Why You Should Stop Addressing and Referring to Women as ‘Females,’ Explained ... Again

Cam Newton (Thearon Henderon/Getty Images)
Cam Newton (Thearon Henderon/Getty Images)

Who is Cam Newton?

Cam Newton is a peculiarly attired star quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.

Peculiarly attired?

Yes. The best way to describe Cam’s attire is that he dresses like he’s from the future and the ancient past at the same time. It’s like Blade Runner meets Caligula. It’s really quite fascinating.


So why is he in the news today?

During a media session yesterday, he was asked by Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue about route running. Newton smiled and then replied, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes.”

That was weird.

Right? This surely wasn’t the first time he was asked a football-related question by a female journalist. The way he smiled and laughed while repeating “routes” makes me think there’s some Panther locker-room-specific inside joke happening or something. Perhaps, giving him the benefit of the doubt, this was his way of lauding Rodrigue for asking a great question instead of the usual boilerplate that athletes receive.

Either way, it wasn’t a good look for Cam. It was either a sexist dig or a sexist laud.

OK. Well, changing gears a bit, what’s the big deal with “female”? Why are people so annoyed when that word is used instead of “woman”? Women are females, right? You actually just used “female” a few sentences ago, when you referred to Rodrigue as a “female journalist.” 

Well, first, it’s grammatically awkward. “Female” is fine when you use it as an adjective—like with “female journalist.” “Journalist” is the noun here. “Female” is describing a type of journalist.


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 and 801 males came to the park today.” 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.)

Editor’s note: I’m assuming this is because rather than just counting men and women, this hapless human is also counting dogs and goats and chupacabras and their genders, making “male” and “female” arbitrarily make sense here. Carry on. —N.D.


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, there’s a word for that, too: “girl”! (“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) who regularly refers to men as “men” and women as “females” is often the type of person who also has some pretty backward 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.


Editor’s note: The “sexual parts” thing is mildly cisnormative, inasmuch as this article is written straightly AF, but it lines up with the tenets of ashy Hotepery that Damon is poking fun at, so I’m leaving it in. As a learning tool. —N.D.

It’s basically a polite way of saying “bitches.” And not in an ironic sense, but in a “bitches ain’t shit but hos and tricks” sense.


In the headline of this piece, you place “again” after an ellipsis. Why?

Because this explainer is basically the exact-same explainer I already wrote two years ago. And if you need this message in the form of a listicle accompanied by GIFs, BuzzFeed’s Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu also broke it down years ago. As did the homey Kara Brown at Jezebel. (And after some more sleuthing, I just discovered that I actually first wrote about this eight years ago. I’m old as fuck.) It is the easiest thing to understand. And if you don’t understand, people will explain it to you in simple terms.


Like, when I’m hooping and someone 6-foot-3 or under is guarding me, I post up. When I was younger and better and playing pickup all over the city, if I noticed someone my size or smaller on me, I’d say “easy” to one of my teammates. Which was a shorthand way of saying, “Get me the ball on the block because this will be an easy basket.” This females/women thing is that easy. This is an easy fucking basket!

But apparently, (some) people still don’t get this remarkably simple concept. Hence the refreshed and revised version. It’s basically Hotep Groundhog Day.


So what’s next for Cam?

No idea. I just hope he gets his nouns and adjectives correct before the next time he’s in line at Zara. 



“The word “female” strips a woman of her humanity, reducing her to her sexual parts”

So - according to you - does the term “male” reduce men to their sexual parts?

I think the problems you have with “female” are you’re own issues that you’re attributing to other people. When I was in the Army, “female” was a fair term (one of a pair) used to describe soldiers. As in: “Have that female do this” or “Have that male do that.” There was no intent behind it, just an equal, non-sexist method of referring to soldiers of different genders.