I’ve used the term “you guys” to address groups of people my entire life, regardless of the gender-makeup of these groups. This is just something I’ve grown up doing, so what’s the big deal, right? Well, imagine how you would feel if you’re a man in a group with only other womyn and someone says, “Hey gals, what’s up?” You’d probably be pretty confused, and understandably offended. Imagine, then, how a female would feel in a similar situation being referred to as “you guys”? She may feel marginalized or left out. I admit, most people, womyn included, probably don’t think twice about using “you guys” to address groups of people, but I’ve heard individuals who care about this matter very deeply. See this article for a great explanation of what I’m talking about.
After hearing many womyn tell this story, I realized that I’ve unknowingly been part of the problem for years. I would certainly not identify as a bad person, but that doesn’t mean that I never make mistakes. It bothers me that my casual use of this phrase may have made other people feel left out.
I participated in a “My Truth Panel” a few weeks ago, and cringed each time a member of the audience addressed the panel as “you guys”, especially considering that, out of the 6 members of the panel, only 2 of us were male. What was worse, everybody in the audience was female. Even after I brought this matter up at the event, I heard audience members address us as “you guys” at least another three times.
Clearly, changing something that is so widely accepted is an uphill battle, but I think it’s still worth fighting for. Obviously, I would never tell someone to alter their speech for my own sake—or worse, censor themselves—but I would ask each of you who reads this to step back and think about how your choice of language makes other people feel when they hear it. I challenge you to use a phrase like “you all” or “y’all” to address a group of people in which there is at least one female (or in which there is someone who might not conform to traditional gender norms!). I know it’s hard to change something so seemingly innocuous, but sometimes it’s the small changes that can really add up to something meaningful.