The Common GuyOne Seemingly Benign Phrase Makes a Man Out of All of Us

Oprah says it. My yoga instructor says it. College students around the country say it. The cast of Friends says it, as do my own friends, over and over again. At least 10 to 20 times a day, I hear someone say “you guys” to refer to groups or pairs that include and in some cases consist entirely of women. I get e-mail all the time asking after my (female) partner and me: “How’s everything with you guys?” “What are you guys doing for the holidays?” In informal speech and writing, the phrase has become so common in American English that it’s completely invisible to many who use it. In response to my post on the topic, participants on wmst-l, a listserv for women’s studies teachers and scholars hosted by the University of Maryland, report that it’s not confined to young people, nor is it an altogether recent development (some of the participants’ older relatives used it in the ’50s and ’60s). Furthermore, the usage is beginning to spread to Canada, England, and Australia, largely through the influence of American television. (The full discussion has become part of the list’s public archives:

What’s the problem? people ask when I question this usage. The language has evolved, and now “guys” is gender neutral, they say. Even those who consider themselves feminists-who conscientiously choose “he or she” over “he”; use “flight attendant,” “chairperson,” and “restaurant server”; and avoid gender-specific language as much as possible-seem quite willing to accept “you guys” as if it were generic. But let’s do the math:One guy is clearly male; two or more guys are males. How does a word become gender neutral just by being plural? And then how do you explain something like, “The Man’s Search Engine”? Can the same culture that says “it’s a guy thing” to refer to anything that women just don’t get about male behavior view a woman as one of the guys?

Current dictionaries, such as Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, tell us that “guys” may be “used in plural to refer to the members of a group regardless of sex”; but then, we need to keep in mind that dictionaries are not apolitical. They record the state of language and reflect particular ways of seeing the world. (This same tome offers the word “wicked” as one synonym for “black.”) My 1979 ninth edition of Webster’s includes no reference to gender-free guys, an indication that “you guys” had not yet become a standard form of address.

In “The Ascent of Guy,” a 1999 article in American Speech, Steven J. Clancy writes, “Contrary to everything we might expect because of the pressures of ‘politically correct’ putative language reforms, a new generic noun is developing right before our eyes.” Although Clancy doesn’t take issue with the development (as you could probably guess from his disparaging tone on the whole idea of feminist language reform), his report ought to make us stop and think. During the same decades in which feminist critiques of generic uses of “man” and “he” led to widespread changes in usage-no mean feat-“you guys” became even more widely accepted as an informal and allegedly genderfree phrase. What Clancy concludes is that English contains a “cognitive framework in which strongly masculine words regularly show a development including specifically male meanings (man, he, guy) along with gender nonspecific forms…whereas in English, feminine words do not undergo such changes.” In practice, that is, terms signifying maleness have been more readily perceived as universal than those signifying femaleness. Or, to put it another way, if you call a group of men “you gals,” they’re not going to think you’re just celebrating our common humanity.

And this should trouble us. After all, haven’t we been largely pleased by the way the media has worked to adopt at least a semblance of nonsexist language? Newscasters and other public figures make an effort to avoid obviously gender-biased words, and major publications such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal do the same. In spite of vocal criticism from those who view such shifts as preposterous, genuine feminist language reform has gained some ground. But as is the case with all advances brought about by feminism and other progressive movements, we need to stay on top of things-or else we may wake up one day to find them gone. This seemingly innocent phrase may be operating like a computer virus, worming its way into our memory files and erasing our sense of why we worry about sexism in language to begin with.

Up until a couple of years ago, I used the phrase as much as anyone, and I never gave it a thought. “You guys” sounds casual, friendly, harmless. In Southern California, where I live, it’s positively ubiquitous. When two female friends told me one day that it bothered them to be called “you guys,” my wounded ego began an internal rant: I’m a literature and gender studies professor, I know about language, I spend much of my time teaching and writing against sexism, and here were people whose opinions I valued telling me that I was being patriarchal. Impossible!

And then I started listening. I listened first to my own defensive indignation. Clearly, my friends had touched a nerve. Deep down I knew that they were right: Calling women “guys” makes femaleness invisible. It says that man-as in a male person-is still the measure of all things.

Once I copped to being in the wrong, I started hearing the phrase with new ears. Suddenly it seemed bizarre to me when a speaker at an academic conference addressed a room full of women as “you guys”; when a man taking tickets from me and some friends told us all to enjoy the show, “you guys”; and on and on. It was as if these speakers were not really seeing what was before their eyes. I experienced a sense of erasure, of invisibility.

Alice Walker, a vocal opponent of this usage, recounts how she and filmmaker Pratibha Parmar toured the U.S. supporting the film Warrior Marks and were discouraged to find that in question-and-answer sessions audience members continually referred to them as “you guys.” “Each night, over and over, we told the women greeting us: We are not ‘guys.’ We are women. Many failed to get it. Others were amused. One woman amused us, she had so much difficulty not saying ‘you guys’ every two minutes, even after we’d complained” (from “Becoming What We’re Called,” in 1997’s Anything We Love Can Be Saved ).

Because it took me the better part of a year to eradicate this usage from my own speech, and after hearing friends-whom I’ve encouraged to follow suit-apologize when they slip back into it, I feel like I understand the problem from the inside out. Most of us are familiar with the idea of internalized oppression, the subtle process by which members of disenfranchised groups come to accept their own lesser status. We need to recognize that accepting “guys” as a label for girls and women is a particularly insidious example of that process.

Many people on wmst-l have offered alternatives, ranging from the Southern “y’all” or less regionally marked “you all,” to the Midwestern “yoonz” or “you-uns,” to the apparently unhip “people,” which is associated, it seems, with nerdy high school teachers and coaches. “Folks” received the most support as a truly gender-free option. Some suggested “gyns” as a playful feminist variant. A more radical solution might be to use a word like “gals” as generic and get men used to hearing themselves included in a female-specific term.

Although the majority of those who posted and wrote to me privately viewed the spread of “guys” as something to resist (with many noting how they sometimes regressed), others expressed hope that the phrase would indeed free itself from masculine connotations over time. One professor writes, almost wistfully, “I, for one, have always liked the formulation ‘you guys’ and whole-heartedly wish it were gender neutral. English could use a gender-neutral term to refer to a group of people (or even to individuals for that matter)…. I’ve had students (female) be offended when I’ve used ‘you guys’ to them, but I still like it for some reason.” I think many feminists who find “you guys” acceptable would similarly like to believe that it is indeed nonsexist. It’s a powerful phrase precisely because it seems so warm and cozy. But we ought to ask what we are protecting when we claim that “you guys” is no big deal.

Sherryl Kleinman, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, has dedicated herself to eliminating the usage. She argues, in “Why Sexist Language Matters” (published in Center Line, the newsletter of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center), that male-based generics function as “reinforcers” of a “system in which ‘man’ in the abstract and men in the flesh are privileged over women.” With the help of two former students, Kleinman developed a small card to leave at establishments where “you guys” is spoken (it’s available to download at The card succinctly explains what’s at stake in this usage and suggests alternatives. Kleinman reports that distributing the card has aroused some anger. After dining with a group of female friends and being called “you guys” several times by the server, Kleinman left the card along with a generous tip. The server followed the women out of the restaurant and berated them for what he perceived to be an insult. Christian Helms, who designed the card’s artwork, comments, “It’s interesting how something that is supposedly ‘no big deal’ seems to get people so worked up.”

Most of us have probably had the experience of pointing out some type of sexist expression or behavior to acquaintances and being accused of being “too sensitive” or “too pc” and told to “lighten up.” It’s certainly easier just to go along with things, to avoid making people uncomfortable, to accept what we think will do no harm. If you feel this way about “you guys,” you might want to consider Alice Walker’s view of the expression: “I see in its use some women’s obsequious need to be accepted, at any cost, even at the cost of erasing their own femaleness, and that of other women. Isn’t it at least ironic that after so many years of struggle for women’s liberation, women should end up calling themselves this?”

So open your ears and your mouth. Tell people that women and girls aren’t “guys.” Stop saying it yourself. Feminist language reform is an ongoing process that requires a supportive community of speakers. The more we raise our voices, the less likely it is that women and girls will be erased from speech.

AUDREY BILGER likes guys well enough, but doesn’t want to be one. She is grateful to Kim Zick and Connie Grauer for prompting her to think about this and for giving her plenty of better things to listen to (see

This article was published in Transformation & Reinvention Issue #18 | Fall 2002

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31 Comments Have Been Posted

I wouldn't say that what is

I wouldn't say that what is being presented in this article is feminist bullshit, and, as a user of the term 'guys' - mostly for my female friends, I might add, I am perplexed with what options I am left with.

Let's face it. No one uses 'gals' these days and I have used 'folks' in writing, but not when speaking to a group. If we should rethink our use of 'guys', what should we be using?

Thinking of an alternative,

"You guys"...

Um, Alice Walker says that "you all" (and NOT "y'all", unless you're from the south and wish to say it...) will suffice. Go ahead, try it!...


How about good old "Ladies and Gentelmen"?
I am a mother of a teenage girl. I do respond to "you ,guys" term simply by saying that we are NOT GUYS,we are GIRLS;)

That, and using assigned sex

That, and using assigned sex at birth language (male, female) is also highly problematic. It was constantly used throughout the article, and I get why, but it needs to be addressed that we should be referring to people by their gender identity.

you gals

what's wrong with the phrase "you gals" when speaking to a group of women? I 100% agree with this article. And I do use the phrase "you gals" so someone out there does.

I would refrain from using

I would refrain from using "gal" with African American women, as it has a history of racist undertones, similar to calling an African- American man a boy.

... so, any solutions?

I am also finding it hard to use correct words for this situation. I think that, if we truly want to propel the movement forward, we need to have a solution already proposed. Otherwise it is seen as ranting by the common folk. So, what are the appropriate words to refer to women? Without trying to be too formal, because if you do that, then you alienate yourself from the group because you use weird words. As a male engineer, I am all for working alongside women in the engineering realm, but help me get to the solution, because as a male, I cannot come up with the best solution. The best solution resides in you women.

I vote for y'all. Why not

I vote for y'all. Why not adopt a perfectly nice genderless word chunk?


I"m a Tech Support Guy from the mid-Atlantic states who currently lives in California and works in the computer industry. I found this article after a newly added female Tech Support Person playfully asserted that she didn't need to respond to a certain request addressed to 'you guys' since it obviously wasn't meant for her (it actually wasn't meant for her, but I took her point).

The use of Guys in the tech support world is ubiquitous and insidious. I for one will make a conscientious effort to, from now on, say "the staff", "my staff", "tech support", or anything else I can come up with.

Some observations:

I've looked at the card, and while it does seem innocuous enough, I agree that it could be hazardous to hand it out casually.

I have a male neighbor who uses the phrase 'just between us girls' to refer to gossip or something to be kept confidential. I can attest that is it disconcerting.

You all is clumsy in a formal situation, and "Y'all" is often uncomfortable for people of Southern heritage because of the way that popular culture has used it as a point of ridicule for the allegedly uneducated and backward ways of Southern American Dialect. Usually by using it in the singular form, which a Southerner would never do.

You-uns is an appropriate expression for people from the mid-Atlantic, Appalachian regions, and is one of the many Elizabethan language elements remaining in that rapidly fading dialect, and therefore difficult for others to use convincingly.

People can be somewhat derogatory when used in an informal context, 'everyone' may be a better alternative.

However, I think the whole point of the article is to listen to the words we use, think about their meaning, and try to do better.


As a proud educated southerner I enthusiastically embrace both y'all and folks. If people want to make assumptions about my intelligence based on those words that is their issue not mine. By the way if you look at the last sentence you see that people works very nicely as well. I myself wouldn't use peeps but if that works for you all power to you. Any of the previous works on social media and if it is more formal writing 'all of you' can be used. To be honest with you I think 'guys' is more of a regional thing as well because I very rarely if ever use that expression.

As a female engineering

As a female engineering student I appreciate this sort of consideration. For one of my classes, an email was sent addressed to "Guys." Not even a campy "Hey guys" as it tends to take form in speech. It could have been addressed in so many other ways: Class, Students, Everyone, Hello All... any number of gender neutral options. I hate to request that it be addressed differently, because I am at the mercy of those who are going to determine my grade. It is a serious problem. It is difficult to find your place in engineering as a female, and it doesn't help with these reminders that you are the minority. It is bothersome enough to hear it spoken, but when someone makes the deliberate key strokes in an email it feels almost like an obligation to ask for correction because it is staring at you in black and white type. So, I'm stuck with an obligation for which I will potentially receive backlash for requesting. I wish that it would be explained as the standard at the university from those in charge that TA's and professors should use gender neutral addresses as much as possible. As an undergraduate, you are at the bottom of the totem pole. Making requests about how the university is run, isn't a warm and inviting thought. In fact it's pretty terrifying to point out mistakes to the people who are your teachers. I can't claim that I have never used that term in addressing a group of people, but once I showed up to my third Calculus course as one of two females in a class of thirty, I realized the gravity of these issues. I made every effort to correct myself, and as you stated, pay attention to what I say. I was a supervisor when I made the transfer to engineering, and I supervised all young women in my department, so it wasn't a very difficult switch there. I can imagine it might be a little more challenging to adopt in an environment where that is accepted by the majority, so I try to be patient with such things, but it is cumbersome, and not everyone understands. I will say that on the spectrum of things I have faced as a female in a STEM field, it seems like this ranks at the lower end of problems, but, then again, maybe it works from the bottom up rather than the top down. Maybe explaining the impact of these very broad generalizations that seem trivial to a lot of people, makes more apparent the incorrectness of greater offenses. In any case, it is incredibly appreciated when a man in a male-dominated field will make the effort to make a woman feel included, so thank you!

And to comment in general: I'm glad that the converse is pointed out, and the likely response it would evoke. I think it speaks for this cause when you think about how "ladies" is often used in male dominated ventures such as sports and the military as a means of belittling men. It illustrates just how "undesirable" it is to be female when in a male dominated facet of life.

Honestly I started using the

Honestly I started using the word 'Peeps'. Comes from people. It's a "more hip" way of saying the standard boring people. (You can even "feminize" (if you consider making something 'cute' as associating it with the female. *eyeroll*) it if you associate it to a certain yellow marshmallow candy.)

"Hey peeps!"
"What's going on peeps?"
"Hey you peeps!"

Works nicely for me.

Thanks, Audrey! I'm one of

Thanks, Audrey! I'm one of those boring feminist types who responds to this with gritted teeth too. We have been disappeared from this patriarchy in everything bar pronography. And women have been duped into defending it because you know, it's not fun and all to keep harping on about human rights when we should be all grateful for the huge gains we've made. Or something. *headdesk* So nice to know I'm not totally alone in my thoughts. :-)

I'm a Brit (!) and I hate the

I'm a Brit (!) and I hate the phrase guys applied to mixed sex groups. I hate the phrase folks even more, however applied. I might try peeps, but I doubt I can carry it off without feeling queasy.


In my dictionary, "black" as meaning "wicked" or "bad" is clearly denoted as an archaic term, and it's my understanding that the definition is still listed for educative purposes, say, when reading an archaic text. Maybe it's time for a new dictionary?

That being said, the only plural address I've received when with a female group that denotes our (supposed, binary) gender is "ladies," which has never sat entirely well with me. Frankly, though, this is where I'm glad for English's Germanic heritage, which makes it easier to denote people (and objects) in a genderless way. Imagine if this were a Romance language. And the only people I would call "gyns" is a group of gynecologists, thanks.

Here's some grammatical food for thought on gender-neutral (and lack thereof) language.

this is ridiculous. it's just

this is ridiculous. it's just words. words can mean different things in different contexts.
for example, should we stop calling it "the black market" since that sounds racist? Maybe we shouldn't even use the word "black" at all, even when talking about black paint or a black shirt.
obviously this political correctness has gone too far. let's stop worrying about little things and start worrying about the big things.

Millions of women are suffering everyday in countries that don't have democracy. I think we should start dealing with that, instead of nit-picking words.

Oddly, and this is one of the

Oddly, and this is one of the points about modifying our use of language, we can do both at the same time. Being inclusive in the way we speak is something everyone can do, really quite easily, and at the same time, continue with all kinds of social activism. A bit like walking and talking at the same time.
And worrying about the 'little things', like making women and races other than white invisible through language, does have a major impact. If the nuances of language had no effect, there would be no advertising industry, and everyone but the out-and-out racists wouldn't have stopped using abusive terms to describe non-whites.
Thought and language are inextricably linked, the more we 'dumb-down' our language, the less agile our brains become, the more we normalise abusive speech, the more we are able to internally accept that some people are less.
There is a rigorous piece of research by John Gastil and published by Stanford University, that shows how we really do image maleness when we always say 'he' instead of 'they' or 'she/he'. Gastil also shows that even which word comes first changes what we mentally image, for example 'women and men' v 'men and women'.
Anyone really concerned about the suffering of millions of women in countries without democracy, will change the way they speak about women in their own country.

A few thoughts

I think this has raised some points, however I'm not one to agree with the solutions.

I just don't think it is possible to convince the world to change their ways like that.

I know it has been done before, but even things like 'wait person' or 'flight attendant' as opposed to 'waiter/waitress' or 'steward/stewardess' are still not completely set into our ways and many of us who do try to watch our words will still slip every now and then, but a large percentage of the world, simply don't care.

I for one do not, If I speak with someone who is offended by a certain terminology I use then I will accept that, and try to find alternatives when around them, but around other people I will go back to using the words I am comfortable with, Whether it's because I was brought up with these terms or if they just simply flow better in conversation, I'm not sure.
I think it's a combination of both.
My parents never used 'you guys' all that much but it was evident in my environment, at school and such, But i also find that it simply flows better off the tongue than 'you people', 'you folks', 'y'all' etc.
This could also be due to my Australian accent, as we do tend to speak very lazy and choose dull sounding syllables (letter is usually pronounced closer to ledder, as the 't' in water is pronounced as a 'd' and we are also very fond of 'z' sounds, I guarantee the average Australian will say 'aussie' over 'australian' unless in a professional environment, and even then I'm not so sure).

I honestly couldn't say if this relates to other accents as I don't know the intricacies of them.

I do agree with an above post stating that most other alternatives provided can also lead to discriminatory use, particularly y'all.

Another thing to maybe consider, is the age bracket. Now I know we've managed to substitute many terminologies to gender neautral alternatives, again steward / stewardess to flight attendant, However most of these aren't used everyday, and especially not with the younger generation.
So you may be able to convince the current x generation and above to adopt a more careful vocabulary, but 'you guys' is a lot more common than flight attendant, and is used VERY frequently by the current Y generation, and the largely ignorant tendecnies towards these kinds of issues in younger generations will make it very hard to make an impact on them. So within 10-20 years, when this generation have kids of their own, they will no doubt still retain their comfortability with 'you guys' and it will begin to rub off on the new generation, so on and so forth.

I see it like this, Say enough support is raised, and people become more conscious, 'You guys' is commonly replaced by say: 'You folks'.
Within 30 years, the new 'gen x and gen y' will stick with 'you guys', and us, now much older, generation will be looked upon in the same we looked at our grandparents when they said 'hooligans' or 'hooroo' or many other slangs that are deemed 'uncool' by the younger generations.

It just seems to me that the whole concept is a useless struggle, And as also previously stated, they're are bigger issues to address in the world.

I am by no means an english professor, in fact I am a 23 year old graphic design student, so although i do know the power of words, I also need a trend psychology of the different demographics, particularly the teens.

In saying this, I will stick to how I have always handled these things, and if I meet someone who is offended by that term, I will watch my tongue when in their presence, but when they are gone, and my audience has changed, I will revert to what I find comfortable, providing it is still socially acceptable.


I would just like to add, that the above does not neccessarily indicate my feelings on the subject, but moreso the way society in general will react to it.

I am a big believer in 'to each their own' and feel that people need to be more respectful and open minded about how others may view the world.

I'm so glad i've read this

I'm so glad i've read this article. Just a few days i was referring to a married couple with "you guys" and i internally felt so uncomfortable calling them you guys but still kept using it without realizing i was repeating the same mistake over and over again.
Thanks so much for this article!

Thanks, Audrey

Thanks for writing this article, Audrey. I hate it when people address women or mixed groups as guys or you guys and almost always protest.

Most people will critize inclusive substitutes but even if they're not perfect, they're a lot better than "you guys".

I was born in the Midwest and raised in the West, but I absolutely hate to be called a guy. I cringe whenever I hear the term, you guys.

>How does a word become

>How does a word become gender neutral just by being plural?

Many words have meanings that vary with context. Didn't you say something about being a professor of language? Do you actually know how language works?

>This same tome offers the word “wicked” as one synonym for “black.”

In the sense of 'his black heart'. Nobody sat down and thought "hmm, I need a synonym for evil. What's the most evil thing I can think of? I know: Niggers!"

The semantic connection between black and evil comes from our ancestral fear of the dark, not from politically motivated antipathy toward brown people as you seem to be suggesting.

>Calling women “guys” makes femaleness invisible. It says that man-as in a male person-is still the measure of all things.

I think you should really look at this argument critically, because it simply isn't coherent. Any gender-neutral group pronoun is going to make femaleness invisible by the simple fact of being gender neutral. It's true that using a male-specific group pronoun makes maleness visible - but as we've already observed, 'guys' in the plural is losing its gender-specificity, and in this context is gender-neutral. For the argument to hold up it has to be both gender-neutral and gender-specific at the same time - and since it's just a word, a verbal symbol to denote a concept, that means that the speaker needs to be dishonest, they need to be saying it as a gender-neutral term but deep down feeling that it is gendered and that gender is receiving a special privilege.

The idea of 'man as the measure of all things' is a bizarre one. As you know doubt are aware, etymologically "man" means human, and "woman" comes from a word that means something like "wife-man"; a man was just a human, a woman was a human capable of bearing children. You could argue that this usage privileged the female over the male, as being a special and distinct thing, while men were just the default. Or you could argue that women were being demeaned by being the exception, though I have a harder time formulating that argument.

But these positions are like arguing that a certain picture is two faces and not a vase, or vice versa; they're entirely a matter of perception, and more importantly they don't have any connection to how that society actually treated men and women. It may be that our bronze age counterparts saw women as chattels and the "wif" prefix suggested that this was, yes, a person, but a person who could be owned and ordered about. Or it may be that they saw women as equals and thus saw no need to categories a woman as a separate "thing" from a man, but saw the difference between the two as a difference of qualities and not of fundamental nature. Indeed, they might find you shockingly sexist for using two different terms, as though men and women were different animals entirely.

We can answer these questions by studying the cultures in question, but the fact that they arranged their pronouns one way or the other tells us nothing - it only provides an echo chamber for our own anxieties about gender. Likewise, when you and Prof Kleinman hear this word you don't experience the intent behind it or its cultural significance or effects - you mention a 'sense of erasure' which you didn't feel until you 'copped to being in the wrong'. Doesn't that suggest to you that the problem is not with the word, or how the usage of the word is evolving, but with your assumptions about it?

Women aren't being erased by this usage; they're being included. Semantic territory once owned by men is being yielded to them, and it's only through semantics that this can be spun as a bad thing. (Or a good thing; I'm making it sound generous that men are giving up a word, but they aren't inconvenienced at all; language is evolving, as it nearly always does, toward mutual convenience.)

So I'm not going to "open my ears" because you demand it any more than I'm going to "wake up" because someone tells me that Obama is a muslim bent on destroying America; I'm not going to stop saying it, because the vast majority of women I know appreciate it and its friendly, inclusive connotations.

You and Kleinman are going to fail, playing Canute and commanding the tides of linguistic change to roll back because of your own convoluted hangups. "Guys" is now, and for the foreseeable future will remain a gender-neutral plural, and women and girls are not going to become invisible, and society will continue to reverse its horrible trend of devaluing the feminine, because the gender-neutral "guys" was never in any danger of devaluing women.

What if we call men bys and

What if we call men bys and women gals?

Put em together and u get neutral guys!

otherwise use "you all".

Not safe either

I've been criticized more than once for using "gals" and not just because it makes you sound like somebody's great aunt. The reason is because it is derived for "girls" and so is equally dismissive. I think that's also a stupid argument, but not as stupid as hating on "you guys" as gender neutral.

You're dismissive and rude

If you think hating on "you guys" as gender neutral is STUPID maybe you should go read up on other websites that are to your level of intelligence like The Daily Mail. We have guidelines on this website and you will be Deleted for not only being Dismissive and Rude but Obnoxious.

FOCUS, people

You wonder why the term "feminist" is disliked by so many women? Because self-described feminists spend all their time policing language and telling allies they are doing it wrong. Stop thinking so goddamned much and do something practical.

Real progress is the Lily Ledbetter Act, family leave act, pay equity, eliminating rape kit backlogs, abortion rights, health coverage for contraception, Planned Parenthood funding, etc. etc. etc.

or just spread the neutrality?

I feel like once society at large had taken the peak as gender neutral, it's easier and catchier to transform the singular as well, rather than insisting on a different plural. As in "I was talking to this guy and she told me..."

I think I'm going to play around using singular "guy" to refer to women and see what response I get.

My view on YOU GUYS

I think that the phrase adapted to the time frame we live in, which is one that lets go, or is simply apathetic about the language that is spoken in crowds. While yes, the phrase "guys" is suppose to refer to a group of men/boys, it became easier to call everyone you "guys" rather than say guys and girls. That does not justify it, but it is interesting because today it is easy to call someone by the wrong group (homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, etc...) and it can be said that it is a way to try to be politically correct and it became accepted as everyone did respond to it. If it is insulting, or just straight up wrong to a person to be called that, then it would be rude to continue using the phrase. But when it is something that is accepted in the mainstream, people don't seem to care. Maybe more people should be made aware, because it can be a slap in the face to those who fought for women's rights, but the problem is not enough people want that language to change. It is such a common word in anybody's vocab.

Constructive Alternatives

Hi there - thanks for the thoughtful article! This issue has plagued my liberal brain since I was called out on it by a cousin-in-law several years ago at a family dinner, to which I contended that "guys" wasn't an insensitive phrase to use for addressing a collective mixed-gender audience. If anything, I reasoned at the time, it would be nice for the female gender to be lumped in indiscriminately with the male gender, as women so often feel like second-class citizens, outsiders, or "others" to men in this largely male-privileged society and planet. 'If you want women to be equal with men,' I thought, 'then this is a great first step - all genders are included on a level playing field when we use the term "guys" for a multi-gendered group! Why be upset if there's no outcasting, singling out, discrimination or patronizing going on?'

I've since come around to a more nuanced and respectful mindset on gender relations and societal dynamics.

Thusly, I propose the following vernacular to address differently sized groups of multi-gendered people:

2 people: "you two" or "the two of you"
3 people: "you three" or "the three of you"
4+ people: "you all" or "all of you"

No need to resort to a potentially inauthentic or unexpected "y'all," "folks," or "yous/you'uns" - just use numbers and be scientific yet colloquial about it. It's best for both the speaker and the audiences, in my opinion based off many years of thinking about this intermittently. Having had a daughter in my life in recent years sure helps a man get respectful perspective. :)

Cheers to inclusion without invisibility!

The Alternative to You Guys

I cringe a dozen times a day when I hear a teacher speak to her class, saying,"You guys, pay attention". Or when I hear parents speaking to their female and male children, "You guys, come here". I wince every time a waiter asks, " What can I get you guys". I am not a guy and I detest the phrase.

YOU is plural as well as singular. A waiter can correctly ask a table of three, " Can I get you anything?" A teacher can address the class. " I would like for you to pay attention".

I don't see the need for you all or youse or you gals when YOU will do for one or more.

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