A tech startup team, NPM, recently issued a challenge to its employees. The idea of this challenge was that every time someone used the phrase “you guys,” he or she had to put a dollar in a jar. In its explanation on its Tumblr page, the team stated that its members did not invent the idea; and they also were not sure where they had first heard of it.
NPM explained the idea this way: “If you believe that using the word ‘guys’ to describe a mixed-gender group of individuals is creeping sexism, and are trying to eliminate that word from your casual use, you put a dollar in the jar every time you do it accidentally.”
The notion that the innocent phrase “you guys” might not be so benign could possibly have originated from an article published back in 2002. Author Sherryl Kleinman is a professor of sociology at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Her work was published in Qualitative Sociology.
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In her work, the professor claims that “…it’s no accident that ‘man’ is the anchor in our language and ‘woman’ is not. And of course we should make social change all over the place. But the words we use can also reinforce current realities when they are sexist (or racist or heterosexist). Words are tools of thought. We can use words to maintain the status quo or to think in new ways — which in turn creates the possibility of a new reality…”
Another woman who shares this view is author and activist Alice Walker. Here are her thoughts:
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However, not all women agree that using the phrase is detrimental to the female population. A Forbes article exposes a research project that was conducted in 2002 in which women were asked how they felt about the phrase. A majority of them felt that while it may not be the most professional language to use in an executive style setting, they all felt that it was not sexist, not detrimental to the female population, and not harmful to society.
Some women leading the feminist movement feel that “you guys” is a phrase that threatens to crumble society and lead to the downfall of womankind. People on the other side of the feminist fence feel that this is just a phrase that is being used during a phase in our society, and that this too shall pass.
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