May 13, 2010

I'm Not Southern and I Say Y'all

I’m from Phoenix, Arizona. I’ve lived here my whole life. My family is from the Philadelphia area. Basically, there is not a drop of “Southern” in me.

Some, especially those from home, might think that my new usage of the word “y’all” is reflective of going to college in the south. That’s where they’re half right. Yes, I’ve adopted the word “y’all” since going to college in the south. But the “southern” thing really has nothing to do with it. The real reason I’ve adopted the word “y’all” into my vocabulary is because I went to college and “got radical” (this is my favorite way to describe how much more aware of cultural issues I've become, including but not limited to LGBTQA things and feminist issues, and how much more vigilant I've become in my fight against it all).

It’s important to me that I’m living my life in a way which is consistent with my ethics. I don’t want to just talk about supporting gender neutral initiatives. It’s not enough for me to sign a petition in favor of gender neutral housing. I want to support gender neutrality with my everyday actions. So I say y'all. It’s a feminist thing. It’s an LGBTQA thing.

Now, I’m not perfect. I know I use gendered language in other ways and I know I continue to say “you guys.” I can’t unprogram and reprogram myself just by wanting to. It’s a work in progress, and I invite y'all to join me.

6 comments:

  1. Risa I love this! As someone else who is about as non-Southern as it is possible to be, I've tried to adopt saying y'all too, to the amusement of many. As you say though, it's definitely a work in progress and I have to catch myself from saying "you guys" from time to time. Language has deeper implications than many people realize and efforts like this are important.

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  2. First off, I love your references to the Southwest. Yay! As for saying ya'll--I totally never realized how gender neutral it was, but you're definitely right! I'll remember this next time my arizona-self tries to say it!! :D

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  3. Risa, that's so great! Despite being from the North, I've also said y'all, but more as a slip-up than as a conscious decision. I've definitely said "you guys" many times, even when addressing a group of all girls! (Side note: this point completely hit me when Will from Glee addresses a group of all girls as "you guys" two weeks ago.) Thanks for taking a conscious stance and really living what you stand for.

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  4. Love it! English needs a second person plural. I picked up the "ya'll" from a friend in undergrad as well, but we were in school in Michigan and my friend was a Jewish girl from Ohio, so there's more data to back up the claim that it's not *just* a Southern thing :)

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  5. it's spelled "y'all," y'all.

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  6. I think that regardless of whether or not you are on the gender-neutral language bandwagon (I'm still on the fence), y'all is just a better phrase. It takes less time and just flows 1,000 times better than you guys, which is extremely clunky and awkward.

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