Why Does Barbara Gordon Call Herself Batgirl?

Isn’t she suppose to be in her early to mid 20s? She’s a grown woman, not a kid.


Yes, she’s usually understood to be a few years older than Dick. In current continuity, because she started as Batgirl when she was a teenager and by the time she was an adult in her own eyes, there was already a Batwoman. (Timelines are a bit ambiguous; Kate may have already been on the job when teen-Babs started out. There has also been mention in modern continuity that Kathy Kane exists as a past Batwoman of some renown, so even without Kate’s legacy, her knowledge of Kathy’s might have led her to avoid taking the name Batwoman. But I don’t think it’s ever stated outright; just that she wanted to wear the bat.)

Behind the scenes, essentially because of the casual (and not-so-casual) sexism of her 60s origins, where (despite the TV self-rescuing-damsel story and comic I’ll-show-you-boys story) she is absolutely a grown adult moving back to Gotham with a PhD for a new job. It’s still a problem, but at the time, I doubt anyone batted an eye at a male writer having a female character refer to herself as a girl, especially for a costume party. Over time, writers treat her as a character that eventually “ages out” of being Batgirl, so we never really get the “I’m too old for this name” arc like we do for Dick and other characters. (First to US Representative, then as Oracle.)

In the fuzzy Silver Age “continuity,” it’s only been five years (publishing time) since Bat-Girl was seen by Batwoman’s side. (Bette’s listed again in Batman 164, but I think only the continuation of Alfred’s “imaginary story” from 159 of a future where Bruce & Kathy are happily married – no “real world” appearance.) Kathy appeared a couple of times shortly after Barbara’s first appearance, so it’s possible this was in the works when they introduced Babs, and they wanted to avoid the naming conflict of Batwoman. But I’d put more weight in to sexism than conscious decision.


Maybe this is a regional/cultural thing, but ‘girl’ is primarily a generic female term to me. For example, my girl friends and I still refer to each other as ‘girl,’ going on girls’ nights, etc.

I personally think ‘Batgirl’ sounds better than ‘Batwoman,’ so perhaps that was an opinion of her creators. Also, I recall classic Batgirl Babs working with classic Batwoman Kathy, so that could have been a factor - Batwoman still existed.


So sexism and because there’s already a batman when Barbara started?

Really? I don’t refer to any of my females friends as girls, if they’re legally an adult ill call them women/ladies. Same with my male friends, I don’t call them boys I call men/gentlemen.

When I think of boys and girls, I think of minors, kids in school, none of my friends are minors and neither is Barbara.

If there was any story logic or reason involved, she would have moved on to Batwoman decades ago. However, there is something much more important keeping her (and Supergirl) from moving on.

DC Comics and its owners have a lot of money to make in merch and other avenues where Barbara is Batgirl. With a new Batwoman coming along in the last 15 years and getting a tv show, that’s where she’ll stay.


True, it just never made sense to me that a woman in her 20s would call herself BatGIRL while a 15 year old boy calls himself spider-MAN.


For Spidey it is because he wants to sound older. For males being called “boy” is often an insult, and many males that age want to be seen as a man for those reasons.


How come the same don’t apply to females? In Universe why wouldn’t Barbara want to sound older, what’s wrong with being called a woman? Why is not consider an insult to call an adult female a girl?

Yep, girl is just another term for female to us and peopleI grew up with. I’ve heard boy used as a put down for an adult male throughout the years, but not girl for an adult woman. It actually surprised me when I first encountered people who viewed ‘girl’ as a specifically unfavorable term for an adult female.

Language is an interesting thing, especially when we’re (theoretically) speaking the same one!


Double standard male bias :man_shrugging:t2:


Comics are weird I’m telling you. I still don’t know how 99% of all marvel heroes can live in new York and still have major problems as a city :man_shrugging:t2:


But doesn’t it surprise you that Boy is view as an insult for adult males? Like, that just doesn’t make sense.

Calling a man a boy is insulting
Calling a woman a girl is a compliment

How does that make any sense?

Oh yeah that I never got, you’d think people in NYC would move to different cities, and just how big is NYC in marvel anyways, how do they have so much room?

Lots of things make no sense.


I view girl more as interchangeable than a compliment outside of specific tones/instances. Tone can influence a lot though.

If I had to guess at the difference between boy/girl usage, I’d say that typically youthful characteristics are viewed differently. For example, boy used as an insult can imply physical weakness, which is a traditionally esteemed trait in adult males. On the other hand, girl doesn’t really imply the opposite of a traditionally esteemed trait in adult females. Youthful features are often still viewed favorably; makeup and facial products enhance this too. The closest parallel I can think of is that adult females have curves related to child bearing. However, I’ve actually heard “boy shaped” as the ‘insult’ used to describe a lack of curves, not girl.

Oh, I have heard ‘little girl’ used as a kind of insult to imply weakness. I find that interesting because little is added to point out weakness not girl itself. So basically, little girl is on par with boy as a potential insult.


Wouldn’t that be implying that Boys are weak?

I find that strange. Why does Boy imply weakness to a man but girl doesn’t imply weakness to a woman?

This…kinda goes back to boy being used as an insult.

Oh a lady at my lcs is in her late 20s but she is constantly called a girl, customers say “you’re just a little girl” while her male co workers are always referred to as “The man” or “men” despite the fact that she’s nearly a decade older than them. Why is the oldest one called a little girl, but her male co workers are called men? Makes no sense.

Maybe I didn’t understand your question, but I was giving examples of boy being used as an insult.

An adult male being called a boy can be used as an insult because the implication is that boys are weaker than men. Traditionally, physical strength is a desired male trait, so being called weak (boy) is an insult.

I’m not saying boy is always an insulting term, but I have definitely heard it in that context. An adult male being called or likened to a girl or woman would be similar insults in this scenario.

Physical strength is not traditionally a female trait, so implying physical weakness isn’t an insult in that context to an adult female. Adding little as a descriptor invokes stature. Liittle can imply lesser, little can apply to physical or mental traits, and little things are easily dismissed. So saying little girl, can be a very dismissive term.

Context and tone really matter for all of these. I can’t speak to the situation at your work. However, the phrase ‘you’re just a little girl’ sounds dismissive to me.

Anyway, aside from the reasons in my first post, (going back to hero names) a character in the low/mid 20s could have simply been viewed as young. Batgirl is younger than Batman, was not his romantic interest, and was introduced as his friend’s/ally’s daughter.

Side note: There are male characters in their 20s that have boy in their name too, although I think they may have just kept the name as they aged. Beast Boy, Superboy (Connor), Lagoon Boy… Aqualad?


Ok so to sum up what you’ve said, is that calling a man a boy is an insulting because it implies physical weakness. Calling a woman a girl does not, but it does if they’re called a little girl, saying little makes a difference, although I can see it have the same effect if you call a man a little boy.

I agree, especially when the males that are nearly decade younger are called Men/man, stuff like “You’re a man, this man right here”

Hnmm, I never looked at it that way.

Oh, I didn’t that know that. Most of the stuff I’ve seen/read with them in there, they’re usually teenagers so I understood.


I think this is being looked at too hardly. Some teen superhero boys have kid in their name such as Kid Flash, Kid Eternity, and Kid Devil to name a few and that’s not an insult or saying they are weak. Plus, “kid” is lower on the age spectrum than “girl” and “boy” because they are much broader.

When it comes down to it it’s all about how it sounds and to have more characters with Bat or Super in their name which is why the age for the words don’t always align with the heroes.