Y’all . . . the word ‘female’ makes me G R O A N.
(Outside a conversation about biology, at least. I mean, that Radiolab podcast where I learned birds don’t have penises was fascinating).
The definition of the word ‘female’ is not complicated. But the way we use it sure as hell is.
“Female” has always been a biological term. It’s proto-indoeuropean root literally translates as “she who suckles.” Today, the Cambridge lists it as “the sex of an organism who can bear young or produce eggs.”
By 1660, the word is already in use to describe the “receiving” end of mechanical components, parts & coupling. The connection is called “mating.”
Puts the term “female CEO” and “female [insert any noun that denotes a human] in a whole different light, right? I find it utterly bizarre to refer to the (potential) reproductive system and/or genitalia of the head of a company – Or anyone.
It’s fucking W E I R D.
“Female Entrepreneur” or “Female President” should sound as outlandish as “Woman Manatee.” And not just because ‘woman’ isn’t technically, grammatically an adjective. It’s because you’d be saying “egg-producing entrepreneur.”
I don’t know exactly how I feel about ‘woman’ as an adjective yet. But it doesn’t make me cringe like ‘female’ does. Personally, I’d just like to see headlines go more like this:
❌ Bose names its first female CEO ❌
✔️ Bose picks new CEO: former Pitney-Bowes exec, Lila Snyder ✔️
The word FEMALE has NOTHING to do with the word MALE.
Etymologically, they are completely different words with wholly separate roots: FEMINA – MASLE
But they were so often written closely together that by the 14th century, femella “morphed” to more closely resemble the word “male.” In a sense, the word’s original form was altered – ABSORBED even – by its ‘male’ counterpart.