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Is it sexist to call us all “you guys?”

January 30, 2019

Is it sexist to call us all “you guys?”

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Here in Ohio, we don’t say y’all. When we’re talking to a group of people, we call them all “guys.”

“Hey, you guys,” we might say to our family or our colleagues or a troop of Girl Scouts. It’s shorthand, easy, casual. But is it sexist in a modern world?

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English is limiting in its pronouns. The language does not include a gender-neutral, third-person word for an individual. Hence the traditional “he” to refer to anyone, and the currently awkward he/she.

We also don’t have a gender-neutral second-person plural pronoun. Hence why refer to a group of men and women, or boys and girls, as “guys.”

But words matter.

Some organizations are trading “guys” for “team” or “folks” or “people.” A tech start-up called npm has a glass jar where employees put in a dollar every time they say “you guys.”

“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,” writes Vox.

Let’s take a lesson from Canada, which made its national anthem gender-neutral last year. Or from the South, where y’all makes a whole lot of sense. (Just put the apostrophe in the correct place.)

Want to talk women’s issues in Cleveland? Join the conversation on Shatter on Facebook.

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