near girlhood. Your theory makes sense–I’d think men probably took the term to corral all women into it.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Second the recommendation. They also have a FB page and the comments are usually really good too.

  53. Shmee*

    YES. I had to give feedback to my direct that when he calls me “lady boss”, it comes across as unprofessional. It hasn’t happened since, thankfully, but I’m not sure how anyone thinks that’s ok.

  54. Andream*

    I hate the girl boss and boss babe marketing stuff. There was a really nice planner I was going to get but it said boss babe. There’s just something about it that irritates me.

  55. it's all good*

    I remember growing up in the 70’s and had a riddle presented to me. “A boy and his dad were in a car accident. They were taken to the hospital, the boy needed surgery. The surgeon saw the boy and said “I can’t operate, this is my son!”. How could this be?” We racked our brains for hours. Of course, the surgeon was his mom. Did not occur to us at all! In the 80’s I remember being told that computers were for boys. Going to college late 80’s for computer science, 85% men. I’m glad things are different (but not optimum yet) for my daughters in the work force.

    1. Monkey princess*

      I remember this too, in the 80s, and I remember the “aha! Of course, there can totally be a woman who is a doctor too” reaction. I tried it with a Girl Scout troop I led a couple years ago, and they were all confused at how it was a riddle, because obviously it was the mom. They didn’t even pause. It warmed my heart that at least we’ve come that far.

    2. Former Govt Contractor*

      I presented this exact same riddle not 2 weeks ago and STILL no one figured it out. SIGH

  56. The Other Katie*

    Unless we’re talking about lemonade stands or teen app entrepreneurs, “girl boss” is not a thing at all.

  57. Laura H.*

    I get the outrage, but as words are often paired, I present an argument for not completely purging the use of “girl” in semi-professional company – you have men/ women, and boy/ girl… but when you get to the general traditionally masculine (and I think a bit more age-ambiguous) “guy”, there are two commonly offered feminine options “girl” and “gal” (and a la a certain musical, you have “doll”- oops. Musical geek is showing)

    Frankly, if I had a choice, I feel “girl” is the least offensive/ best fitting accompaniment to that age-ambiguous “guy”. It’s something of a lose-lose situation.

    Also, I’ll happily let these ladies self-label as “girl-boss” if they want to- their professional reputation (or lack there of) is none of my concern. I don’t have to support the stuff they do.

    1. Andream*

      I feel guy has become gender neutral. I’ve used guys to refer to my friends or co-workers my entire life. I think it would be safe to use guys with entire team.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        Guy is gender neutral (and by that I mean, male as the default) when referring to a group, but not an individual. I don’t think if you said “I met up with this guy last night” that anyone would assume you meant someone female.

  58. She's One Crazy Diamond*

    I am so sick of being called a “girl” in general! And the worst offenders are other women! Some excuses I’ve heard:

    -“You’re young enough to be my daughter/granddaughter”: well so what, I’m not, I’m your colleague.
    -“It sounds so formal to say woman and girl is more casual”: only because you’re not used to it. Also, again you’re my colleague, not my close friend, so I am fine with you addressing me formally.
    -“I prefer to use girl for myself and people my age because even though I’m 30, I don’t feel like a real adult”: Um…grow up…and just because you want to stop time and pretend to be a kid forever doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same way.

    Sorry if I sound snippy, but being a millennial who is an old soul can be gear grinding when surrounded by peers who complain about “adulting” and then having older generations assume we’re all like that.

    1. Rockin Takin*

      I feel like this has been reinforced more by older women than men.
      I also constantly have older women in my office tell me to smile more.

    2. Disgruntled Pelican*

      In regards to point number three, for me personally it’s not because I want to stop time and pretend to be a kid forever. I am nearly 30, married, have a mortgage and a baby on the way. By all accounts, I’m a real adult (not that you need these things to be an adult). But I don’t understand how interest rates work, I don’t have a ‘career’, I hate calling and making appointments, I hate wine that isn’t super sweet and $6. As a kid, adults seemed like they had everything figured out, could handle themselves professionally and weren’t insecure about anything. Obviously that is not true but I feel like the personification of that meme ‘when you’re looking around for an adult and realise you’re the adult’. For what it’s worth, I am also an old soul. I just don’t feel like a particularly grown up one.

      Not really sure what I’m trying to say but I am only just now, very slowly getting comfortable with the idea of referring to myself as a woman and not a girl.

      1. Ermintrude*

        Same – I use the term ‘adulting’ to distinguish the things I do to manage my life independently, like working, paying bills, etc. and find that context empowering. I don’t feel particularly like an adult, but I do take responsibilty for keeping things ticking over.

  59. Now in the Job*

    Am I the only one who is now going to refer to my male bosses as a “boy boss”? I’ve had two bosses and one boy boss in my professional career so far…

  60. elescissorhands*

    hmm.. I’m welcoming opinions for or against continuing to address my all-female staff as ‘ladies’ in email (e.g. “Good morning ladies!”). What else do I say?

    1. Now in the Job*

      I detest the term “Ladies.” It has a lot of baggage around expected, demure behavior. There are gender-neutral options: “everyone,” “folks,” and “team” are just a few.

      1. Ciela*

        good for you for asking!
        but yes, anything else, NOT ladies…

        Teapot Team
        and in meetings, “all y’all”, if you’re far enough south to get away with that

        Unless you addressing Lady Stark, Duchess of Winterfell…

          1. Donkey Hotey*

            Said it yesterday, will say it again today:
            Try going up to rando het-case man at a bar/gym/other public space and suggest he has sex with a lot of guys. Tell me how that works out.

            Male is not the default.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      “Good morning, everyone!”

      “Hello all!”

      “Good morning!”

      “Hello everyone!”

      Is there a reason that gender needs to be included in this?

    3. Sara without an H*

      I usually just say “Hi, everyone.” You can continue to say “good morning,” if you prefer it.

    4. Blueberry*

      Good morning, Scissorfingers!
      Good morning, Staff!
      Good morning, Everyone!
      Good morning, Esteemed Coworkers!
      Good morning, Honored Compatriots! (ok maybe not that)

      You could make a little list and use a different honorific each time. :D

  61. Rockin Takin*

    I was in a training meeting and the only woman in the room. The trainer kept referring to my team as “the girls” and saying that the guys in the room needed to help us with the machinery (my specific team was mostly women, which was very unusual for our site). I stopped him and said “For the record, while I may be small, I am in fact a woman. And if we need help with a process, we will ask for it. Do not assume we are unable to do our jobs.”
    He looked so scared and was silent for a while before continuing the training.

    Apparently that was discussed in the gossip mill for weeks, haha.

  62. AnonyNurse*

    Also, men who are nurses are … nurses.

    Not male nurse.
    Not murse.

    When you denigrate men by pointing out they are in a career traditionally held by women, you are insulting women. That the man shouldn’t have stooped to the level of women’s work.

    On the other hand, even in nursing, men out-earn women in all settings and are over-represented in nurse leadership roles.

    1. Andream*

      The only time I can see needing to clarify that he is a male nurse is if it would negativly affect the patient. For example, a rape victim may not feel comfortable being treated by a man, even if he’s just putting a bandage on a cut on her arm Same thing with women of certain religions or from certain cultures. They do not want to be touched by men outside of their family, as it is against their religion/ culture. But in general conversation, there is no need. He is a nurse, period.

      1. Blueberry*

        I’ve actually seen this in action, and usually it’s just an assignment question. “Amy can take Room 14, the subdural hematoma … no, Room 15 is the assault victim, Amy can take that one and Brian can take Room 14.” Gender is implicit in the names I used for my example, and obviously considered in the assignment, but it usually doesn’t rise to the level of “Room 15 cannot have a male nurse.” Because, yeah, “male nurse/male teacher/male secretary” are terrible formulations for the reasons mentioned above.

    2. pcake*

      I was pretty much here to point out that same thing.

      There is no job that needs a gender in front of it. Women are often bosses, men are perfectly capable of being nurses.

  63. Ciela*

    Wow, that’s a thing? In this century?!? Yeah, I would find that extremely off putting and not buy anything from that company.

    When I get e-mails from customers addressed as “Hi ladies” I die a little inside. Yes, I know you sent the e-mail only to me and Bubble. I know we are both women. But just seeing one word used to address both of us, as if what’s between our legs is our defining characteristic, just no, so much no.

    But on the other hand, I have family members who still refer to me and my sister as “the girls”. This I find rather adorable. But then I like my sister, don’t mind being lumped in with her, and it’s all from people who have know us our entire lives.

  64. FormerFirstTimer*

    That phrase has always kind of squicked me out. Same with mail lady, which just sounds like a patronizing oxymoron.

  65. Falling Diphthong*

    When my daughter was 4, she had one friend she referred to as her boy friend. She did not remotely mean “boyfriend” with no space, and much as I tried to explain to her why adults laughed when she said this, unable to hear the space, she was a stickler for precision and James, her friend who was also a boy, needed to be correctly by phylum and class.

    2019, and people who are more than four, with more life experience than a preschooler–the concept of a boss who ALSO has ovaries just should not be knocking people over with a pancake. Even Mad Men could cope with Estee Lauder being a woman without descending into a tizzy.

    1. Amber Rose*

      That’s adorable. I vaguely remember having a boy friend and it mattered because you see, most boys had cooties but not the boys who were my friends, unless we were fighting. :D

  66. Krabby*

    To expand on gross uses of the term “girl”, I have to vent about something that just happened at my company. We have an annual all-hands meeting where our (male) CEO and (female) President, bring all of our employees together to talk about our year, and also host a panel of internal leadership to talk about successes in the business. We’re a tech company, so having a female president is kind of a big deal. A lot of women cite that fact when asked why they chose to apply with us.

    Anyway, this year they decided to “make a statement” by populating the panel entirely with women. Cool, except that our CEO kept saying, “This just happened naturally, because we have such great female leadership at this company.” Except, it really highlighted how we actually hold women back, because if we have such great female leadership, why is only one of the women at a Director level or above and you had to pull the rest from our Team Leads? Which also made it obvious that it wasn’t natural, because usually the panel is all Directors.

    Anyway, the worst part was that our CEO then spoke for 2 hours while the panelists got 5 minutes each to speak (usually they get a half hour each), and the CEO referred to these women as “girls” a total of 15 times! Finally, our President got up to speak, and then she. did. it. too!

    I wanted to die it was so embarrassing to watch. I’m in HR. I just don’t know how to handle this.

    1. blobola*

      Tell the CEO factually how you felt about it!

      We used to have annual staff awards and when they were presented, men got a handshake and women got a kiss. I tactfully raised it with my boss, it got fed back, and everyone got a handshake from then on and nobody made an issue of it.

  67. Flash Bristow*

    I didn’t see the original post in the links before (2017 one where people in the office were called girls) so didn’t comment at the time, but fwiw here’s my way of handling it:

    Instead of “Jane is an adult woman, of course” which I just wouldn’t be able to say comfortably, in response to “we have a girl who does X” I’d question it: “oh do we? I thought it was Jane! Have we got a student in on work experience?” and take it from there.

    For this case, “girl boss” I’d do similar. “Aw, girl boss, that sounds so CUTE! Has someone brought their daughter in today? I’ll have to go play with them on my break!”

    Something like that. Something which kinda invites a response. And then if the reply is “Er, no… I *meant* Jane” you can just look confused and say “oh… Sorry I thought you said *girl*!”

    Yes, it’s artificial / staged, but when you look at what you’ve actually said, there was nothing offensive, and the point has been made.

    1. Atalanta0jess*

      I had a moment of true confusion when someone referred to a colleague as a girl, and really wish it had lasted long enough that I could have responded from that place. “What? There’s a KID here??”

  68. MOAS*

    I don’t like girl bossss but I gotta admit I like HBIC. And when I first got promoted, inwardly I told myself “pull up your big boss pants”.

    1. blobola*

      That’s fine though, because it’s not gendered!

      It wouldn’t be fine if the company publicly presented you with a pair of big boss pants which you were expected to parade around the office in.

  69. Dysfunctional Deb*

    Back in the 70s, my first job was an office job. The men who did business with my male boss called me and women in my position gals.

    Have your gal run those papers over to me!

  70. NeverNicky*

    The field I’m in, I frequently hear “Comms lady” and “PR girl” a lot.

    Fortunately, I’ve never had it said it about me, although several times when a colleague has taken a call and said “I’ll put you through to Nic, our who heads up our Comms” there’s been bewilderment because I’m female. Seems lower level comms it’s expected we’re women, managers not so much.

    1. whingedrinking*

      In film, script supervisors used to be known as script girls. Even that one was pretty much gone by the 1950s. (“Best boy” remains, though.)

    2. Dr. Guy*

      IDK, it might be because they are thinking your name is “Nick” and that sounds like a male name (of course, maybe your name actually something totally different and this does not apply!).
      My last name sounds like a man’s first name and so people say “Dr. Guy” and some people laughingly say they were expecting a dude because of the name, not because of the role. (That rarely happens too but usually only to an obvious degree in old and slightly senile folks who I can easily forgive)

  71. Sara without an H*

    OK, maybe I’m sheltered, but I’ve never heard the expression “girl boss” in my life. Nor would I care to hear it again.


  72. CastIrony*

    When I go to my local dollar store, there’s lots of novelty notebooks and things like that that say, “Girl Boss” or “This girl won’t stop”. It must be a trend or something. I even have one that says, “Small but fierce”, but I lost it.

  73. chickaletta*


    And can we also stop calling any female older than a pre-teen a “big girl”? Actually, “big girl” is only acceptable if they’re a toddler who recently learned to use the toilet. Otherwise, stop.

    (My ex-boyfriend referred to his 19-year-old daughter as a “big girl” all the time because she was living on a college campus and had a job. He never referred to his 21-year-old son as a “big boy”. His unconscious belittling of women is one of the reasons I broke up with him. He was a mansplainer too, unsurprisingly).

  74. Lives in a shoe*

    I….I…ugh. I’ve never heard anyone use any of the phrases Alison mentioned and god help me I hope I never do.

  75. CAndy*

    A funny instance of this ridiculousness was in ‘The Thick Of It’, British precursor of ‘Veep’ where the stuffy old male past-it government advisor character Glenn would often refer to things like “a lady policeman”.

  76. Perpal*

    I like to assume they are talking about an exaggeratedly girly boss style in this context. Like, legally blond level.
    Also, I like to pretend it can applies to men too.

  77. UKCoffeeLover*

    I’ve never come across this term luckily. But I was shocked to hear some mid-twenties women taking about the “blue jobs” and “pink jobs”, in their home lives the other day. What the hell women! Don’t go backwards!!!!

  78. GDM*

    There is a great Facebook page called “Man who has it all” that does a wonderfully hilarious job of flipping this script.

  79. SRMJ*


    No seriously, I’m very curious what you’re thinking now, if you were one such marketing person to say this in an email to AAM.

  80. Aitch Arr*


    My mom and I were waiting in the checkout line on Black Friday at a store rhyming with Pee-Jay Vaxx and there was a ‘Girl Boss’ mug. We agreed it was stupid.

    I blame Sophia Amoruso of Nasty Gal and her book ‘Girl Boss’.

  81. Charlotte Lucas*

    I have an old copy of one of Miss Manners’ books where a letter writer complains about being asked if she’s a “career girl” (the letter can’t have been written earlier than about 1980) and asks how to respond. Miss Manners told her that the proper thing to do is ask the speaker if he’s a career boy.

  82. Xenobio*

    What on earth was the context this was used in?!?
    I live in South Africa and people here use some hilariously outdated language. Someone on the neighbourhood Facebook group was complaining about the “manageress” at the local supermarket.

  83. Miguel Valdespino*

    Rule of thumb: “Girl” is never appropriate for work unless your customers are female children. Even then, you should be cautious about excluding boys who might be interested in your products.

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