Why You Should Probably Stop Referring To "Women" As "Females," Explained

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Canon
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Canon

Who is Michael B. Jordan?

Michael B. Jordan is perhaps the hottest Black male actor under 30 in Hollywood. In fact, he might be the only Black male actor under 30 in Hollywood. Raise your hand if you can name another Black male actor under 30 without Google. Now, take that hand and smack yourself with it, because you're a damn lie.


He also compels me to scream "Where's Wallace???" every time I see him on screen, but I think that's just me.

Why is he in the news this week?

During an interview with GQ, Jordan joined Ice Cube, Tyrese, and several others on the list of famous Black guys with sizable Black female fanbases who just couldn't help themselves from opening their mouths and saying some dumb-ass shit, losing many of those fans in the process.


Taye Diggs is on that list too, right?

Taye Diggs has been on that list so long that he's practically emeritus. He gets a pension from that list. That list sends him letters every six months asking him to donate to the alumni fund.

So anyway, what did Michael B. Jordan say?

He claimed to be a part of the #alllivesmatter movement, he expressed that he was "colorblind" with dating, and he referred to women as "females." It's almost like his publicist gave him a list of things NOT to say, and he got that list confused with his talking points list.


Hmm, none of those things seem too bad, though. I mean, it's good that he has such an open world view, right?

On the surface, perhaps. Those things do sound like good things. But context matters. And as people familiar with #Blacklivesmatter will tell you, the movement isn't about valuing Black lives more than other lives. It's about how Black lives haven't been valued as much as other lives. An #alllivesmatter hashtag is ignorant and insulting because it draws attention away from the issue — Black lives, for as long as America has existed, haven't really mattered — with some redundant, post-racial gobbledegook.


Also, when an American Black male volunteers that he's a "colorblind" dater, 99,999 times out of 100,000 it's code for "I'll date anyone…except a Black woman. Unless, of course, she looks like Missandei." Perhaps Jordan is that one in 100,000, but there's a 99.999 percent chance he's not.

Okay. Well, changing gears a bit, what's the big deal with female? Why are people so annoyed when that word is used instead of women? Women are females, right?


Well, first it's grammatically awkward. "Female" is fine when you use it as an adjective. For instance, earlier I referred to Jordan's "sizable Black female fanbase." Fanbase is the noun here. "Female," like "Black" and "sizable," is describing a type of fanbase.

You can also use it as a noun without it being awkward. For instance, let's say you had a job taking attendance at an amusement park. You can say "836 females came to the park today, and 801 males." This is an instance where the use of "female" and "male" would be appropriate. (You should also go back to school, because a job taking attendance at an amusement park sounds like the worst job ever.)


It's inappropriate when it's used as a substitute for "women." For instance, "Don't you hate it when females text all the time?" is grammatically awkward because you're clearly referring to grown female human beings. And there's already a word for grown female humans beings! Women! If you're referring to a female human being who is not grown yet, the word is "girl." And, if you want to be more creative and/or colloquial in your reference to female human beings, "ladies" could work. Shit, "chick" even has less of a negative connotation than "female." ("Earth" works here too, if you're in the Wu-Tang Clan.)

Ok, so it's grammatically awkward. I still don't see the issue here.

This is why context matters. Because experience has taught many of us that the type of person (men and women) to regularly refer to men as "men" and women as "females" is often the type of person who also has some pretty backward (and, often, dangerous) beliefs about women. The word "female" strips a woman of her humanity, reducing her to her sexual parts, and people who use female tend to view women through that lens.


It's basically a polite way of saying "bitches." And not in an ironic sense, but a "bitches aint shit but hoes and tricks" sense.

So, what's next for Michael B. Jordan?

He's still very young, so he still has time to become wiser, more worldly, and more media savvy. Or, he could just start dating Janelle Monae, and get all of his Black points back in one fell swoop.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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Question for the women in the room; how do you feel about people referring to grown women as, "girl/ girls". Do you refer to yourself in that way? "Girl" unless it's in the context of me talking with another woman who we share a bit of history, know each other fairly well, is a no-no for me. For instance the "Black Girls Rock" thing annoys me. Why not "Black Women Rock'?

Anyway, what say you?