The Myth of the ‘Underage Woman’
August 16, 2019 7:00 AM   Subscribe

Throughout a number of sexual harassment and assault cases involving girls in recent memory, the press has been using a specific term of art to describe the victims - underage women. Writing for The Atlantic, Megan Garber discusses how this term affects how we see these crimes, and what it says about our cultural views of women and girls. (SLThe Atlantic)
posted by NoxAeternum (25 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
holyshit yes thank you
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 7:07 AM on August 16, 2019 [13 favorites]

Compare and contrast with the fact that men who rape girls get the "boys will be boys" treatment well into their 20s.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:18 AM on August 16, 2019 [45 favorites]

Compare and contrast with the fact that men who rape girls get the "boys will be boys" treatment well into their 20s. 60s, if not older.

The "underaged women" phrase turns my stomach. I can see why someone's defense lawyer would use that phrasing, but it doesn't belong in journalism and other commentary.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:32 AM on August 16, 2019 [32 favorites]

posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:33 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sickening. In the same vein as "prostitution of a minor."
posted by n. moon at 7:50 AM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

the onion skewers the phrase pretty effectively, too, ending with "And what’s the difference between underage men and children? No clue. I’ve never heard the phrase “underage men.”"

(but i have: articles about bryan singer used the phrase.)
posted by Clowder of bats at 8:06 AM on August 16, 2019 [14 favorites]

Given how hard it is to get people to stop calling grown women "Girls"...
posted by stoneweaver at 8:07 AM on August 16, 2019 [40 favorites]

Ah, yes, "sex with underage women." Meaning, "raping girls."

This phrase makes me rage so hard I see red.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:37 AM on August 16, 2019 [23 favorites]

Every time I see it I complain. It makes me furious.
posted by praemunire at 9:00 AM on August 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

BTW, Tressie McMillan Cottom has an essay that touches on this, among other issues, in Thick--I think it's "Black Girlhood, Interrupted." (Thick is impressive so you should read it anyway.)
posted by praemunire at 9:02 AM on August 16, 2019 [9 favorites]

Much the same as 'child pornography'. There is no such thing, only images of child abuse/indecent images of children.

We should not use indirect language, all of these things need to be granted the gravity of the correct words.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 9:15 AM on August 16, 2019 [7 favorites]

The wide use of the term "underage women" is insane in a day (that is, 2019) when we still have to remind each other to refer to fully adult females as "women" in so many contexts.

It's almost like it's intentional.
posted by Dashy at 10:02 AM on August 16, 2019 [24 favorites]

Someone on CBC radio this morning talking about the Epstein case used "girls", and it jumped out at me. It's so unusual that it took me a couple of seconds before I was, like, "Yeah, duh, why don't they say that all the time?"
posted by clawsoon at 10:21 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thank you for posting this article. I agree that language shapes our interpretations and culture. And that it matters so much. And why I'm sick of main stream media. It's so messed up how these victims are referred to as women while, yes, people can't stop referring to women as girls in normal contexts (as stoneweaver mentions above). It's ridiculous.

But, I must admit, I was so disgusted by the first thing Epstein said in the article that I don't want to get anywhere near his psyche by reading further. I wanted to vomit and it made my stomach churn.
posted by jj's.mama at 11:09 AM on August 16, 2019 [6 favorites]

Wow, this is worse than "female".
posted by symbioid at 11:45 AM on August 16, 2019 [7 favorites]

I once saw the text of testimony given by a woman who procured twelve and thirteen year old girls for Jeffrey Epstein, and it included the even more disgusting euphemism "adolescent women". I do not understand why she wasn't corrected on that.
posted by orange swan at 4:06 PM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

This is something that makes me furious and I won't fail to point it out.
And the correct term is child rape.
posted by bongo_x at 12:37 AM on August 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have heard the term child/underage sex worker as well from people trying to be progressive. Please stop!
posted by vanitas at 2:49 AM on August 17, 2019

Did anyone else read the paragraph about our culture fetishizing youth, and the immediately get served a Sephora ad for moisturizer that “Clears the way for youthful skin”? Thanks for putting such a fine point on it, late-stage capitalism. I don’t know whether to laugh or barf.
posted by Cecilia Rose at 8:43 AM on August 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

One of your best defenses against late-stage (is there an end?) capitalism is a robust ad blocker.
posted by spitbull at 4:00 AM on August 18, 2019

I am happy to report that, inspired by this thread, I noticed the phrase “underage women” used in an otherwise solid Daily Beast article on recent developments in the Epstein case by Emily Shugerman.

I wrote her a very politely worded email under my own name and from my university address pointing out the maliciousness of this euphemism.

She wrote me back within an hour, on a Sunday morning no less, saying she usually consciously avoids it, must have slipped up, and that she would have it changed.

Writing directly to people in the media in a non-ranting way with good arguments can sometimes have an effect.
posted by spitbull at 12:13 PM on August 18, 2019 [9 favorites]

Ms. Shugerman’s specific beat is as the “gender reporter” for the Daily Beast, significantly.

Here’s the article in question, otherwise deeply sympathetic to the victimized children. It uses the expression “underage girls” (which is of course redundant unless you call adult women “girls” too, lol wut) thrice, and “underage women” once. So far no change has been made.
posted by spitbull at 12:20 PM on August 18, 2019

Noting that The Daily Beast still has not made the change, however.
posted by spitbull at 9:06 AM on August 19, 2019

And just to report that “underage women” has now been removed from the Daily Beast article linked above.

Micro-activism FTW
posted by spitbull at 2:30 PM on August 20, 2019 [10 favorites]

Today in Raw Story (saw it earlier, just can't care enough to go find the link): Underage girl forced to give up her virginity to Epstein.

I mean, there are two -distinct- qualifiers for rape in that sentence, but they couldn't seem to identify either of them.
posted by Dashy at 5:58 PM on August 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

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