Who’s a Guy?

One session I (and many others) attended at the Community Leadership Summit was on women in technology/communities. Frankly, I lost patience very quickly. As I said then, we all have horror stories; I’m more interested in discussing fixes. (Which, with Sara Ford to get the ball rolling, we did.)

One meme that came up repeatedly during this session was the sexism – or otherwise – of using the term “guys” to refer to a mixed group of men and women. In other words, is it offensive to walk into a room containing both sexes and say: “Hi, guys” ?

Some felt that it was sexist, though probably unconsciously so, others felt that anyone who thought so was being over-sensitive. Impasse.

A few days later during OSCON, I found myself in a Moscone Center women’s bathroom at the same time as one of the women whose job during the conference was to make sure that no unbadged person got into a session. We were the only people in the room. She said to me: “You guys are really rare at things like this.”

It took me more than a few milliseconds to parse this. She meant: “Women at technical conferences are rare.” And used the term “guys” to refer to me and women like me.

Case closed. “Guys” no longer refers to men only, so we can stop arguing about whether it’s sexist.

One thought on “Who’s a Guy?

  1. Sue van Gelder

    The all-inclusive “guys” thing has been around for well over half a century in the northeastern US, where I grew up. It is an adjustment made for the English language’s lack of a unique second-person-plural pronoun. In the south, we use “y’all”. “You guys” can refer to members of either (or any) gender without the slightest hint of gender influence or bias. It is truly gender blind, so it’s a major waste of time and ill-will to take offense.

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