I’ve been working on changing my go-to of referring to a group of people as “guys”.
It has NOT been easy.
There are, of course, plenty of people—including many people who aren’t men —who have no problem being addressed as “guys”, and have come to think that word has become entirely gender-neutral and don’t see a reason to change.
So what prompted me to change?
First, I noticed when and how I referred to groups of people as “guys”.
– a group of only men ➡️ “guys”, even sometimes “fellas”.
– a group of a majority of men ➡️ “guys”
– a group of about 25% men ➡️ “guys”
– a group with only 1 man or less than 10% men ➡️ still “guys” but I’m only now starting to notice that it maybe it’s not the best word.
– a group of only women ➡️ I’ve still referred occasionally to them as “guys” but I’m very conscious of the word coming out of my mouth. NB. I’ve never felt comfortable using the word “ladies”, even with a group of all-women.
What I noticed about the above is that even when there is a majority of non-men, this still doesn’t stop me. It’s only when there are no men or few men, that it becomes an unusual word to use.
Aren’t I therefore unknowingly confirming that groups or men or a majority of men is (or should be) the norm and that I’m only prompted to be inclusive to non-men when they far outnumber the men?
That’s not good. And it’s not helping to correct a system that favours men, it’s perpetuating it.
Side note, I was once a part of an email distribution list that included EAs, PAs and admin assistants. The emails all started with “Hi Ladies”. I wasn’t the only man on this list. It felt uncomfortable, but I never spoke up about it.
So – like everything – it’s been hard to rewire my brain. It’s the same rewiring that I’ve done with people’s correct pronouns.
It’s not easy, but it is important.
My discomfort is worth someone else’s comfort.
I’m trying and I’m still not getting it right all the time.
I’m also positive that none of my workshop groups has noticed. But that’s the whole point, we only notice when someone refers to us incorrectly.
Male privilege is not thinking twice about being referred to as a group of “guys”. But we would notice if (when) we are part of “ladies”.
Post below your thoughts and if you have been making the change.