I want to talk about inclusive language with y’all.
I spend a lot of my time immersed in the small yet rewarding student activist circles on my campus, and a lot of that time is spent making community guidelines. It would be nice to have community guidelines be a common need for all spaces in the world, but I’m a dreamer. Anyways, one of the main ones that is usually written on our piece of poster paper is inclusive language, specifically the use of the phrase “you guys.” This is probably my favorite one, just because it is the easiest and most simple way for us dreamers – us feminists, activists, and optimists – to change the world. The language we use every day is a reflection of how our society inherently functions for and against certain groups of people.
“You guys” should, can, and will be effectively removed from our vocabulary. I don’t really need to break down why for you – it represents an inherent patriarchy and men-being-valued-most rhetoric. I, and many beautiful others, have started attempting to stop assuming that everyone in the space identifies as a guy and use the phrases “you all,” “everyone,” and “y’all.” For me, this is not just about being called a guy in groups or spaces. This is about challenging our world and our uses of language. Let’s call it progressive critical thought.
It is about challenging the status quo and the way even the simplest phrase, one that is used by nearly everyone, inherently excludes people who do not identify as male. Don’t worry, if you say “you guys” to me, I’m not going to refuse to respond to you nor will I yell at you for referring to me improperly (that is equally counter productive). But I am going to continuously challenge how language spreads ideas and discriminations in our world.
You might scoff at this. Shouldn’t I be focusing on bigger issues? Shouldn’t I be focusing on the misrepresentation and treatment of women and other individuals rather than a simple everyday phrase? Hey, you guessed the answer! No! I shouldn’t be! We all shouldn’t be! Because this isn’t just about forcing everyone to say “y’all.” This is about changing the way we communicate and being intelligent with the way we address other individuals. This is completely correlated to the misrepresentation and treatment of women because even the simplest phrase – used by forward-thinking women as well – is sexist. I’m not saying that any person who says “you guys” is perpetuating misogyny (even I, and other writers on this site, slip up in saying it), but the discussion is necessary for more inclusive and respectful communication of thought.
“We become so numb to what we’re saying.” Everything we says affects people and the way our world treats these people. Eliminate “you guys” from your vernacular. And even if you say it, just be cognizant that change is possible through the simplest shift in the way we speak. Don’t scold those who continue to call a group of girls “you guys” as a habit, but be happy and unafraid to educate them. Have discussions on the greater problem with one of the most used phrase (seriously, watch a TV show and start noticing how many times people say it) and be happy to change the way the people around you look at the world and the way we communicate. Be inclusive. Be respectful. Be aware, and be revolutionary.
Written by Anisha Ahuja