reyFirst, a little story: I used to be an obsessive user of Livejournal. I started back in 1999, before Facebook and microblogging. I posted long, personal entries, often accompanied by photographs (I wanted to be a photographer—I became a poet instead). One of my favorite journals was by a writer whose handle I can’t quite remember, but it included the name “Lolita.”

 

When I was a freshman in college, I wrote an essay for a writing class wherein I described myself as being a “girl.”  I was eighteen years old, a burgeoning writer, naïve in many ways but generally adept at language. The word seemed precise, if not necessarily inspired. My professor, a white man in his late twenties, whom I have slightly more empathy towards now that I am in my late twenties, pulled me aside and told me he was uncomfortable with my usage. “Girl” evoked a kind of innocence and vulnerability he thought it best I distance myself from as a young woman in a university.  The word was x’d out in red pen and “woman” was squiggled definitively on top.