I really really really can't stress strongly enough

how much it shocks my heart to hear how often the expression "you guys" is used in everyday language, especially in social movement/radical community spaces.

I don't mean to be unsympathetic or humorless or heartless. Yes I understand how difficult it is to replace that phrase with something else. But I promise it can be done. And talking about love and revolution and radical politics and building a movement feels so much better once "you guys" is gone.

by Debbie Rasmussen
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97 Comments Have Been Posted

Y'all, just use "y'all"

This situation is why I finally just decided to embrace the term "y'all." Seriously, it's damn near perfect. If you don't want to use the shortened version, you can just say "you all." People might ask you if you're from the South, but that's not a difficult question to answer. I've often explained that I use this term because it's inclusive and that it has nothing to do with where I was born. Bonus: it's kind of folksy and fun to say.


I'm a huge fan of "you all" (and y'all every once in a while when I'm feeling frisky).

Use it. Love it.

And you're right Debbie, it is jarring to hear "you guys" so often. (Although I'm guilty of letting it slip now and again, it's definitely a phrase that's entrenched deep in my brain somewhere.)

Doesn't bother me in the

Doesn't bother me in the slightest. Does that make me a Bad Feminist?

Aussies are bandits for 'youse'. Maybe that can make it's way around the world in place of 'you guys'.


I've heard "youse" a lot

I've heard "youse" a lot around the St. Louis area, too, but often with "guys," as in "youse guys." I don't mind hearing "youse," but it seems awkward to me for some reason--maybe it just sounds strange to me since I'm not as used to it.

And yeah, this was dealt with recently...can't remember if it was the book or an issue, though.

Part of my issue with "you guys" (besides the obvious, of course) is that I just think it sounds sort of crass and unintelligent.

Me neither.

"You guys" doesn't bother me either. It actually seems a bit nit-picky to be bothered by it, in my opinion. It wouldn't hurt to start using other phrases instead, but unless there is some underlying anti-woman history behind it that I'm unaware of, I wouldn't waste any energy trying to put a stop to it's usage. I don't see how it's a threat to women at all.

The issue is that it implies

The issue is that it implies male as the default, like mankind, chairman, and all that. They all reinforce the idea that male is the standard and female is a deviation from or variation of that standard.

A good rule I like to go by is if you can't swap it for another gender, it's not neutral. People generally don't refer to a mixed-gender group as "you girls", because that's gendered. Therefore, so is "you guys". The reason "you guys" is so common is because male is seen as an "acceptable" default or standard.

I hardly think that any man

I hardly think that any man using/hearing the phrase is secretly thinking, "YES!! We WON! We're the supreme gender because everyone says "you guys"!" Just my opinion. & I respect yours. I just don't think anyone is going around being emotionally or mentally affected because the term "you guys" is used a lot or that it's making woman feel degraded.

When you think about it - it

When you think about it - it sort of is degrading. However, it has become so common that the original meaning seems to have been lost. That is ... women are invisible. And, like some commenters said above and below, states that males are the default gender.

Another way to look at it is exchange sexist language with racist language.

For example, regardless of how commonly used it could be, imagine if everyone said, "Hey Whiteys!" to a group of people regardless of their race. Now, imagine if someone said in defense of it, "You guys (;P) are being sensitive. It's not like I think you are all white!" But, by speaking that way - it gives the impression that whiteness is the default race.

That may be stretching it a bit (and my sleep-deprived state is probably making my comment somewhat incoherent), but that is how I see it. On one hand, words are words. But, on the other hand, is it so hard to just not call a group of women "guys"?

I remember ..

"I just don't think anyone

"I just don't think anyone is going around being emotionally or mentally affected because the term "you guys" is used a lot or that it's making woman feel degraded." While on first thought it may seem that this is true, maybe it is for some, or maybe we have become so desensitized to the term that we don't notice the sting any longer. I can say that it does make young girls feel degraded. I work in an elementary school and the number of times I have heard young girls say 'why are you talking about us like boys? I'm a girl' I can't even count. WE train these young girls into thinking that the term doesn't matter and to stop feeling the slight, instead of listening to what they are trying to tell us.

that's the point -- we're not thinking

sorry, a bit late to the party here.

You wrote: "I hardly think that any man using/hearing the phrase is secretly thinking, "YES!! We WON! We're the supreme gender because everyone says "you guys"!""

We don't HAVE to think that -- winning is the default. As men, we whine and complain when we DON'T win. Heck, sometimes we whine and complain when we DO win, but "not by enough." That's entitlement -- ya know, the ugly, smelly, dirty underbelly of unexamined (in this case, male) privilege. and yes, at best, it's really really annoying and tiring to everyone -- the whiner included. at its worst, its the foundation for men's violence (against women, class/race violence, etc etc).

so in a way, i agree with you, but in a way, i don't think your statement lets men, male privilege, entitlement or "you[se] guys" off the hook in any way, shape or form.

so i guess all this is a roundabout way of saying,

"IF YOU TAKE 'YOU GUYS' AWAY FROM US GUYS, THEN WE WILL CURSE ALL YOU GUYS WITH A NONENDING STREAM OF WHINING AND COMPLAINING FOR AT LEAST A DECADE or however long our chronically-short attention spans and memories allow us...and we might also throw a tantrum and break a few things"

Wasn't there a feature on this in the print magazine??

I am pretty certain this has been addressed before. I think the feature on "You Guys" might even be in the book (my books and mags aren't sitting next to the desktop at the moment). Perhaps it is time for this issue to be revisited and debated?? Personally, I prefer "you all," too. But there are those who believe that using "you guys" is empowering.


Well, it is crazy if you think about our whole language is based on the idea of a male's point of view. Even though I've heard that women were the first ones to invent languague. It doesn't make sense that women would not include themselves in the everyday languague, but I think that is because it has been changed by mostly men according to their benefits. Like the word "He" is used for men and women right? Then how does this sound; "He was going to give birth today," or "He had his period this morning." Weird.

There was a feature called "On Language: You Guys" in issue #18

I thought so. There was a feature by Audrey Bilger called "On Language: You Guys" in issue #18. You can't read it here, but it is also in the <i>Bitchfest</i> book (Don't have it? Powell's does. I love e-shopping there). As I said, perhaps it is time for the issue to be revisited/debated??

Yep. I read that one. If

Yep. I read that one. If anyone calls me a guy by grouping me into "you guys" I inform them of their mistake. I'm not a guy, don't call me a guy.
I'm also pro-y'all. My grandma is from VA and she indoctrinated me with "you'uns" (as in "you ones").
Any francophone knows that this is also a problem in French. A group of 400 women where one is holding a male child is referred to with the plural male "ils" because that child's gender takes supremacy. Should someone consult the French academy about this?

The same thing happens in

The same thing happens in Spanish. If there is one male, the group is masculine. I have seen people use the "@" to be more inclusive in Spanish instead of picking an "o" or an "a" and trying to keep it neutral. One of my professors actually insists that we write "Chican@" rather than "Chicano/a" because the latter privileges the first vowel.

Sooo guilty

I'm so guilty of this one, though I'm going to put in my vote for &quot;you all&quot; and &quot;y'all&quot;. Being from appalachia, it sounds about right to me.


i agree, i hate hearing it -- and yet i say it myself all the time without noticing -- or i notice and am annoyed with myself. fucked up as it is, i think that's often the case with deeply ingrained habits and especially speech patterns. personally, it would help to be called out on it when someone hears me using it.

same here

I catch myself all the time on this one and get really annoyed. I seem to tackle getting one or two words/phrases out of my vocabulary at a time. I think I'll work on this one now.

working on posting the article

our beloved content wrangler is working on uploading this article. stay tuned...

Personally, when I hear (or

Personally, when I hear (or say) "you guys" I assume both sexes are included. It is like a less formal version of "you people". To me it doesn't indicate gender at all. I would call my girlfrieds "you guys".

"Y'all" is too American for me, being an Aussie, it really puts me off.


I used to say the same thing - but ask yourself this: does "girls" indicate gender? If so, then how come "guys" doesn't.

And, you know, read the article, because it will explain it better than I can! http://www.bitchmagazine.org/article/the-common-guy

It's up!

<a href="/article/the-common-guy">Here's the article</a>.

i used to think it wasn't a big deal...

but it was audrey bilger's article that made clear to me how important it is and how accepting it or seeing it as nongendered really just reinforces the the notion that maleness is universal and femaleness is not. for me it has become one of those tiny things that is actually a big deal. (and it has been REALLY HARD to train myself not to use it. i say y'all with my tongue in my cheek, 'cause how else can a raised-in-new-york-city girl use it?)

that or gals?

To respectfully diagree totally: I've had my radar shoot off for "guys" since reading that article in <i>Bitchfest</i>-- it's probably one of the least-forgettable ones (I mean that in the best way possible) because it's just so part of everyday speech. That being said, while I notice when I say "you guys" to a group of women, or female peers, or 5 year-old campers, I still say it. Because what do other people say instead? "Hey laaayyydees!" "Girls!" etc. They are, in my opinion, none the better and far the worse. Great to keep in mind, harder to keep in speech.

why not just say nothing?

it took me a long time to weed out the phrase "you guys" from my vocabulary, but once i did, i also starting noticing that it's often used when really no word/phrase is necessary. if you're talking to a group of people, why not just "you"?

i cringe at being called "lady," too, but it doesn't cut quite so deep. not yet anyway...

it shocks me, too, how prevalent the word "girl" is in our culture to refer to female-identified folks well into adulthood.

simply "you"

exactly, add nothing to it...works for me and has not failed yet...made the change in my vocab many years ago and "you" works all by itself...perfectly


It certainly is a struggle to erase "you guys" from my vernacular, but I'm slowly getting better. I can absolutely appreciate the internalized sexism and erasure of female importance the use of this term embodies. Like others have said, I like replacing it with y'all, you kids, you folks, hey monsters...

I'm wondering what people think of using the word "dude" indiscriminately as well? I personally think that I'd have a more difficult time letting go of this one even though I use it less often, because it carries some ridiculous teen-age sentimentality for me and I kind of love dragging it out. I realize it's less prevalent, as it's use is somewhat culturally and generationally limited. But are people equally bothered by this term?

well, yeah, that would be

well, yeah, that would be wrong because according to Wikipedia, the female equivalent is "dudette." :)

now back to "you guys." here's one group's take on how to take action:


i too have an affection for "dudes"...

<p>...but to me it has definitely not-gender-neutral connotations. i don't call female-identified folks dudes. and i don't like to be called a dude. i tend to use it as an expletive to express dismay/negative amazement in general. or to refer to a specific kind of guy. the kind who calls me dude, in fact. </p><p>dudette sounds almost freakish to me. makes me think of smurfette. is this internalized sexism? </p>

Like "Bro" and the fem

Like "Bro" and the fem equivalent of "Brosephine". :)


My father refers to my sister and I as "dude."
We (sisters) also call one another by that particular name, often to giggles or puzzled looks by on-lookers.

all y'all

goshbless, i totally totally get more than irked at the sound of "you guys" which even happens when i'm in feminist collective organizing situations, which happens more often than i'd like to recount.

as a southern ladeee (riiiight) i use y'all regularly one because i grew up with it, and dos, because it's gender neutral and SO useful. and then you can use the plural of y'all which is all y'all. and it rhymes and who doesn't love that.

and for serious about the use of the word "girl" to describe women who are even well beyond their teenyears. for some this might be nitpicky and oversensitive, but really, i just think it's another example of how normative the patriarchy is in our society.

i'm not a guy, don't call me one. language gets so infused with meaning and we don't even realize it.
if you ask me "you guys" is so dude-acle.

this isn't going to be a

<p>this isn't going to be a popular opinion and maybe i am just being contrary to the cause, but 'you guys' and 'dude' and 'lady' doesn't bother me. i kind of find it cool when we fuck them up and turn them upside down a bit. my son calls my best male friend 'lady' for instance. i call my dear women friend from college 'dude'. i would rather be called a 'dude' than a 'folk'. i like the word 'dyke' but not 'lesbian'. and i don't want to be called a 'folk'. what are we all to do with this language debate? </p><p>&nbsp;</p>

i am with you on the gender-bending of calling men "lady"

but that's b/c it's a reversal of the usual, which actually does have the potential to be subversive. but when women have been expected to be part of the &quot;inclusive&quot; male in a man=all humanity but women=females-only way, calling women guys and dudes doesn't work for me.

I, too, used to sometimes

I, too, used to sometimes refer to people who were obviously male as "lady", just to shake it up. But then I realized that would be really offensive if the person I was addressing was trans. It seems that gender-neutral terms are the only really safe bet when one considers the multiplicity of gender expressions.

I tend to agree

Because of the widespread use of the terms 'you guys' or 'dudes,' it seems more like they have been transformed into neutral expressions instead of the users becoming male-centric IMO. Example: patriot used to mean someone who loves their country; now it tends to mean ultra-nationalist, right-wing radical who desires to violently overthrow the government. Context is everything in certain situations being called 'lady' or 'girl' can be funny and completely acceptable providing it isn't a backhanded way of association with a fault/weakness.

In general, I'm a fan for brevity. If we have to be vigilant in our speech (to match the other places where we need it) then I believe we will communicate less or reach a tipping point where people backlash against any perceived social control (ever read the comments on a typical youtube video???).

The importance of speech

I used to think making a big deal about "you guys" was fairly trivial in relation to the other issues we face until I read that oft quoted piece in Bitch magazine no. 18 some years ago. It absolutely resonated with me that to accept use of this term reinforces the concept that maleness is universal and femaleness is not (just as Lisa Jervis points out here), so I stopped using it. Once you break the habit, you never look back.

Interestingly, here in Ireland I find I am even more annoyed by the term "the lads". Lads (men) can be lads, and a group of people that includes women can be referred to as "the lads" but a group of women is referred to as "girls" - regardless of age. I am in my late thirties and often grind my teeth to dust when I hear 20 year old guys in my office refer to me as "that girl". I tell them: "I'm not a girl, I'm a woman". And they pretty much poo themselves. "Yis" is an acceptable plural to "you" but is falling out of favour.

As American culture and language become more and more popular amongst the upwardly mobile Irish yuppie set, I hear "guys" being used more and more. Why can't we import something useful from America like...oh I don't know...Bitch magazine (for starters)!

anyone from pittsburg?

i'm not, but apparently there they say "yins" let's not rule out that option.

i have at times adopted y'all, not so much as a result of my discomfort with using you guys, but more depending on the company i'm in. i tend to be more likely to use it around friends of color, but sometimes makes me feel as if i'm appropriating their culture. so y'all is good, but can get a bit tricky in its own way.

i also have encountered baffled expressions, misconceptions and laughter when i describe myself as dating a woman (i identify as a male, p.s.). people either think i'm dating a middle aged mom or just laugh. i realized after a while that i'd gotten pretty good at saying women when i'm not talking about specific women, but things regarding women, and had to train myself to stop referring to "girls." it bothers me that i know so many 24 year old women (including the woman i love)who want to refer to themselves as girls, but refer to men as guys. we're all grown. can't we just be men and women (or womyn if you prefer)?


I'm from Pittsburgh, and most of us do say "yins". I think it's a good neutral substitute, but I sure do get odd looks when I say it outside of my city, haha.


It never occurred to me that people might be offended by the phrases "you guys" or "dude," especially since most men and women use those terms for both men and women. You all just sounds too southern to fit with my pattern of speech, though i do use it once in a while, and get called out for it. I know some women get offended at the usage of "girls" for grown women, but it's never offended me and I use it. My 70 something year old grandmother still uses it to describe her 70 something year old friends! LOL
Thanks for the interesting blog.


Guilty beyond belief..

In my line of work, I deal with around 30 kids varying from gr 1 - 6 in a gymnasium after school. Things tend to get a little chaotic, so as an attention-getter, I usually just call out 'Okay, you guys, it's time to clean up' or whatnot. I'm also guilty of using 'dude' to refer to.. well, anyone, if I have to. Usually it's an easy way to get someone's attention without stumbling over names, or to use it as a sort of term of endearment. The kids I work with started copying me, calling me a dude back.. until I said I wasn't a guy, and they'd switch to 'dude.... ette'. Frankly, the 'ette' drove me crazier than 'you guys' or 'dude' ever would. There are some forms of language that I find very sexist, and will correct people on (such as policeman/fireman/etc..), but I'm not bothered by 'you guys' or 'dude.' I've got quite a few friends in the States that use 'ya'll', but I'm from the middle of Canada - it seems awkward to say 'ya'll' because it's so stereotypical of Southern U.S. residents. This is one of those tricky issues that doesn't seem to have a real answer for me, yet..

I'm a guy. He's a guy. She's a guy.

Maybe the best solution to this problem is to de-sex the word "guy." As in, "I met her yesterday. She seems like a really nice guy." Then it will all work out.

I'm a nice guy

yes! I agree, I've done this several times, as a lady I have called myself "a nice guy" a lot. I think it's brilliant, and fun.

You people

I'm certainly not a fan of 'you guys,' but the thought of replacing it with y'all just doesn't sit well with me.
I actually say 'you people' quite a bit but unfortunately, that can also come off as being offensive in certain situations.

'scuse me...

It's weird but for some reason I think I would be put off by that phrase. It would be like someone I know calling me by my full name. Obviously, I'm in trouble for something... :)

What about "oh boy" and "grrrl"?

After living in the South for years, I've given into using "you all," although I try to catch myself and say it properly ("all of you"). I was born in New York, so I can't bear to say "y'all" on purpose. I agree with the high school sentimentality of calling friends "dudes," but I always said it in reference to a group of female friends, or at least while talking to them. I frequently call my closest straight male friend and my closest female friends "babe," so I think of it as either gender-neutral or intentionally subverted in that limited context. But I would never use the word with anyone else. What really bothers me is hearing purported feminists use the phrase, "Oh boy!" It just grates against fiber of my linguistic being...

On the other side of gendering, being called "girl" doesn't bother me, so long as it comes from another woman - which I think is a bit of a Southern thing, as well. A few other female friends also use "chica" because we grew up in Arizona where Spanish is prevalent. And some women mean "grrrl" when they say it, which they use for a feminist context - a theatre camp for young women here in Nashville uses it. I don't mind it when other members of the LGBTQ community and friends use "dyke," but I think it sometimes offends me coming from strangers since it has had a negative context in the past. I'd rather just be called a lesbian. But that always makes me wonder: Should it bother us that who is using these phrases matters? Language is encultured and symbolic, so it matters who is speaking just as much or even more than their word choices. I do think it's time for the print magazine to revisit this issue.

Rather universal

Being a Spanish major, I know that when there is a group of people that includes both girls and guys, the masculine form of the word "you all" or "you guys" is taken. So it's pretty universal for words to take on the "male" form. I dont really feel like its offensive. Many people these days do use "you ladies" or "you girls" if its all girls, and "you guys" if its all guys. However, when addressing both it can just be natural to say "you guys" or when trying to be familiar. Now, I was the girl in fourth grade that hated singing in the patriotic show because the words were "I'm an American boy" and during the show loudly screamed "GIRL!!" So yes I like to be recognized as a female, however, I dont feel that hearing "you guys" is something to get all riled up about. It's not a phrase that should be used in a business environment or anywhere on the job, because it does sound very informal. I agree that "you all" may be a safe thing to say to people just in case they would be offended, but at the same time being included in a "you guys" statement is much less offensive than other words that girls can be called in this society.


"You guys" doesn't specifically bother me, but being from the South originally, I still favor "y'all." It's such a perfect abbreviation, AND it sounds friendly. Additionally, if you happen to dislike enunciation, it rolls off the tongue easily enough. Those familiar with Pittsburgh, PA, might also recognize "yins" as a viable alternative. You might have to explain that to more people, though.


I couldn't care less if people say 'hey guys" or "dude" or "man"--- these are not really loaded terms or gender specific anymore. I don't really need anyone saying excuse me "ladies and guys", it just sounds false and not authentic to real speech.

Does the author of the post only want to be addressed by "hey people" or "peeps"?


..."youse" - there couldn't be a worse mangling of the english language, or a term that makes someone sound more uneducated (sorry oz)

I use y'all often, but just as often I use "you guys" with no problem. I'm weary to the bone of "political correctness" and can't wait for political correctness to become incorrect :)

political correctness

or just speaking with a mind toward inclusivity? i'm not a guy and i don't want to be called one. it's really that simple to me. i don't see the point of fooling myself into believing that the word has no roots, and thus no meaning.

so the next step...

When someone says "you guys" inappropriately, what do we do? If one of the big issues behind "you guys" not dying soon enough is that people don't take notice when it's used—then how do we prompt ourselves to notice?

I've brought it up to friends, with differing responses, but with friends, it's a little easier to have a convo. Would you say something to a stranger? And what would it be?

There are so many more important things to focus on...

"You guys" doesn't affect me in the slightest. And yes, it is the accepted standard because referring to people or titles with the influece of the male gender is going to always be the standard. America was founded by men. We have always deviated toward a male influence in our language and always will. There's no need to change this, either. If you don't like America's history and values, move somewhere else. Women should be looking to other areas for real change. Not something as paltry and irreversible as this.

Thomas Jefferson, is that you?

Or should I call you Mr. Anonymous?

without resistance there is no growth

"If you don't like America's history and values, move somewhere else."

Sorry, but I guess I'm too optimistic to agree with you.

And just to clarify, which "America" are you referring to when you refer to America's values?

Better for All of Us?

What about just calling people what they prefer to be called? If Rasmussen doesn't like "you guys" used in reference to her, then she is perfectly entitled to insist that people not use it with her. However, her feelings aren't universal, so why should everyone else change? So that she can feel better? That seems like a really weak reason, to me.

This country consists of many different cultures spread out across a continent. Words just don't mean the same thing everywhere and I think it's a bit hegemonic to try and create some universal standards about what is and isn't better for all of us. I've lived on the West Coast, in the South, and the Midwest and I love the diversity of speech that exists in this country. Language is a significant part of culture. Each culture that uses a "word" adds their own meaning to it. It would be a shame if that diversity disappears any more than it already has.

I mean, what are we looking for? Is this what social movements are trying to move towards? A world where we all think and sound alike? If so, where does it stop? Personally, I'm not very fond of the word "b*tch". However, do I think that everyone else should stop using it? Nope. Is there any guarantee that if everyone stopped using it, "social movements/radical community spaces" would feel better for us all? If using the term "you guys" is problematic to Rasmussen, then how in the world does she square that belief with the fact that this is written in a magazine called "B*tch"?

In many places, these controversial words are colloquial terms of endearment. "Darling", "cher", "you guys", "girls", "folks"--it all depends on how they are being used. If my momma calls me up and asks "How are you guys doing over there?" it sounds a helluvalot better to me than if she asked me "How are you and the man and the female child doing over there?" It certainly wouldn't make me feel any better to hear the latter rather than the former. In that situation "you guys" would be perfectly fine with me.

Of course, since we're down here in the deep, deep south, we usually use "y'all" to refer to groups (of single or mixed genders). Still, is that really better than "you guys"? Better to and for who? I don't think any of my former English teachers would see it as much of an improvement.

Also, it's dancing dangerously close to cultural appropriation for some of these folks to start trying to switch from using the words from their own culture and purposely adopting the dialect of other cultures. If I'm in the heart of Wisconsin and some Mid-westerner starts using the word "y'all" to address a group that includes me, that would sound a lot more problematic, and perhaps offensive, than if they had just said "you guys".

not to put words in her mouth (no pun intended) but-

-I think Debbie's post goes beyond simply stating a personal preference. She's calling out one (of many) of the ways the English language privileges maleness over most anything else. (Of course she's welcome to correct me...please do.)

Personally, I was one of the people who said "but...but..." when I originally read this post. I grew up in Southern California where "you guys" was second only to "like" in frequency of use. After I moved away, I tried substituting "you girls" at times I would have normally used "you guys", like in emails: "I can make cupcakes or cookies. What do you girls prefer?" specifically to mixed groups, just to have the chance to explain why being offended at being called a "girl" was on the same level as not wanting to be "one of the guys". But that was only when I felt like it. Not being consistent.

And I still wasn't being consistent by the time I read Debbie's post, and had the knee-jerk reaction, "that's not SUCH a big deal." But it is. They're two small words that people throw off without thinking, and not thinking is part of the danger. I'm glad Debbie wrote about this because it makes me think, and I've been making an effort to be conscious about ALL parts of the language I use, not just the ones that seem problematic *to me*.

Regarding what to say instead, that's a question I posed in an earlier comment, but I would think "how are you, [husband's name], and [child's name]" would be an appropriate way to phrase things. I think there are more ways than one—they just require thought :).

Thank you

Bint Alshamsa

That was the most intelligent thing I have read today.

Roots and meaning

I just wanted to comment on what someone said about the words having roots, and therefore a meaning. Of course that is true, but you know, language changes. As a counter example, I want to ask: When someone says, "That is so fucked up." (for example), do you assume that they mean that the item in question has been had sexual intercourse with? Of course you don't, the meaning has been lost in this usage. In the same way, the use of "you guys" has been, and is becoming more and more, gender-neutral. At least that's how I see it.

Although, having said that, I don't think it is a bad idea for people to talk about it and bring it to others' attention, the way that casual use of language is shaped by prevailing assumptions and norms, and to try to change them.

Regional differences

While I agree that language is hugely important, I have mixed feelings about "you guys." Five years ago, I would have been totally on board with Debbie, but since then I've moved first to the South, and now I'm in Europe. Being a non-Southerner in the South has been extremely uncomfortable; the mentality I've encountered constantly is "if you aren't from here, go home." Using "you guys" instead of the more gender-neutral "y'all" is my own small way of subverting that discrimination.

I think regional differences in speech are important to take into consideration. In the US, people don't identify as American in the same way that they identify with their own particular region, state, or town. Culture varies wildly around the country, and as we move to an age when people rarely stay in one place for long, hold on to that culture is as important as it would be if you moved to another country.

This is perhaps slightly off-topic, but something worth taking into consideration. I do agree that gender-specific language, especially when it is used to refer to general population, is not desirable, and I do my best to eliminate those from my vernacular, or at least use them in way that call attention to the double-standard.

y'all are alright :)

Y'all is a great word. Means you all. Same goes for an' 'em. Means et al. You folks works too.
Look, hate on the south if you want, but I love the language and I am not sure if you can find *proper* (no sugar!) cornbread elsewhere!
Seriously, you people? That sounds sort of, idk, accusatory. Like your parents got home from vacation early and found all your friends over..."I don't know what YOU PEOPLE are doing here..."
(Whew, I am about to pee myself at the thought!)
And as far as the south being sort of, xenophobic (in the sense of being afraid of "others", not just folks from out of the US), it prolly ain't any more so than other regions of the country or the world even, where things are rural, the pace of life is slow, and communities are close knit. I mean, sociology prof. told me that smaller groups enforce social norms more stringently. But we do warm up to people!

Funny, Connecticut people

Funny, Connecticut people treated me (a Tennessee Cherokee) the same way. Your comment comes across as a little discriminatory toward Southern people, yet you expect to be respected. Let me remind you respect goes both ways--and that non-Southerners are just as capable of being bigots as you seem to think we are.

good point

i think your point about the construction of US identity is getting overlooked. people in the states do tend to identify with regions. to claim that "you all" is neutral ignores the unique power relations created through different regions.

however, im failing to see how "you guys," subverts the dominant southern paradigm of "you all." perhaps you could expand on that a bit more?

Before I read the article

Before I read the article addressing this topic I was decidedly skeptical about how important this kind of gendered language really is- however, once I began to mull the topic over, I saw the phrase differently. It seems trivia at first blush, but despite what one assumes, language does have a strong cultural impact. Research has examined the use of language in childrens' books and the negative effect it can have on the way children perceive female characters and male characters (as passive and active respectively). And let's not forget the standard use of the term "mankind" and the default "he/him" in text books of the past; words that were removed because they implied women were/are absent from the topic being discussed in the text- mere inactive observers.

Since reading the article my friends and I have fully embraced "you gyns" as a "you guys" substitute. It's not nearly as hard as one might think to replace such a commonly used phrase, and it's much more fun to say!

You gyns! I LOVE IT!

You gyns! I LOVE IT!


Yeah I would definitely agree with this. There was a really interesting article in Bitchfest about this. The book suggested alternatives such as "You all" or "Folks". I've come to embrace "You all" in more formal langauge and "Folks" in more informal. A change needs to be made to reform trends that exclude women in our society, and that change must regard out speech and the speech of our culture that is commonly overlooked.

Indifference leads to cruelty

Just another comment,

I've been noticing that some say that doesn't affect them and that they have no problem with it, and that may be, but wearing out the use of a word until it disregards a whole gender isn't good. The fact that it has been used like this for a long time is no excuse not to change it. Even if you consider this a subtle language nuance, it is in fact rather large, because it leads to mindsets that exclude women. I go to an all male school where "you guys" has never been questioned, and me and my group of friends have joined and are spreading the word for this cause, and trying to end male chauvinism in the community.

In the feminist ghetto with 'you guys'

I empathize with those who bristle at being included in the "you guys" group.

But I think it's unintentionally belittling to the very people we want to build bridges with to micromanage the way people speak -- especially when no malice is intended. Unlike racial and sexist epithets, "you guys" has never been used to marginalize. I don't think you can equate "you guys" to racial epithets or sexist pejoratives. I understand that some people feel marginalized when it's used. But I think "you guys" has been used broadly to include people. Pejoratives are fair game, to my mind. But "you guys?" I don't know what's to be gained by protesting it.

In this case, I'd rather model the way of speaking I prefer than insist people change "you guys."

I like to use "friends."

I like to use "friends."

Hey y'all. I agree that the

Hey y'all. I agree that the word "guy" has come to refer to a male...I appreciate the implications. I just wanted to point our something: etymologically speaking, the word comes from a historical figure, an english man named "Guy Falwkes" (not sure how to spell his last name) who was an anarchist. Back in the day "guy" just meant "anarchist". So when I hear the word "guy", I think "comrade" and am fine with it.

Totally agree

I actually did my senior thesis project on this exact topic. The toughest part of the project was removing it from my own speech. I've replaced it with "all," "gang," "team," etc, depending on the setting. I've spoken up to colleagues, bosses, friends, and many others, and will continue to do so!!

ALL ya'all

I agree that 'you guys' is NOT for me. I use 'ya'all' often when speaking to a group. A friend made me bust a gut laughing when she schooled me on the plural option of ya'all
if speaking to one or two people, use 'ya'all'
if speaking to a group or more than two people, use 'all ya'all'
i still think this is funny. and i've tried 'all ya'all' with groups and usually a few folks laugh....
thanks for the discussion!

I agree

In the book Bitchfest, there is an essay on that word. Ever since I read it, I refrain from using that phrase. I am trying to pass this message along. at youall2.freeservers.com, you can find cards to download and print that give alternatives to saying "you guys". It's pretty cool, and I've given them to people...trying to spread the message.:)

neutral language?

im pretty sure ive served some of the staff of bitch at work prior to finding this post/reading the article. i remember worrying if i the phrase "you guys" had slipped out when serving their table. and then i found this post - yeah!


im having a little bit of trouble understanding gender neutral language and im hoping someone will maybe have the patience to explain it better...

my first question: is "ya'll" neutral in relation to class and concepts of race?

i was raised to be a boy in san diego. half my family is from south carolina and the other half arrived via mexico. im thinking of the high school behind my grandmother's house and what would happen if someone tried to introduce ya'll. i find it nearly impossible that the spanish and tagalog communities would find ya'll acceptable or neutral. especially the second generations which grew up speaking english w/ spanish or tagalog. regardless of wether its warranted, "ya'll" has conotations of the american south and its traditional history. i remember when i came back from my second summer in south carolina and picked up things like "ya'll" and "mama." my older friend on the street instantly told me to knock it off, because to him, i sounded like the openly racist inland hicks that gave him alot crap. even some of the responses to this post show hostility to adopting "ya'll." long story short... i think there are grounds for challenging "ya'll" as neutral in relation to race and class.

and this brings me to my second question: if "ya'll" fails to demonstrate neutrality in relation to race or class, how do you demonstrate "ya'll" as neutral in relation to gender?

does "women" universalize female as an appendage of men/male (adam's ribs)? what about a word like "virtue" in print?

and can i appologize in advance if these questions seem insulting? they're really not meant to be. and im not trying to call anyone out... but if you feel like i have overstepped please please let me know.

ps good discussion

What about interpreting people's INTENT when they're speaking?

As far as "y'all" goes, I

equate = 2 + 2 = 5

i never equated it with racism. the point you are missing is that assumptions dont come from nothing or nowhere - they are created and recreated. what i was attempting to point out was a relationship or power dynamic by asking, what allows someone to make that assumption? and, on what grounds have you dismissed its legitimacy?

i cant tell if your implying that the south is more racist. personally, i dont think you are. i think you're saying its different which is partly my point. calling the south more blatantly racist - blatant compared to what? whats the north - latent or liberal racist? either way, youre admitting that the north has its own structures of race based oppression. where do you situate neutrality in calling the south blatant? to me one is neither better, more or less biased or neutral. its like when one assumption meets another. its different and thats why people are able to notice it.

with that said, the whole red state and blue state is an overly simplified divide which supplies the basis for alot of ignorance. you could just as easily compare metropolitan to rural divides. my current roomate grew up dirt poor in rural oregon and ive never lived with someone who makes so many overtly classist comments about the "gross" parts of town. that these assumptions reproduce themselves on every level is what defines a class system, is it not?

vir in latin means man. virtus in latin has a variety of translations ranging from manhood, moral perfection, strength, or simply virtue. i asked this because anglo american politics are so centered around is/is not - it is sexist, its not sexist. continually forcing new examples highlights a broader process of habit instead of the simple either/or. heres a question for ya'll anglos: why is learning a process, but ignant is something you either are or are not?

Folks...lose the "you guys" crap PLEASE.....

Debbie R, I agree...the "you guys" thing is a bit juvenile and clearly too "loaded" and of course irritating. I don't like y'all personally, but of course I am from the East coast and I suffered through hearing that Y'all crap throughout law school in TN (Vandy). So if one needs a nifty catchall, I say hey people try saying "folks" instead or "you folks." Especially when referencing our amazing BITCH Mag writers, editors, contributors and such don't assume a gender. yeah, some men are BITCH contributors etc., but come on people, let's get over this retarded lingo. I suspect that the "you guys" saying people also insert "like" after every two words or so. Get the gist of that kiddies, folks, peeps, and readers?? And why I am at it, I always hated people saying to me and some fellow females "hey girls..." or describing a woman as, She is a nice "girl." Sure, it may depend on the tone or situation (if old folks use it, I smile and know where they are coming from), but you get what I mean right??? if you said to some men at work, "hey boys, how's it going" it would sound weird right? Well so does "hey girls" to me and many other folks (male and female folks alike). Women often refer to females in a casual way as "girls," but will call men "guys." If you say "hey girls," then you should also say "hey boys" when addressing grown men and women in casual situations. Or if you can't get over "hey guys" use it when referring to males, and use "hey gals" when referring to females. Don't say "hey guys" to the men and "hey girls" to the women. And why are many restrooms labeled "Men" and "Ladies"? Have you ever seen a "Ladies" and a "Gentlemen" labeled restrooms? No, because the men's toilet or "can" is always "men." That irritates me as well.

Peace out fellow BITCHES!

"....but come on people,

"....but come on people, let's get over this retarded lingo."

I wonder if mentally otherly-abled folks would be offended at this? Funny, you want to eliminate "guys" but throwing around "retarded" is perfectly acceptable.

Lighten up, folks!

comment about my use of "retarded"

Look up "retarded" in the dictionary and try reading it in the context of what I wrote. I meant that folks that see no problem w/ "you guys" etc. are backward and clueless. Retard (retarding, retarded) is a verb which means to slow the progress of or impede or delay or a slackening of the tempo. That is how I was using the word, and I was clearly not suggesting that developmentally mentally challenged individuals use the words "you guys" in a literal sense. Please know that I was not and in fact that I did not intend to insult mentally retarded or cognitively challenged folks in my comments.

I know the meaning of the

I know the meaning of the word and have used it in that context but recently I've been wondering about my usage, it smacks of privilege, is insulting and insisting people look up the dictionary definition to fully understand what meaning is intended is patronising as well as incorrect as there are different definitions.


As far as ''you guys'' goes I really don't know, I'm not at all offended when people use it in reference to myself in a group of people but I suppose I would find it odd if someone referred to myself as an individual 'guy' but still not particularly offended. I can't see ''y'all'' taking off in the UK, that's odder than ''you guys'' but ''everyone'' or ''people'' would be an acceptable neutral replacement. I've been called 'mate' (more of an British thing?) and I quite liked that, and 'girl' bothers me becasue I'm not a child.

As for Lady, I can't see everyone liking it but it's been a nickname of mine for a while as I grew up as the exact opposite of a 'Lady' but got annoyed by being referred to in male terms, I'm female and happy with it.

you boys

"if you said to some men at work, "hey boys, how's it going" it would sound weird right?" not in ireland, it's quite common.....

Hey, homies...

Eh, this seems a tad nit-picky to me. I don't use it much. I usually say "chicos" to boys, "chicas" to girls, and "home-skillets/homies" to groups. xD But that's just 'cause I'm a dorky white kid from the suburbs who think she's a lot cooler than she is. I use "folks" a lot, too.

Being anti-"Y'all"

I just want to add that being against "y'all" or trashing that term because it comes from the South is NOT okay (it's also NOT an argument, by the way). You are being regionist by reinforcing harmful stereotypes about a group of people within a particular region.

Let's review:

You + all = Y'all. Just like: I + am = I'm

It's a completely grammatical construction that follows all the rules of contractions. And it takes care of the ambiguity in using 'you' for both singular and plural.

If you cringe at the sound of it because it's "Southern" then you just need to work through your prejudices and move beyond that.

i dont think anyone is

i dont think anyone is having trouble with the grammatical constuction of ya'll

the question is why people choose one form of you plural (ya'll, y'ins, folks, you guys, you gals, ladies, ect) over another form you all plural. thats not a question of grammar. its a question of representation.

bashing the south because you feel your position is superior and pointing out particularities of the south because youre not used to them... they're not the same thing.

if you dont attempt to locate and understand and dismantle the ignorance projected on the south w/ the popular ignorance projected through out the south then what prejudice are you working through?

im sorry but i wouldnt trust a southerner who didnt talk some shit on southern california because it needs to be said sometimes.


If it is problematic to say "you guys" then what about "man"? (Think: Dazed and Confused). Man is as much a significant part of my everyday vocabulary as is other heinous words, including "like" and various profanities (I admit, I swear like a sailor). And while I have made a stink about textbooks that use the word "he" as some sort of catchall pronoun, and I have vocalized my opinions on words that END in man (policeman, spokesman, etc), I think that what bugs me is when I do not CHOOSE to be excluded from the discussion. When a book text book uses the word "he" it discludes me and every other female from the equation, whereas when I use the word "man" it is a slang term that I have CHOOSEN to keep in my vocabulary. The whole thing with language is crazy to me really. Here's something that should be anoter article: in one of the many fights with my (ex)boyfriend, over my feminist beliefs, I dared him to think of a word that is specifically derogratory to him, a white male. I dare everyone to think of one ! There are specific words that are aimed directly at specific portions of the population (fag = gay, dyke = lesbian, n word = African Americans, slut = all women, and so on). The only real words that are derogatory to white males are words that typify them as females, such as pussy, bitch (which means something ENTIRELY different when directed at a female), sissy. etc.

How about 'cracker'? That's

How about 'cracker'? That's the only one I can think of in this moment.

You Guys

The term bothers me because it assigns superiority to men by the sheer volume of recurrence alone. At first, I did not want to think it was even a concern, and like many other people who do not validate feminists’ search for oppression, it seemed rather trivial.

However, from my observations this past week, while some would say it is a non-issue due to the colloquial nature of our language used in all settings these days, I noticed in my English high school classroom, it was an issue. I began a running tally on the board for every time I said “guys.” On our block schedule, I meet with my students every other day for ninety minutes, so that was Wednesday and Friday of last week. During the three blocks that I teach, on Wednesday, I said it NINETEEN TIMES, on Friday, only six (because the newfound awareness). I could not believe it! We also as a class critiqued our faculty (from principles to guidance counselors to yearbook companies) at the senior assembly. EVERY single presenter, for a combined total of at least fifteen times during the thirty minutes, used the term consistently to refer to the co-ed group.

My research went further. As I watched television, the term was employed fervently. From TLC’s Design Star to Bravo’s Project Runway to Comedy Central’s The Jon Stewart Show, “guys” was the standard group address. It seems the only established gendered address I found on television is hurricanes, and this changed in 1979 when the National Hurricane Center began to alternate between typical male and female names as opposed to using just female ones.

Interpersonal communication also relied on the term to include both my husband and me. My friends, his friends, my parents, his parents, my coworkers, his coworkers all referred to us as “guys”: “You guys gonna go out tonight? You guys going to get your hotel reservations soon? What are you guys’ plans for the weekend? You guys surviving the hurricane up there?”

While I understand that meanings evolve over time, “guys” is now understood to suggest casualness or to imply a less direct assertion; therefore, the term is currently understood to not express a gender bias at all. Although feminists succeeded in calling attention to American society’s language as perpetuating female oppression, and thus, that language continues to be critiqued and transformed, the real concentration seems to be, not on terms that assert gender partiality, but if our addresses or commands appear too demanding or direct. In this way, it looks as if communication in all situations has become feminized or, in other words, we operate with the mantra “if one asks nicely, then one should get her way.”

So, in my opinion, our linguistic focus is misplaced and we should heighten the awareness of these apparently trivial terms. The constant attentiveness in our therapeutically obsessed culture to issues of authoritative language now overshadows concerns with the effects of the prevailing use of gender-specific language.

As I looked out over the numerous faces of young girls searching for some kind of space/voice/territory in which to operate within the domain of the classroom, I realize my feminist tenets were also misplaced. As Robin Lakoff suggests in her article “Language and Woman’s Place,” using male-dominate terms “submerges a woman’s personal identity, by denying her the means to express herself strongly, on the one hand, and encouraging expressions that suggest triviality in the subject matter and uncertainty about it."

While I too believe students do not respond positively to a teacher that barks commands, I must also balance motivation with segregation – i.e. providing an opportunity for young women to ascend within academia, which means omitting language that illustrates men are superior. After all, repeating something simple can also been seen as a truth.

everyone? everybody?

everyone? everybody?

It all depends

I don't find "you guys" offensive at all, or dudes,or anything else like that. However, I have found that that the phrase "you people" is pretty offensive.

I think that it is all a matter of the attitude in which it is spoken. Sometimes people are unaware of what they say and how harmful/offensive it can be to others.

What upsets me might not upset you. Vice versa.

I am not at all offended by

I am not at all offended by "you guys" or "dude". I say it all the time. I've used both phrases all my life and they are totally genderless to me. I am much more offended at being called "hon'' or "sweety" by anyone under 70 years old.

etymology of "woman"

This is slightly off-topic, but can anyone inform me on the etymology of the word "woman"? The sites I've found make it sound like "man" was originally gender-neutral (like "steward") and became gendered with the addition of a prefix (sorta like "stewardess" refers only to female stewards). If this is the case, why is "woman" a preferred term while terms with suffixes like "-ess" and "-ette" are not? And did "man" simply become gendered because it was not woman (in which case, aren't males kind of made invisible? or is it that women were made visible in negative ways?)? And does that mean that words like "chairman" are gendered or not? And does a prefix or suffix that connotes gender necessarily suggest inferiority by virtue of being female? How about "female"?

related question...when we are talking about the term "you guys" are people offended because they are female or because "guys" is gendered at all? Is "you women" better? Doesn't that still make people who identify as neither invisible? And as many people have already mentioned, calling group of adult women "girls" isn't much better than calling them "guys," is it? Since we're talking about origins of terms and their meanings, it seems important to also examine the etymology of preferred terms as well. While "y'all" might be a preferred catchall term for some people, I don't feel comfortable using it, not because I dislike southern people but simply because I do not identify as southern. I also don't feel comfortable using terms like "homie" because I do not come from the culture that developed this word and I think it could be offensive if I started to. I'm not sure what the answer is, I just keep coming up with more questions.


I'm surprised at how few times the word "intention" has come into this conversation. While it can be a slippery slope (like when people say, "when I say 'gay' I mean 'stupid'"), I think it is an important idea to discuss. As another poster already mentioned, the term "you guys" does not have a negative connotation. The term is further complicated by the fact that it is used by people across the gender spectrum. I'm not ready to say that men can't use that term but everyone else can, and I'm also not prepared to be offended by a colloquial term that is intended to be inclusive. I looked it up and the etymology of "guy" comes from Guy Fawkes, the gunpowder plot guy. I'm not sure how it became gendered, though, while terms like "the real McCoy" and "Benedict Arnold" have remained relatively gender-neutral.

Really, we are not going to keep people from saying "you guys" and may just alienate them by telling them that the way they speak is offensive and wrong. How many of us have experienced frustration when another person has misinterpreted our intention and become offended by it? It can make you never want to speak to that person again and certainly does nothing to open up a conversation about feminism. I'm glad we are talking about the ways language can influence our thinking, but I do not think that telling people to stop saying "you guys" is the way to go. In speaking about changing a language, it is interesting how easy it is to forget that language is so volatile. Words change in meaning all the time and in different contexts. INtention has a lot to do with how words are used and interpreted. Even words once considered oppressive can be "taken back" by groups of people. Why is a magazine called "Bitch" getting bothered about "you guys" and demanding its unrealistic elimination?

Language is ever-changing

This argument is a near-verbatim repeat of the arguments I used to hear in response to my objections about claiming "he" as gender-neutral in speech and writing. In the 15 years or so since then, I've seen the so-called "neutral he" almost completely disappear from scholarship and journalism. And from everyday speech.

Why can't "you guys" make the same journey out?

I admit, I say it sometimes, too. (As I used to use the "neutral he.") Having two sons whom I can correctly refer to as "you guys" has not helped me get out of the habit. But when referring to or addressing groups of adults, I tend to use "folks." It's kind of a fun word to say.

And I have to say that appropriating epithets is not the same process as allowing the female to be subsumed into (or retained within) not-really-"neutral" male categories. Valorizing "Bitch" changes the meaning, use, and context of the word. Accepting "you guys" perpetuates the understanding of the female as a sub-category (linguistically, at least), hierarchically below the male.

Pronouns are easy.

I refer to as groups as "humans." That is all they are, regardless of sex. For social uses I may sometimes be required to say "ladies" or "gentlemen," but that's uncommon. Individuals are either "you" or (that person's name), depending on the amount of formality required.

Sadly, I didn't completely

Sadly, I didn't completely clean up my post as I edited it. 'Apologies for the imprecision.

I'd love to get a nice shirt

I'd love to get a nice shirt which read, "Y'all is feminist." I find myself reaching for it, but shying because I don't want to seem like a poser (I'm in California, where "y'all" is considered hick and backward).

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