Recently, I have been extremely challenged in the language I use in my day to day speech. So much of our language is either gender insensitive, or gender offensive, and yet I find myself saying sexist words and using common sexist phrases day in and day out. The more I challenge myself to think on what leaves my mouth, the more I become almost scared by the level of gender inequality within the language I use.
Even today it came to my attention; a colleague and I were talking about someone who is just an irritation…but I found myself referring to her as that silly girl. And I caught myself and had to question—why do I so easily refer to her as a girl…an insult that has a double layer, as it also seeks implies that women in business are not as important as men—dare I say it’s the same level as referring to your gardener as a garden boy. But one item of sexist language that I am really battling with is to find a gender neutral term that one can use to refer to a group of people.
The most common term used in my circles of friends (and even in business meetings) is to refer to the group as ‘Guys’. So when getting a groups attention or suggesting something or even in general assumptions, the male term is used as the best. For instance, it is used so easily in “Guys, let’s get a move on” or, “Do you Guys think we should head inside?”. It seems to me that ‘Guys’ has become the easiest and best collective pronoun in our common speech—however, once again we have settled on a male term to refer to all of us. Plus, the problem with the term ‘ Guys’ is that it is such a cool word, as it implies closeness, familiarity and friendship…which doesn’t appear to offend. And I really cannot think of anything else to replace it with that is not sexist or not extremely cumbersome or corny.
Some words are just bad for chatting to friends: like Folks, Peeps, Fam, Dudes (male again). Also, to refer to both sexes in colloquial language doesn’t help—so does one say Guys and Girls (again, Guys is cool, Girls is derogatory) or Guys and Chicks, or Ladies and Gents, Brothers and Sisters…? These are either so archaic, so derogatory or so awkward they cannot easily be filtered into common speech. And so my small struggle; whenever I rack my brain for an alternate, the only word I think of using is ‘All’ (as in, “Hey All”, or,” Do you All”) which isn’t exactly the most creative word and whose usage I am sure would have my English teacher having a heart attack. So, how should we refer to a group of people in a way that is not offensive nor at the same time corny?
Any good ideas out there,