“You guys” and the Use of Gender Neutral Language

Kylie Thorpe, Reporter

It is undeniable that our modern society is patriarchal and leans more favorably in almost every regard towards men. Our social institutions, education, and even our recorded history are almost all written from a perspective that lacks female representation. It is because of this that something as simple as our speech patterns are infused with evidence of male dominated perspective–present more than ever with the use of the term “you guys.”

“You guys” has been in the average vernacular for a very long time, with the phrase originating in the 1300s. Clearly, this phrase is outdated and only serves in erasing women from being present in everyday interactions. At first, the use of this phrase is easy to miss- its pervasive use has led to our desensitization to it. When the roles are reversed, however, we see just how easy it is for “male” words to be applied thoughtlessly to mixed gender audiences. A teacher saying “you guys” is average, while calling a group of people “you gals” is unheard of. Greeting someone by saying “hey man” makes sense to our ears, but “hey woman” seems absurd. When traditionally “male” words are taken as gender neutral, inclusive speaking is made harder for every non male person.

One cannot tell which people will hear the “you guys” and believe they are underrepresented and those who are perfectly fine with the phrase, but you don’t have to know! The clear way to ensure everyone is represented in conversation (regardless of whether or not they have expressed an opinion on the matter) is with increased use of gender neutral language. Something as simple as replacing “you guys” with “y’all”, “everyone,” “folks,” or any variety of already present neutral language can serve to make non men more comfortable and make language (and thus society as a whole) more inclusive. Inclusivity and progress can be gained through awareness–something we all need! (And that’s we all, not just you guys).