by Mark Farrell
The lack of a gender-specific, second-person plural pronoun is a source of consternation among grammar and usage sticklers. In our post-feminist society, the use of guys to address all-female or mixed-gender gatherings rubs some people the wrong way, for different reasons.
Older generations sometimes bristle when they hear the word applied to women, because they grew up when gender designations were more clearly defined. After all, when they were young, terms like stewardess and office girl were common. Other people don’t care for the colloquial or lazy nature of the term; they prefer all of you, or at least you people. Still others balk at applying a traditionally male appellation to women because they believe that falling back on the male term continues female subservience in language usage and, as a result, social attitudes.
In my editing work, I’ve always been careful to eliminate gender bias from writing, but it’s usually been a matter of ensuring that a male pronoun isn’t being applied to both sexes or of rewriting words like manpower. I had never thought about the negative implications of applying the word guys to both sexes from a feminist standpoint, but a recent discussion of the term on the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) list gave me food for thought.