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PC Culture

Saying ‘Hey Guys’ Is Now Problematic

Have you ever insensitively and non-inclusively said “guys” to a group containing people of the female gender? Perhaps you have addressed a group of males as “guys,” thus sending a coded message that women and girls are not welcome. If so, you need to check your misogyny detector. It’s blinking bright red.

Saying “Hey guys” is officially A Problem, we learn from Atlantic writer Joe Pinsker. It’s right there in his headline, “The Problem With ‘Hey Guys.'” “To many,” writes Pinsker, “it’s a symbol of exclusion — a word with an originally male meaning that is frequently used to refer to people who don’t consider themselves ‘guys.'”

To many. How many? Well, Pinsker declares the existence of a “broad coalition” of what he dubs “guys-objectors” who are opposed to saying “Hey guys.” Example of this swelling group of Americans: “an employee at an outdoor-goods store” (no name given) who says her company’s human-resources department is encouraging people to say “Folks” and “y’all” instead. A “coworker” of Pinsker (also unidentified) thinks the same way. A transgender woman named Brad Ward, who works in a high school in Atherton, California, agrees. Still another example: “Coby Joseph, a 26-year-old urban planner currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area,” who “no longer uses the term” because of “how much of our language centers men.”

Wow, this trend is really taking off! The article does quote one widely trusted authority on language, Columbia linguist John McWhorter, but, alas for Pinsker, McWhorter doesn’t seem to agree with his premise. We learn in the 20th paragraph of Pinsker’s 22-paragraph investigation that McWhorter believes using “guys” as a gender-neutral term has “irreversible momentum.”

Next week: Is saying “y’all” cultural appropriation of proud Southern dialect? As McWhorter notes, saying “y’all” is also associated with black Americans. Uh-oh. The prospect of committing double simultaneous cultural appropriation rears its head. Then there’s the problem that if you happen to be from, say, Massachusetts (as I am), saying “y’all” makes you sound like a ninny. I call that a triple-problematic. I think I’ll just stick with “Hey, guys.”

One problem does not seem to have occurred to Pinsker. This writer appears to be a man. Many women use the term “guys” among themselves. Regrettable though it is to make the charge, Pinsker is therefore guilty of mansplaining to women how they should communicate amongst themselves. I do hope he recognizes the part he is playing in advancing male supremacy and the patriarchy.


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