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Archive > Using 'Guys' to Address People: Anyone Else Offended?

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message 1: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 265 comments for quite a while, it has irritated me when someone refers to a group of people of mixed genders as 'guys'. maybe it's just me, but i'm wondering if anyone else sees this as offensive. i don't understand why, when addressing a group, it's not just as easy to say 'you all', 'people', 'everyone', 'thanks to you all', something that isn't specifically masculine in nature. is this being too 'pc' of me? since i'm older than most in this group, i've seen language and how people are addressed change several times over the years and with the generations. in the 60's we called people 'chicks' and 'dudes'. i'm not saying that's right, only that there was a demarcation, where generically referring to a bunch of people as 'guys' - hey, guys, thanks guys, what are you guys doing? - has homogenized people into a male arena (in my opinion). any other opinions out there, or am i just being too sensitive?

message 2: by Bunny (last edited Jun 12, 2016 10:01AM) (new)

Bunny I go back and forth on this one. In my head "guys" is not gender specific. But I know for a lot of people it is gender specific, and therefore exclusionary. So I try not to use it, and sometimes I won't catch myself in time, and I will use it anyway. Sort of a work in progress. I need a short, relatively friendly sounding word that means "all you people of mixed and unspecified genders" - sometimes I say peeps, but that seems a bit precious. Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly sparky I might say ladies when clearly it's a mixed gender group, just to play with the inverse. Hopefully eventually something will shake out and there will be a word.

Just like the singular "they" looks like it is shaking out to be the un gendered English pronoun that was missing, if there's a need for something in every day speech eventually a word will either get invented or shift meaning to fill the need.

message 3: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Taylor | 2 comments What book are we reading right now for the club?

message 4: by James (new)

James Corprew I dont see it as offensive but i do tend to address people of mixed genders as "You guys, and ladies" but in general speaking i never saw it as a problem. I think sometimes people try to over analyze something to make more of it than they really should.

message 5: by Bunny (new)

Bunny I'm not super happy about saying that someone else is over analyzing something. I think it's something you can say about yourself but when you say it about someone else it sounds like you're setting yourself up as the decision-maker about what is too much analysis and what is enough. It's like calling people oversensitive. I can call myself oversensitive but if I call someone else that especially if I don't know them very well it feels there is a little bit of disrespect in there that maybe should be avoided.

message 6: by Evelia (new)

Evelia | 89 comments I only used it with people that are close like my family. I wil used it with my siblings.
If I were to address a group I will probably used "everyone."

message 7: by CluckingBell (new)

CluckingBell I feel like "that guy" is gender-specific, as is "the guys" (in the room/fraternity/etc.), but "(you) guys" is a gender-neutral and, more importantly, familiar form of address for a group. It's a friendlier way of saying "everyone" if you're not Southern enough to get away with "y'all."

Usage generally precedes dictionary acknowledgement, and English-language dictionaries seem in agreement, which suggests it is already in wide use as a gender-neutral term.

If I get at all peevish as a cisgender woman, it's as an issue of formality rather than gender. When in doubt as a speaker, I'd use a more formal term of address. As a listener, I would only be offended by "guys" if the speaker were being far too familiar given the circumstances (or more likely, given my opinion of the speaker).

But as with all things, YMMV! :-)

message 8: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 265 comments as i am a hyper-sensitive person, physically, emotionally, psychically, etc., thanks, bunny, for acknowledging that it's not up to me to label someone else as 'too' or 'over' anything. this kind of thing hits people differently, is all. i've never even liked being labeled as 'miss' or 'mrs.' or even 'ms'. just saying my name will do fine, thank you very much.

and using the word 'they' as a singular pronoun also gets to me! i write, and i do everything i can to get around that. it may be that it's becoming an accepted term, but it just doesn't sound right to my ears. stuck in the past? possibly. no, make that probably!

and, as i'm not very up to date with all these techno-abbreviations, (not owning a cell phone), would someone please tell me what YMMV means? i know, i sound ancient and out of it, but there it is! : ) thanks!

message 9: by Grégoire (new)

Grégoire  Gras (Grgoir3) | 9 comments Evelia wrote: "I only used it with people that are close like my family. I wil used it with my siblings.
If I were to address a group I will probably used "everyone.""

Like Evelia said, I use the term "guys" only for my close friends or siblings. I do not use it for a group of mixed persons that I don't know a lot... I mean some persons don't like when they're called "guys". I think you just gotta be aware of what people think about this term.

message 10: by Bunny (last edited Jun 12, 2016 04:26PM) (new)

Bunny YMMV means "your mileage may vary," it is a shorthand which means other people may have a different experience which will lead to different conclusions.

As far as being old school the singular they can be seen in Hardy, Donne, Pope and Shakespeare. So it's actually a revival of an old form rather than a new one. I also had to struggle a little bit to get used to it but I felt like it was worth doing because I've never been satisfied with the idea that he should be the pronoun for people of undetermined gender. I always wanted a neutral pronoun for that situation. So because I wanted one it was worth the discomfort of getting used to the change in usage. Or I guess I mean the change back :-)

I think CluckingBell added an interesting dimension re familiar forms of address. The same words can be just fine coming from a close friend and offend coming from a stranger.

message 11: by Robert (new)

Robert Stonebarger | 5 comments To me I have always thought the term "guys" just to me a gender neutral term. However, I have found that over the years I refer to a group as "y'all". Obviously redneck for "you all". I never really thought about it. I just have used "y'all" so as to insure I do not insult anyone. Just like when addressing any woman by herself I have always, irregardless of age, said "ma'am" so as to be respectful and polite. Or if it is a couple of women I never say "guys" or "y'all", it has always been "ladies" with a slight tip of my hat if I am wearing one. Call me old fashioned but my mom and step-dad raised me to be respectful of others irregardless of gender, race, nationality, religion, etc.

Hylian Princess  (hylianprincess) | 8 comments I've always used "guys" as a slang for "you people," so to speak. My best friend (also female) and I call each other bro and dude all the time, like it's normal. I never really thought twice about it until I took a class on rhetoric and we talked about how language is influenced by gender distinctions and someone mentioned that "guys" can be offensive. I personally do not find it offensive, but as Bunny stated earlier, I don't think I could tell someone that finding the word offensive is ridiculous, because it's not.

Our language really is influenced by gender. And if you list all the words with a female connection next to all the words which are considered male, you may find that the female words have a more negative connotation. I hope I'm not overstepping any lines with this example, but what first comes to mind are the words "slut" and "stud." One is obviously female, the other male. They have the same meaning. One is used as an insult and the other is a compliment.

To connect this to the original question of "guys," I just think that it is important to be mindful of gender in language. So even if you don't find the term "guys" offensive- which I, for one do not- please respect those that do, because if you don't, you may be blinding yourself to the reality of these issues in our language.

message 13: by Bunny (last edited Jun 12, 2016 07:18PM) (new)

Bunny Someone recently told me I was being over sensitive and I said I felt I was being the appropriate amount of sensitive for my needs thanks so much. ;-)

Hylian Princess is right about the differences in connotation of feminine v masculine versions of words too. So then do we change the word or change the connotation? Seems like sometimes we do one and sometimes we do the other.

message 14: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 265 comments very interesting that 'they' is an old term as a singular pronoun to be gender inclusive. i never knew that. thanks for that insight, bunny. i've often used my own version of inclusivity - s/he.

and, robert, whenever a man has tipped his hat toward me, even in passing, i felt it a very special gesture of respect

thanks, too, to everyone who has been so supportive of my concern with the word 'guys'. you've all given me something to think about. it still doesn't sound good to me, but that's on me. part of my concern is how things are being presented to the masses in the media, using human pronouns to speak of technology, as if it were human. referring to a machine as a 'he' or 'she' instead of an 'it'.

i know that boats have been called 'she' forever. i call my car 'baby' or 'she'. but, some of the new uses of language is steadily putting human characteristics on machines - as if we're getting programmed to believe these machines are better than human. 'smart' phone. 'intuitive' cars. etc. i just don't like it.

i'm battling this tendency to use our language in casual ways, because i believe our language is the backbone of being human. much like whatever language is used in whatever country , area, state, tribe, and the like, helps define those people, helps them know where they belong. that's why, i think, this new-ish usage of 'guys' to address all genders has bothered me. i'm afraid we're being homogenized into a group-think sort of venue. do away with our individuality, and we're set to accept anything that comes down the pike, whether it's detrimental to our well-being or not. maybe i'm just getting paranoid in my old age! i've seen and heard too much that is making me uncomfortable about the direction and possible manipulation of our language.

i know, for example spanish, assigns a gender to every noun. that's the way the language was set up. the word for brothers and sisters is 'hermanos' - brothers, in english. same for the word that mentions both male and female cousins, and the like. in fact, my mexican husband has difficulty in calling an ant 'it' instead of 'she'. every language has its own way of dealing with gender. i sometimes feel like i'm being swallowed up by the techno age, and i'm working hard not to drown in it.

message 15: by Bunny (last edited Jun 12, 2016 08:04PM) (new)

Bunny There are over 200 languages that do not mark gender grammatically or do so only rarely. Including Persian, Bengali, Finnish. Dutch used to have gendered pronouns but it is dropping them.

Hylian Princess  (hylianprincess) | 8 comments It is incredibly hard to change language, since everyone has to accept the new word/meaning.

I think in some cases the gender tags in our language don't make much of a difference, ex: actor and actress. In other cases, such as my previously mentioned example, I think it can have real social implications.

message 17: by Bunny (new)

Bunny I wonder though, if it's really true that actor/actress doesn't make a difference? It's very clear if you read the research that actresses make less money, have smaller roles, have a more limited range of roles, and have less power to make decisions and choices in the workplace. I wouldn't think that the words used to describe the roles are a major reason for those differences, but do they have no effect? Maybe thinking of actors as the norm and actresses as the female version of the norm does have some subtle effect. Or you know, chicken, egg. Maybe the causality goes in the other direction. Maybe if the job was not already gendered, neither would the word be.

Hylian Princess  (hylianprincess) | 8 comments Hm, that's a good point. But what about job positions where the title is not gendered? Like professor/teacher or manager? I guess a way to compare the effects of a gendered title would be to compare the circumstances in those jobs. What do you think?

message 19: by Bunny (new)

Bunny It's interesting to speculate, I'm not sure how to get beyond speculation though. There are so many overlapping reasons that women get paid less and treated worse in various professions I don't know how one would go about isolating which one of the reasons is responsible for how much of the issue. Maybe the best use of those kind of obvious gender markers is just to note them as a possible warning sign that the job may have been around long enough to have acquired some extra gender baggage?

message 20: by Apoorva (new)

Apoorva Bhatnagar | 22 comments I think Guys was gender specific years ago.
Now, when we are talking about growing feminism, in my opinion there is a need to bring equality in people's attitude.
By this I mean not making general words like Guys gender specific.

message 21: by Sherrie (new)

Sherrie | 184 comments I agree with Apoorva. "Guys" as a gender neutral term is something that has been happening for awhile now and to push for it to become gendered all of a sudden seems counter productive.

That said, there is one situation where I have hesitated to say "guys" and that is when talking to/about friends that are currently transitioning from being referred to as one gender to the other. I avoid "guys" and "dudes" and phrases of that nature to let them know I'm thinking about them and my words.

message 22: by Jillian (last edited Jun 13, 2016 06:26AM) (new)

Jillian | 26 comments As I'm in a rush, I haven't managed to read all the comments yet, but basically I agree with what Bunny and Emma said in the beginning and I'll have to disagree with James when it comes to overanalysing, concerning this particular matter, that is.

I do use "guys" as a gender neutral way to address a group of people, I use "ladies" or "girls" for groups of mixed gender sometimes too. As a matter of fact I use a variety of words, including "peeps", "loves" or even "smurfs" (in a very loving way).

If we're taking a look at where it all comes from (historically speaking) and that in some languages such as Spanish a group of 100 women and 1 man is always referred to using the male form, then yes, it is pretty sexist, or rather, it certainly comes from a sexist place and I see how some people find it offensive that we keep using the male form in that kind of dominant way.

However, the reason I personally use both "guys" and "ladies" for groups of mixed genders is that I don't see any use in gender or gendered words or prescribed gender stereotypes. For me personally, "guys" and "ladies" in that context has no other meaning than "fellow humans".

Edit: I do pay extra attention to my wording when I am with people who are sensitive about that whole gender thing, though. For me it doesn't really make much of a difference, so I usually refer to people they way the like me to refer to them.

message 23: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 26 comments PS. This discussion is moving towards a very similar point as the one in the "Why ness?" thread.

message 24: by Lorraine (last edited Jun 13, 2016 07:44AM) (new)

Lorraine Hickman | 5 comments I live in the Midwest - Michigan, to be exact - and am not sure if anyone will agree with me, but I think it's a regional colloquial word. Midwesterners do this a LOT. "Guys" to us is gender neutral and no offense is meant by it. In the south they say "ya'll." Basically the same thing.

Hylian Princess  (hylianprincess) | 8 comments Bunny wrote: "It's interesting to speculate, I'm not sure how to get beyond speculation though. There are so many overlapping reasons that women get paid less and treated worse in various professions I don't kno..."

I think that is a good point. And to connect back to an earlier question about changing language connotations, I think maybe we as women by also have to use language as warning signs but learn how to overcome any problems it may suggest.

While I do believe that those subtle differences in language can make subconscious changes in society, I also believe that we can overcome them through our own conscious efforts.

message 26: by Fiona (new)

Fiona | 4 comments Hi, instinctively I don't respond well when addressed with the word 'guy's'. I am sure no offence is meant..

message 27: by Sara (new)

Sara Over time words change meanings as they are used in a particular generation - words become slang, take on new meanings, or become a new word entirely. For example, the word "gay" spoken in current times brings to mind "homosexual" rather than "bright" or "happy", and I feel that "guys" is the same. While there are people that use it in a gendered way, I think that it has mostly evolved to encompass a new meaning, which would be a gender-neutral term to refer to a mixed gendered group of people.

I will say that the initial question posed did ask "Am I being too sensitive?" so I don't think people should jump on someone who is of the opinion that this is too sensitive. I think that stating your opinion doesn't automatically signal "I am deciding that this is the opinion and everyone should also feel this way." It is, in fact, just a personal opinion, which we all have and share in these discussions.

I feel that this is a too sensitive look at things and overly PC. I'm not saying everyone has to feel that way, but that is how I feel. At some point, we get so lost in whether we're going to offend someone that we lose our ability to speak. If we do offend with our words, the offended can mention how they feel and ask that a different word be used. If you're speaking between friends, I'm sure that the person who offended would be more than willing to change how they speak.

I have never encountered someone who was offended by the term "guys" referencing a group of people, but if and when I do, I will change the term if someone mentions that they are offended by it.

Gnome Claire *Wishes she was as cool as Gnome Ann* It's difficult- if that person would address a group of females as guys then no I don't, but if they'd address a group of females differently then I do find it vaguely demeaning (choosing to primarily address one gender implies that gender is the most important)

message 29: by Bunny (new)

Bunny Sara wrote: "I have never encountered someone who was offended by the term "guys" referencing a group of people, but if and when I do, I will change the term if someone mentions that they are offended by it. ..."

Actually it may not be quite true to say you've never encountered anyone who is offended by it since there are two people in this very thread who say they are uncomfortable or offended. Maybe you didn't read the whole thread yet. But when you do you will have encountered someone.

message 30: by Sara (new)

Sara Bunny wrote: "Sara wrote: "I have never encountered someone who was offended by the term "guys" referencing a group of people, but if and when I do, I will change the term if someone mentions that they are offen..."

I meant in the world, in person. And though I don't foresee me using it in this setting as I now know that there are some people in the discussion boards who have said that they are offended by it, the internet is such a different beast and it would be quite difficult to cater to everyone's needs since there are hundreds of thousands of people using a particular site. In future I will be careful to make sure I'm being clear about the setting I am referring to.

message 31: by Bunny (new)

Bunny It was an attempt to be lighthearted and say, you just never know! Hard to convey without tone of voice. Should have emojied. ;-)

message 32: by Sara (new)

Sara Bunny wrote: "It was an attempt to be lighthearted and say, you just never know! Hard to convey without tone of voice. Should have emojied. ;-)"

It is difficult to interpret tone via the Internet. Luckily, this is a relatively safe place, and anything said, I believe, is meant with the best intentions.

message 33: by Bunny (new)

Bunny Sara wrote: "It is difficult to interpret tone via the Internet. Luckily, this is a relatively safe place, and anything said, I believe, is meant with the best intentions. ...."

I agree that's the best place to start from when trying to figure out what people are saying here.

Gnome Claire *Wishes she was as cool as Gnome Ann* Also worth remembering that not everyone who feels offended will tell you

message 35: by James (new)

James Corprew To be clear, when i mentioned that people tend to over analyze things it was just a viewpoint and opinion. I dont know if the last few comments are a jab at my earlier comment but i never stated that people cant feel the way they feel. If what i said is being labeled as mocking or patronizing than i will speak no more.

message 36: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 8 comments I have to say I have never thought of "guys" in a negative way, for me it is also gender-neutral when I speak to a group. I do use it when I'm in class in a group of people I know, or with my friends, but I don't use it often actually. I just don't use any of the forms you listed at all most of the time. I say "Hey, how are you?", rarely I will say "I hope you're all good" or something like that.
But then again, I don't speak english that much, except with a specific group of friends or in english class. And in french or german I don't really encounter that problem at all. I say "girls", or "people", which doesn't offend in french or german normally (I hope). So I guess it also depends on the language you speak.

message 37: by Fiona (new)

Fiona | 4 comments Sara, you say in your comment that you address people as, " .....girls.....or people....."
How old are the people you are addressing?
I think this matters.
As a more mature person I'm not comfortable to being addressed as a "girl'.
I was once a girl, but am no longer. As a woman I have different priorities than I did as a girl. "Girl" remains childlike. ( wonderful if you are still a girl...and indeed it still remains important to me to honour the girl who I once was... carrying this memory with me through life. Girlhood is part of/a stage of the growing into womanhood.

message 38: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 8 comments Fiona wrote: "Sara, you say in your comment that you address people as, " .....girls.....or people....."
How old are the people you are addressing?
I think this matters.
As a more mature person I'm not comfortab..."

Well I'm a teenager, so I address my friends that way. But then again, when I speak to strangers or adults I address them differently. I do call my parents "people" sometimes, but that's a nickname they appreciate and make fun off in a nice way; it doesn't bother them.

I understand that it may be uncomfortable if you're older or more mature, but I only use it with my friends and I only use "people" in french or german. I agree and don't see myself in a few years being called "girl" (except maybe by my friends as a joke?).

But as I said before, I don't often address a group with a term, I just say "you" or "all of you" or "everyone", something more general.

message 39: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 265 comments i think part of my original point was that for more than 50 years, the word 'guys' was a delineation for males: guys and gals, or like the movie 'guys and dolls'. then, this term became gender neutral, as many people are saying on this thread. why didn't 'gals' become the word that would be termed gender neutral? why was it the word that had referred to males for so long, most of my life and before that as well that became the gender neutral word? and what did that really mean for the females, to be included in a once-male term?

and, speaking of how words change, there was a period of time when, after the word 'gay' stopped meaning happy, or lighthearted as common usage, and began being used for homosexual men, it was also used as a putdown word, as in 'don't do that - it's so gay'. at the time i had objected to people using that word in that way as well.

as far as language on the internet goes, it's a language all its own, with its own rules, from what i've seen. there is so much hatred, so few manners, and so little kindness, along with all the abbreviations and little cartoon-like pictures and their meanings that keep evolving, i pay it little attention. i don't find a lot of intelligent usage of language in too much of it. my opinion, only. some places, such as this forum, are the exception, and i relish them. the rest, well . . . meh! lol!!!

message 40: by Robert (new)

Robert Stonebarger | 5 comments Sandra,
You are spot on with the statement about all the hatred and lake of manners. This is so true in this day and age. You have this increasingly growing generation of young adults, teens and even younger not just being disrespectful to each other, but watch how they treat there parents or other adult figure. No respect. How can we expect these to respect woman if they can not respect each other in language.

As I have said previously, I was raised fairly strict by my mom and step-dad. My step dad was retired 20yrs special forces and was also a drill Sgt. I was not only to respect him but I was also expected to show respect to my mother. Using yes, ma'am and no ma'am. When addressing a group it was always Ladies and gentlemen. Of course as I got older and out on my own I got lazy and Ladies and Gentlemen became "Y'all". I am from the back woods, sorry. The key is, and Aretha Franklin out it so well "RESPECT". How can you hold a conversation with others without showing the respect not just in what you talk about but how you grammatically express that respect to others.

Having manners toward others is a dying art. Much like common sense it is high demand but difficult to find.

message 41: by Bunny (new)

Bunny I think there are a lot of ways in which our language still reflects the unconscious historical sexism of the people who speak/spoke it. Collective nouns (nouns describing groups) being more often masculine than feminine is one example. There are a lot of ways in which English still assumes that male is the norm and female is the exception. But it was worse thirty years ago than it is now. The trend seems to be going away from linguistic sexisms and toward more inclusive and respectful language in that respect.

message 42: by Bunny (last edited Jun 14, 2016 09:41PM) (new)

Bunny BTW just for fun, the etymology of guys is that the word was first used to refer to a dummy used in the celebration of the English November holiday of Guy Fawkes Day - held in memory of the failure of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament in 1605. Kids would carry a stuffed dummy, like a scarecrow, that was called the guy around the streets begging passers by for money to buy fireworks and candy and then at the end of the night the guys were thrown on a bonfire.

Which makes "Guys and Dolls" make even more sense since basically a guy is also a kind of a doll.

message 43: by Fiona (new)

Fiona | 4 comments Hi Bunny, just to add to what you have said. I was one of those children who use to stuff a 'dummy figure' on Guy Fawkes Day and wheel it around the streets ...yes, and to my parents dismay - we used to ask for 'a penny for the Guy'. (all of us children used to do this - not unlike 'trick or treat' - Halloween.
As an educator - all age ranges - I always addressed my students as 'Ladies' or 'Gentlemen'. Sometimes, 'folks'. This form of address was always appreciated - and curiously enough even by the very young.
I live in England, so maybe it does make a huge difference as to where you live...I guess 'gals' is also an Americanism. ( taken from musicals into everyday usage?)

Gnome Claire *Wishes she was as cool as Gnome Ann* Emma wrote: "Nicki wrote: "Claire wrote: "Also worth remembering that not everyone who feels offended will tell you"

Especially since a lot of people are used to being mocked, patronised, or otherwise shut dow..."

Yea- and if you can't articulate why you find something offensive then it's difficult to bring it up, knowing theres a decent chance you'll be labelled as too sensitive.

message 45: by Tim (new)

Tim I don't really see much of an issue with the term "you guys"; I think it's used to refer to (non-gender specific) groups for no other reason than the fact that it rolls off the tongue easily and has minimal syllables. Furthermore, there are other dialects within English that use gender neutral terms to refer to a group of people. In British English, the most common one (I think) is "you lot"; in Southern U.S. states "y'all" is often used (as has been pointed out), etc.

I'd also like to bring some attention to insults in particular. Let me just right off the bat say I absolutely LOVE the c-word, so if you consider that to be inherently mysoginistic, I'll be happy to discuss that. Anyway, I know that in the U.S. it's considered to carry a lot of weight (in terms of negativity), but I'm a British English speaker, in which it is used more commonly (one might sometimes say casually), and usually against people of all genders (especially in Scotland). I think cuss words that you call someone should be gender neutral as much as possible although I don't mind having one or two gender specific ones, so long as you always have an equivalent of the opposite gender that implies the same characteristic (which is pretty much always the same: indecency). The word "pussy" is an example of a case where there isn't one (can you think of a swear word that refers to male genitalia to express weakness? I can't), and so I don't use it as a reference to people; the c-word on the other hand, does, so I don't see an issue with it.

But, let me also remind you that we're only talking about the English language here. Within the English language, when you're talking in the third person, you tend to use gender specific words (he/she), but this is not the case in other languages and so they often use nouns that are gender specific when it comes to talking about people (which also concerns insults because they tend to be nouns); I'm farily sure there are languages that are completely gender neutral (or at least don't have gender specific pronouns), so I feel like by focussing too much on the English tongue, firstly, we're being very exclusive towards non-English speaking people (and that is a LOT of people) and, secondly, we might reach a point where we start chastising the languages of said non-English speakers as well. Languages that we don't really have a clue about. There are, for instance, languages that don't have gender neutrality in their fundamnetal elements (like verb conjugation, pronouns, etc.). To me, while this matter is important to some extent, I feel like there is a point from which it just turns to another case of white feminism... except "English speaking feminism" would be more appropriate, but that doesn't roll off the tongue so well. :d

Hope I'm making sense, because I kind of rushed this comment. Feel free to respond as you see fit.

message 46: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 8 comments But there are so many words that have changed meanings over time in every language... When I think of it, there are too many for me to count really.

Then what always bothered me, more than a word like "guys" (which I do understand Sandra), is the importance of the male gender in french. In french, when there's a group of people, as long as there's one man, every adjective will me masculine. I never understood this and it always made me angry: why masculine when there's one man and ten woman, why not decide upon the number (which is most represented) or in a neutral way?

message 47: by Tim (new)

Tim Sara wrote: "But there are so many words that have changed meanings over time in every language... When I think of it, there are too many for me to count really.

Then what always bothered me, more than a word..."

I remember being bothered by that as well, the first time I learned it in French class; why not just have 1 gender for the third person plural? But now, some years later, I've come to hate the French language altogether so I guess it doesn't really bother me as much anymore :d

No, I don't hate the language for nationalistic reasons; I just think the language was not at all well thought out (the grammar rules, the pronunciations, etc.)

message 48: by Bunny (last edited Jun 15, 2016 08:34AM) (new)

Bunny That used to be the rule in English as well, any mixed group took masculine nouns. It's something to keep in mind when you read historical accounts, if an old account of a public meeting says something like "the men all cheered," it's very likely there may have been women in the crowd too. Which is one of the problems of the default male, it contributes to erasure.

English changed, French can too. Although French tends to be more conservative as a language than English is and change a little more slowly.

I remember back in the sixties when the change was just taking hold, people used to object to saying people instead of men when talking about groups. Being used to phrases like "now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country," men sounded more natural to them and saying people instead seemed awkward.

Now we've moved far enough along the path that we want gender neutral collective nouns, we aren't arguing that we don't need them any more. We just haven't quite figured out what nouns are going to get used. Are we going to change the meaning of words like guys or are we going to use already gender neutral words like people or folk, or are we going to invent new ones like peeps.

Or thumbs. I have a group of friends who call humans thumbs, which rises out of a joke we used to share about how animals were jealous of our thumbs.

message 49: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 265 comments i love 'thumbs'! that's a crack-up, but also makes sense.

i was purely focusing on the english language of the u.s.. when i first posted about 'guys'. i can respect other languages for their own history, etc. like i said, spanish uses masculine pronouns for mixed groups. i don't know much about other languages cuz i'm not familiar with them.

i do agree about bunny's comment re: using 'men' as a pronoun contributes to erasure. 'all men are created equal' comes to mind. i've heard people argue that the word 'men' was all-inclusive, yet it took many years before women were 'allowed' to vote, and it took many more before slaves were recognized to be human beings, let alone men and women. i treasure language, and want to preserve its dignity by using it respectfully.

i use 'you all' on a regular basis, rather than y'all, cuz i'm not southern. i'll just continue to use what fits for me, and quit bitchin' when i hear others call a mixed group 'guys'. it is what it is.

message 50: by Tim (new)

Tim Bunny wrote: "That used to be the rule in English as well, any mixed group took masculine nouns. It's something to keep in mind when you read historical accounts, if an old account of a public meeting says somet..."

I wouldn't go so far as to compare that to the way the French language does it; the distinction is that in French, it's the very pronoun that is made masculine. The use of the word "men" was usually only done in contexts that involved a group of fighting people (soldiers, mercenaries, bodyguards etc.) or just as a synonym for humans, like when Charlie Chaplin said, in The Great Dictator: "You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men!" or when people used to draw the distinction between a man and a slave.

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