In Spectre, the James Bond film set to drop next month, Monica Bellucci will become the oldest woman ever to play a Bond love interest. When The Guardian asked the actress, who turns 51 this month, what she thinks of the term “Bond girl,” she replied: “I can’t say I’m a Bond girl, because I’m too mature to be a Bond girl. I say Bond lady, Bond woman.”
Former actresses in Bond films, including Skyfall’s Naomie Harris, have accepted the term as a benign relic of the series. Its suitability has been shaken in the past few Bond installments: Skyfall, for example, found Harris holding her own as Bond’s fellow sharpshooting spy Eve Moneypenny, but the film was still beholden to the classic Bond trope of a tragic girl whose suffering is irresistibly sexy—in this case, a former sex worker who, after submitting to sneak-attack shower sex with Bond, ends up beaten and (this would be a spoiler if it weren’t so endemic to the genre) executed.
Insisting that female-identified adults be called women, not girls, has long been a way for feminists to assert their full, independent personhood. But a quarter-century after riot grrrls claimed the term in the manner of a territorial grizzly bear, women have redefined the space, with Lena Dunham giving “girls” a hip sheen and Beyoncé crediting them with global domination. The word—depending, of course, on who’s using it—has lost some of its infantilizing bite.
“The world is a man’s world,” Bellucci told The Guardian. “…Men think that women, when they’re not able to procreate any more, become old. That is not true—they are still amazing!” In a woman’s world, they can still be girls, too.