Changing Societal Norms- The “You Guys” Culture
Updated: Oct 11
“HEY YOU GUYS!” – Sloth, The Goonies
One of the most iconic movie lines of all time. Just for fun, I dare you to shout it out loud wherever you are reading this, just to get the full effect. Don’t worry, I promise you aren’t alone in this- I did it too.
Whether you said it out loud or not, it is highly unlikely that you questioned the implications of what you just said. That is the very issue that I hope to address in this article. Let me spell it out. A recent epiphany came to me while interacting with my family, friends, patients, and peers. I suddenly became keenly aware of the frequency in which we utilize “you guys” in conversation. We as a society are guilty of unconsciously creating, endorsing, and utilizing this phrase as a universal term of greeting without fully understanding the bigger picture. We have learned a linguistic behavior that is now engrained in everyday conversation with little to no thought of consequence. Now, you are probably thinking, why is this important and why are we bringing this up?
When you look up the word guys on dictionary.com, its definition is “Informal. Persons of either sex; people.” For so long, this term has been utilized as a way to gain the attention of an audience, mixed gender or otherwise. Despite the robust and complex structure of the English language, this phrase has proven to be the big fish, if not the only fish, in the minuscule pond that is second-person plural pronouns.
Here are the issues though folks. “You guys” clearly demonstrates androcentric bias and gender non-inclusive language. We have created an environment within our society in which being masculine or portrayed as masculine is inherently preferred. Here’s a challenge for you. How often do you hear people, especially men, refer to a mixed-gender group as “you girls”? The double-standard is absolutely evident. The practice of addressing a mixed-gender group as “you guys”, both openly and subconsciously, reinforces male privilege, devalues the power and beauty of femininity, and contributes to the long-standing gender equality gap. For members of the LGBTQ+ population who identify as non-binary or transgender, this non-inclusive language is often perceived as disrespectful, hurtful, and insensitive because it does not honor their preferred pronouns.
So, here’s the million-dollar question. With the arguments mentioned above, huge social movements of female empowerment such as Me Too and Time’s Up, and the large-scale cultural shift TOWARD gender equality, is saying “you guys” truly appropriate anymore?
Robin Sharma said, “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.” It would be unrealistic of me to believe that my words have suddenly created a life-altering epiphany, but it is my hope that they have stimulated some critical thought. The first step in fixing a problem is to identify that the problem exists. Anything that has been learned has the ability to be un-learned with information, awareness, and of course, a few hiccups along the way. Change takes time and patience, but in this moment, I am challenging you to adopt inclusive language and neutral pronouns to address the people around you. Here are some examples and feel free to get creative within your social circles.
To my incredible peers of the Women’s Networking Alliance, here is the reality we face. In a marketplace driven by online reviews, consumer reports, and word-of-mouth testimony, your actions as a business owner matter. Your interactions with people matter. According to research conducted by Deloitte, 29% of Millennials and Gen Z (born between 1983 - 2002) said they’ve backed away from an organization because of the behavior or comments of a single company leader. Utilization of inclusive pronouns and language creates a welcoming environment of respect and safety, especially for marginalized minorities. You have the ability to set the precedent in your community and be the prime example of a truly inclusive entity. To all of the people reading this who are not members of the Women’s Networking Alliance, fear not. No matter where you are in your life journey, be the ambassador of change in your community. Your actions matter and your help is needed.
Pick your favorite pronoun above and start using it, TODAY. Practice makes perfect. This small change in your vocabulary is the first step in the right direction. Start 2020 out on the right foot. Let us all step up, accept this challenge, and be the start of change. Take this Dr. Alexander-ism with you today. “You are all beautiful. You are all amazing. Your differences make you extraordinary. Be kind to one another and most importantly, yourself.”
Dr. Corinne Alexander, D.C., Chapter 115
Corinne Alexander, D.C. is the ambassador of Chapter 115 in Cupertino, CA and has been a member of the Women’s Networking Alliance since July 2019. She is the owner of Dr. Corinne Alexander, D.C. located in San Jose, CA. Her interest in joining the Diversity and Council was fueled by her personal experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. She aspires to be a positive role model in her community by promoting kindness and education, and creating an environment of mutual respect among others.