Kristian Glass - Do I Smell Burning?

Mostly technical things

Guys. Please Don't

This is not new, this is not original, and other people have certainly written better and more eloquently about this. This is about me avoiding self-repetition

Some people, including some who are not male, have no problem being referred to as “guys”

Some people, some of whom may not be male, dislike being referred to as “guys”.

It feels like there’s two choices at this point when addressing mixed groups. One of which I understand, one of which I don’t.

The first is “oops, ok, let’s try not to use guys like that, it’s a mixed audience and I mean well but intent isn’t magic and I want to be inclusive and it’s really not a hard accommodation for me to make even if I do regularly forget” (hi!)

The second… the second I struggle with. The main reasons I’ve heard so far are:

  • “Other people are fine with it” – Absolutely, but other other people aren’t and I don’t want to exclude them
  • “I mean it in an inclusive way” – I don’t doubt that, but intent isn’t magic
  • “Look at this dictionary entry” – It feels like you’re unfamiliar with the problems of linguistic prescriptivism
  • “Trying to fix everyone is impossible” – Ok, but the starfish principle is a thing

There’s a massive amount of discrimination/erasure/exclusiveness in the “long tail”; the subtle invisible stuff, the stuff that it’s easy to skip over on the grounds of good intent or claimed-insignificance, the constant microaggressions that wear people down and that you can easily never notice if you’re part of the majority.

It’s death by a thousand cuts, and every little helps.

Alternatives

Looking for some words for a bunch of people that aren’t “guys”? (Thanks to Anselm for the suggestion!) Here’s some I use, depending on circumstances and context:

  • everybody
  • everyone
  • people
  • y’all (I’m British so a dry “y’all” delivered in something approximating RP tends to get a good giggle)
  • team
  • folks

or, if it takes your fancy…

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