Tuesday, August 4, 2020
“Hey, guys!” It’s the greeting that launched a thousand meetings and Zoom calls.
Etymologists trace the term “guys” to the historical figure Guy Fawkes. It’s evolved from the name of one man who attempted to assassinate King James I in 1605 to an informal address for a group of people in contemporary American English.
But when used to address your colleagues, it’s a gendered greeting that could be sending signals about who is ― and isn’t ― included in your workplace.
The Case Against Using “Hey, Guys”
The problem with “guys” is that it is a “masculine word,” according to Amy Jeffers, an organizational development specialist in diversity, equity and inclusion. There are better alternatives, such as “Hey, everyone” or “Hey, folks” that are not gender-assuming, Jeffers added.
Sociologist Sherryl Kleinman wrote an essay in the journal Qualitative Sociology against terms such as “you guys” in 2002, pointing out that they reinforce a language that already privileges men. Kleinman cited words such as chairman, postman and freshman as other examples.
”‘Get over it,’ some people say,” she wrote. “Those words are generic. They apply to everyone. But then how come so-called generics are always male?”
GLSEN, an education organization that advocates for policies designed to protect LGBTQ students and students of marginalized identities, advised defaulting to gender-neutral language such as “friends,” “folks,” “all” or “y’all” rather than “brothers and sisters” or “guys,” “ladies,” “ma’am” or “sir.”