You Guys, Stop Saying 'You Guys'

Vox writer says oft-used phrase promotes sexism, even if it's not intentional
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2015 12:28 PM CDT
You Guys, Stop Saying 'You Guys'
Does "you guys" bother you?   (Shutterstock)

Jenee Desmond-Harris admits that she used to start many of her social media posts with the informal and conversational "you guys" greeting, and her initial reaction to the idea of banishing the phrase was "oh, come on." But now she's ready to purge the popular phrase from her vernacular—and thinks we all should follow suit—because it's one that continues to promote a male-dominated culture even if we're not "intentionally" using it that way, she writes for Vox. So what changed Desmond-Harris' mind? For starters, she explains, words have more power than we may think, and the way we verbally describe ourselves shapes how we actually perceive ourselves; even women who think they're perfectly comfortable using "you guys" may be unconsciously doing themselves a disservice.

She quotes a 2002 Qualitative Sociology article to back up her point: "We can use words to maintain the status quo or to think in new ways—which in turn creates the possibility of a new reality. It makes a difference if we talk about 'Negroes' or 'African-Americans.'" She acknowledges it can be hard to reverse our programming, but a professor of social work at NYU recently pointed out to her in an email that it used to be common to write "he" as an indicator for both genders, until "the Second Wave of feminism with all of the revelations about gendered words" came about and we started using he/she. As Desmond-Harris puts it, "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." (Her full piece offers suggested replacements for "guys.")

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