Resurrecting the “f-word”

I literally just walked in the door, put up my groceries and was about to take a nap when I scrolled across a tweet from Luvvie about use of the word “female.” The tweet was a sentiment I agree with, so I RT’d, added and arrow, and went to check my other Twitter account.

Read more…Bad move. I saw that someone I follow and like (in the way that you like the people you tweet with) had some foolishness to say about it. Whatevs. I went back to my professional account, tweeted a bit more about the topic, including a mention of a column I wrote about it a while back, RT’d myself into my personal account timeline, and left.

And then someone asked to read the column.

I was a columnist for the Tallahassee Democrat, the daily newspaper in Tallahassee, Fla., from 2007-2010.

But I stand by the work that I’ve done. I became a columnist in my adopted hometown of Tallahassee in 2007, a year after I’d finished my master’s and fresh off a stint living and teaching abroad. I wrote some things that I’m ashamed of, including a weight-loss journey that went no where (but up!) and a lot of errors. But I have no regrets about the themes of my work – empowerment of women, particularly black women; mental health awareness; sexual and reproductive health, social justice and plain ol’ living.

So I went back to the Tallahassee Democrat archives and dug up the column (which cost me $3.95; the only copy was on my old laptop, which died in 2010). And now I’m posting it here.

I caught hell when I wrote this column. People said I was stupid, a bad writer, an idiot for not wanting to be called what I am – a female. In retrospect, I realize that in writing for a general audience, even if I offered up the context in which my comments were made, I had a huge audience that just could not relate to the strife of relationships and respect among black men and black women.

And that’s OK. It didn’t mean I shouldn’t speak my truth. I didn’t stop then, and I will continue to uphold that truth now.

Because six years later, worn by the grind of daily journalism and wiser through additional years of social science research and scholarship, my opinion hasn’t changed. I still abhor the use of the term “female” as a noun instead of an adjective. I hold it as a shibboleth among those who understand language, are mindful of its evolution and respect its power.

I am still a daughter, a sister, a student, a soprano. I have since become an aunt, a teacher, Delta, a partner and a wiser human being. Those are the descriptions that matter most to me, the ones that I am denied when someone, as I said in my column, ignores my humanity by referring to me as my gender. It may not matter to some, but it does to me.

Every woman is so much more than just a “female.”