The other day I was checking my e-mail and lazily listening to the Today Show as W chugged down the last drop of his morning bottle. They were running a story about a cop and an incident with a woman in Seattle. I can’t and won’t speak to the actual incident* but what I found interesting was the language used to describe the woman involved. Specifically the word “woman” as it was used as “a 17 year old woman”. An interesting nomenclature for a 17 year old. When looking for an article to link to to I found this one from CBS where they give the headline: Cop Punches Woman, but then go on to describe this “woman” as a 17 year old girl.

[*it’s an on-going investigation that is being written about well on the Seattle Weekly blog and has many, many more layers than the girl vs woman language I am focusing on]

And of course I have been aware of the fall-out from Perez Hilton’s site since he linked to an “upskirted” image of a 17 year old Miley Cyrus on twitter. Many of Perez’s critics insist that he takes gossip items and photos too far with younger stars and that the recent image-link contention was practically toe dipping into a world of child pornography.

Personally I would be fine if I never saw a celebrity crotch shot on a gossip site (or anywhere else). I’m not the type to “click here for the uncensored version”. But for some reason, and this is has everything to do with the image that Miley herself is putting out there, I feel like this got blown way out of proportion. I mean this is what gets news and not the pole dancing on the Teen Choice Awards? But that’s just me…ahem.

It’s sort of an interesting line we are walking here with our girls, isn’t it? In one case news outlets call a 17 year old a WOMAN and place upon her all of the responsibilities and answerabilities of adulthood and within the same news cycle everyone is outraged over the possible exposure of a 17 year old GIRL.

What are the variables here? Black vs white? Tall vs short? Sexuality vs violence? Celebrity vs noncelebrity? At what point does a 17 year old’s behavior make them a girl and when does it make them a woman?

I know when I was 17 I was in a huge hurry to grow up, but I can’t say that I was in a hurry to be called a woman. I probably would have flinched if I was called a girl tho. (And trust me, six feet tall since the 8th grade, no one was calling me “girl”- which is a sad, sad post for another day.) I was in constant chaos trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be.

Nearly 16 here in my school uniform with my Grandparents

I do remember a specific moment in tenth grade when I discovered Ms. magazine in the library of the all girls school I was then attending. I grew up very much under Grandmother’s rules of “this is what a lady is and what a lady isn’t”. And so before this library moment I was always under the assumption that I was a Miss until I became a Mrs. I was not familiar with Ms.

But I claimed myself as a Ms. that day:Using Ms. obviates the need for the guesswork involved in figuring out whether to address someone as Mrs. or Miss: you can’t go wrong with Ms. Whether the woman you are addressing is married or unmarried, has changed her name or not, Ms. is always correct.” So yes, I was a 16 year old Ms. but certainly not a 16 year old woman.

There is a pretty thick and pronounced grey area of identity for a female between the ages of 16 and 18.

This is usually the time when a transformation happens, pre college, pre leaving home, pre boyfriends/girlfriends, sex, drinking… But what is this moment? And why is it so diverse for so many of us?

At what age did you start calling yourself a woman? (Oh you KNOW there is a poll here.) Was there a specific moment where you felt yourself transition from a girl person to a woman person?

{POLL was being super wonky this morning. It should be working now. DO let me know if you have any problems!}


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