And here I assumed that the valid objection to “you guys” was its lazy construction. Fortunately we have Vox’s Jenée Desmond-Harris to instruct the English-speaking world on the insult this “gendered” word imposes on women in the workplace, and everywhere else. Never mind the difficulty people would have in finding a workable and politically suitable replacement. It all pales in comparison with the need to address linguistic inequality.
By the way, it’s still cool to use “pales,” right? I may need to update my scorecard:
I’m a big user of “guys,” and when it was first brought to my attention that the phrase was frowned upon among leading feminist thinkers and people concerned with equality — especially in male-dominated workplaces — my reaction was “Oh, come on. It’s inaccurate, but it’s not actually hurting anyone.”
But I’ve changed my mind. As I read up on the issue, I realized that my kneejerk response (“but it doesn’t seem like that big a deal to me, personally, and changing would require effort on my part and that’s hard and tiring”) is nothing more than a very typical lazy excuse for avoiding the tiny tweaks to our lives that can, as a whole, make society more equal. …
You can think of the push to drop “guys” as political correctness run amok, or you can think of it as making a tiny change that doesn’t cost you anything and will keep you from being a jerk to half the population — and help you make the world just a tiny bit more fair.
That doesn’t mean it will be quick or easy: I’ve probably typed and deleted “you guys” (it turns out I loved to begin tweets and Facebook posts this way) about 15 times since I decided to write this piece a couple of weeks ago. But I’m going to keep working on it.
Yes, because linguistic equity is such a useful project. It obviously far surpasses issues like urban decay, education-system failure, and the breakdown of the family structure that leaves single mothers far more disadvantaged than men. Every y’all allows social-justice warriors to rejoice that they don’t have to do any actual work other than finger-wagging people who have no animus in using an ingrained and innocuous bit of slang.
National Review’s Charles Cooke offers this timely reminder that English is in fact one of the least-gendered languages in widespread use:
I can't wait for Vox to discover that in French and many other languages the mixed you-plural form always defaults to the masculine.
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) June 11, 2015
At various times in my life, I have spoken French, Italian, and Irish (Gaeilge), as well as my mother tongue of English. In the other three — two explicitly descended from Latin, one Celtic — all nouns carry gender, as do most pronouns. Their development does not indicate a sexist purpose but simply a common linguistic impulse, one that is almost entirely unexpressed in English except when dealing with pronouns and certain substitutes for them. In other words, if you can’t handle the light amount of “gendering” that takes place in English, perhaps a monastery would be a better place to experience life.
That brings me to the larger point. Of course, this Vox piece exists mostly to troll for reactions, and some have already said they won’t play along. It’s worth noting the decadence of the feminist/equality movement over the past decades, though. In the 1960s and 1970s, the argument for equal treatment was that women were tough enough to compete equally in the workplace and education environments, and that they weren’t demanding special treatment. That has morphed into an argument that women can’t handle innocuous but “gendered” slang or other petty “microaggressions” and “triggers.” The social-justice warriors seem to be talking themselves right back to the previous era of paternalized protection for the “weaker” sex, shielding the delicate flowers for their own good from the tough world of men. Maybe those guys should get new leadership.