In far fewer words, I once offered this explanation to a woman who had a concern similar to yours. I promptly received a call from a concerned male friend who wanted me to know, “D, you’re about to have women turning men away for no good reason!” He doesn’t use “female” as a term to refer to women, but he insisted that men who did weren’t trying to offend anybody, and that in some regions of the country and parts of the economic scale, it was just another no-harm-meant way of saying “woman.” He believed, like many men with whom I’ve conversed about this subject, that I had blown the whole thing out of proportion.
“Dude, it’s sexist,” I insisted.
He still didn’t get it.
I had to explain that when certain women hear a guy say “female” (and its even crasser euphemism, “b–ch”), it’s akin to a black person hearing a nonblack person drop an n-bomb. There would be a whole lot of automatic assumptions made about what that nonblack person thinks about black people. Most would automatically call that person racist through and through, and yet guys don’t want to accept that the language some use to refer to women has the same effect on women.
If you’re up for taking on the project of teaching your interested suitor some basics about respecting women — which I wouldn’t be, if I were you — then go ahead, engage, talk, meet up. You can ask him to refer to women as, you know, women, and just like anyone who’s tried to stop saying the n-word, he’ll find it hard not to say “female,” and it will annoy you further.
Or you could do what I would do: Thank him for his interest, but say no thanks to communicating further, and keep looking. I’m fond of advising people that while in search of a mate, their goal should not be just to find anybody breathing and remotely interested but to find someone who actually gets them. I suggest that you spend your time perusing profiles for someone whose description doesn’t offend you.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.