Being male is more valuable than being female?

Jillian Page
LGBT Perspectives editor

QUEBEC — I know I am not alone in this: I cringe when I hear the word “guys” used as a gender-neutral term, like in a restaurant setting when the waiter or waitress asks a group of female customers “Hey, guys, what can I get ya?”

Yes, many women use the “Hey, guys” term when addressing women, too.

It seems “guys” has become a gender-neutral term — for some. But why a masculine word? Why not address everyone as “gals”? As in aforementioned waiter or waitress addressing a group of male customers in a restaurant: “Hey, gals, why can I get ya?”

That would go over well, huh?

I googled the phrase “guys used as a generic term” and came up with a long list of articles and such by people who feel the same way I do about the issue.

But as one woman wrote: “I have more important things to worry about.”

To which a feminist (like me) might object a wee bit (but not the same way we might object to the current #flushgate controversy in Montreal that would see the city dump 8 billion litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River) . . .

I could go on and on, but won’t. However, I do make a point sometimes — not always — of reminding people who use the “guys” word in reference to females  that not all of us appreciate being called “guys,” however gender-neutral the speaker might see the word.

“Guys” is a masculine word. My dictionary says it is “informal for man or boy; fellow.”

If some women want to call themselves “guys,” that is their privilege. But to use it as gender-neutral term in public settings is derogatory and discriminatory, especially if it is a male using it in reference to women. True, let’s not get carried away: most people who use the term are not trying to be discriminatory. But it’s not like the issue hasn’t been raised by many people in the past.

As writer Heather Gehlert puts it in an article on the subject: “On its face, using the term “you guys” seems harmless enough — gendered or not. But as the number of people who see it as gendered grows, so does the phrase’s power to influence ideas about identity — to perpetuate the subtle yet damaging belief that being male is more valuable than being female.”

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“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey

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