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Tipsheet

Vox Writer Thinks That Saying "You Guys" Is "Creeping Sexism"

A writer over at Vox has come up with a startling new revelation: the term "you guys" is "creeping sexism."

That's right. According to Jenee Desmond-Harris, every time any of us said "you guys" to generically refer to a group of people, we were being sexist. Our bad, Jenee. We know you guys over at Vox are always right.

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Oops, I said "you guys." I feel so ashamed. Please assuage me from my white male guilt.

Desmond-Harrison said that the concept first came from the tech startup npm, had its employees put a dollar in a jar every time they said "you guys":

That sounds pretty intense. I'm a big user of "guys," and when it was first brought to my attention that the phrase was frowned upon among leading feminist thinkers and people concerned with equality — especially in male-dominated workplaces — my reaction was, "Oh, come on. It's inaccurate, but it's not actually hurting anyone."

But I've changed my mind. As I read up on the issue, I realized that my knee-jerk response ("It doesn't seem like that big a deal to me, personally, and changing would require effort on my part and that's hard and tiring") is nothing more than a very typical lazy excuse for avoiding the tiny tweaks to our lives that can, as a whole, make society more equal.

But don't take her word for it. This NYU professor agrees:

Jeane Anastas, a professor of social work at the NYU Silver School of Social Work whose research focuses in part on women's issues, said in an email to Vox, "Whatever Webster's dictionary says about the plural 'guys' ['used in plural to refer to the members of a group regardless of sex'] and despite the fact that I sometimes catch myself saying 'you guys' to people of all genders, 'guy' is a gendered word."
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But not to worry, there are plenty of other words we can use instead:

I asked around on Twitter and found that while plenty of people (men and women) said they used "guys" and their mixed-gender groups of friends were fine with it, plenty more said they were trying to eliminate it. They offered up their alternatives, and there were more options than had originally occurred to me.

  • Friends
  • Folks
  • Everyone
  • Colleagues
  • Gang
  • Team
  • Y'all
  • Guys and girls

They're not all going to fit every personality, or be appropriate in every situation, but it seems there are enough alternatives that we can pick and choose without too much trouble.

Desmond-Harris concludes by saying:

You can think of the push to drop "guys" as political correctness run amok, or you can think of it as making a tiny change that doesn't cost you anything and will keep you from being a jerk to half the population — and help you make the world just a tiny bit more fair.

That doesn't mean it will be quick or easy: I've probably typed and deleted "you guys" (it turns out I loved to begin tweets and Facebook posts this way) about 15 times since I decided to write this piece a couple of weeks ago. But I'm going to keep working on it.

If you get a jump on changing now, you can avoid being like your grandfather who is still saying "negro" because he doesn't mean anything by it and that's what they used to say in his day and he doesn't see the point of evolving. Don't get left behind, y'all/friends/everyone/folks.

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"You guys" on the same level as the term "negro"? That's a new one.

The only thing I have left to say about this issue is:

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