When the Quasi enters our yard he often greets the chickens, “Hi guys.” Hmmm—what’s off about this phrase?
Doh! they’re all females! The Grrrly-Grrrls is their proper group name, if anything. Saying, “Hey girls,” would be way more fitting.
Addressing a mixed gender group by saying, “Hey guys!” is something we’re all so cliché-y familiar with that we don’t even hear it. Let’s turn this around. How about we decide to change-up “Hey Guys” to “Hey Gals” when talking to a combined crowd. Does this sit right with you? Why not?
Because: : : : language matters.
In romance languages, to speak to a blended gender group, the plural becomes male even though nouns have both male and female versions. In English, “mankind” is applied when we mean “human-kind,” “he” and “his” are used if the gender is unknown, and recently people hail both genders by the stupid moniker “dude.” I’m so not a guy or a—yuck—dude.
Placidity is taught. One word at a time. And it begins early. At age 18, I read a suggestion (by a female author!) that when writing children’s books the protagonists should be male because boys don’t relate to *female characters. Really? How is it that girls learned to do so? I’ll tell you. By default–we had to identify with something and there was a dearth of authentic female protagonists. For me: Olive Oyl, Betty & Veronica, Snow White. Sigh.
When my kids were little, I would carefully use pen & ink on the fonts in library picture books changing the genders of pigs, cats, ghosts, whatever—who were all mysteriously males—to females. [Check San Francisco or Denver–guerrilla warfare!] Hello! where did all those boy donkeys, horses or ducks come from anyway? Reverse parthenogenesis?
Later, when I’d read storybooks aloud, I was able to alter the gender without skipping a beat. Once when Dario was about 8, he interrupted me and questioned, “So, is that person really a girl, Mom, or are you changing it?” Drat! Why did I teach him to read?!
So, what can we employ if we don’t want to say “guys” but want to sound casual? Southerner’s use “y’all” or, for real emphasis, “all y’all.” How about, “Hey Gang!” or “Hey everybody.” Fixing “dude?” You’re on your own.
If you think this is too picayune an issue to consider, think again. Sticks & stones don’t break many bones, but words linger in most people’s psyches until…who knows?
And if you believe the matter really is petty, then you’ll understand exactly what I mean if I address men as “gals,” discuss “God-the-Mother,” substitute “women” while discussing humanity. You won’t mind, right? You’ll get used to it. And if you complain, well, then you’re just being “too sensitive.”
*today’s boys appear to identify just fine with Dora and Junie B. Jones.