I get so frustrated when I am confronted with blatant sexism. The cover of the Province Newspaper had the headline: “You GOLD Girl” in reference to Maelle Ricker’s gold medal at the Winter Olympics yesterday. She is 32 years old and she is far from being a girl. If they were talking about a man winning a gold they would definitely not refer to him as a ‘boy.’ To refer to Maelle as a girl is completely insulting to her and other women athletes. The women competing at the Olympic Games are every bit as athletic and hardworking as their male counterparts. To dismiss Maelle in this way is very upsetting as it diminishes her accomplishments.
Language is a very powerful tool. Through our choice of words we can convey messages that are not contained in the text. In this example, referring to Maelle as a girl minimizes her accomplishments and takes away her adult status. Much in the same way that slave owners in the American South used to call African-American men ‘boy.’ The use of that word conveyed a vast difference in station like some how the man being refered to as a ‘boy’ was infantile thus robbing him of personal power and agency. The same thing happens to women when someone calls them a girl. This reduction in status allows some men to see women as less than and not equal. It is then a slippery slope to the point where some men might think they can do what they want to a woman because after all she is ‘only a girl.’ Who listens to a ‘girl’ saying no. This is the very essence of that which allows some men to assault and rape women.
There is no doubt that Maelle Ricker is an accomplished woman. To think she is anything less is insulting and demeaning.