The Reflection Pool

Just Stop Using “You Guys”

It’s time for me to write this post, since I’ve been thinking about it for over 10 years. I kept hoping it would catch on. It hasn’t. So here goes…

I wish everyone to stop using the term “you guys” when referring to a mixed gender group of people. I get why people use it. It’s cool, quick and casual. It rolls off the tongue. And yet, it excludes.

This isn’t a new idea. Just a brief internet search turned up a couple of articles, one from 2005 and another from 2015. Both make the argument much better than I could. It’s basically this: using a male term (yes, “guys’ is a male term, not a neutral one) to describe a group of people that don’t all identify as male is sexist.  There, I said it.  This may seem ridiculous to some. I can hear eye rolling from here. After all, it’s not the most offensive term out there. Still, when I think about the power of language to help or to harm, I don’t find “you guys” helpful. To me, it represents a creeping line of a male-centric view. I’d rather use a term than includes everybody.

Photo Credit: DaveBleasdale via Compfight cc

What to use instead? Here’s a list of words I’ve used and that also appear in this  article 40 Gender-Neutral Alternatives to saying “You guys” by Kim Z. Dale

You

People

Y’all

Folks

Friends

There are more – maybe you can share with me?

Microaggressions: They’re Real and They Hurt

“Where are you from?”

“I guess you wear the pants in the family.”

“You won’t have the natural authority to be a school administrator, so maybe you should think about a different career path.”

Perhaps you’ve heard the term microaggressions and wondered what it means. Maybe someone has brought it to your attention at work when speaking about the systemic barriers that marginalized groups face and you’ve thought, “Really?” I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought it was some new, trendy term. I woke up after Shakil Choudhury explained it. This video clip helped: How Microaggressions are Like Mosquito Bites – Same Difference

This term resonates with me, even though there are a few research and scientific criticisms of it. While the anti-racism and civil rights movements have gained some momentum, there’s still so much work to be done.  Systemic racism exists in our society.

If we deeply examine our thinking, we can see that every single one of us is biased and conditioned to believe things about groups of people. This might come out in our inner opinions about others or even in the casual remarks we make. We may not intend to hurt others, but the reality is that our words can really sting. They can give the subtle message that you don’t belong. That you’re not good enough. That you are “other”.

Changing this is hard. As with everything, the first step is a willingness to hold the mirror up to ourselves and understand our biases. That’s difficult work, but so worth it. Engage a friend who is willing to be honest with you. Listen to others’ reactions to what you say. Try not to be defensive.

I’m still on this journey and I’m sure I make mistakes.  What about you? Have you experienced microaggressions?

Listen and Be Honest

I attended ICSEI, the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement last week. I listened to powerful keynotes by Russell Bishop, Charlene Bearhead, and Warren Simmons. These passionate and articulate educators from New Zealand, Canada and the United States shared themes of equity, caring and action for indigenous, black and latino students which resonated strongly with me.

Photo Credit: cfdtfep Flickr via Compfight cc

This was on the heels of reading I’m Not Your Racial Confessor in Slate magazine, a conversation between Jamelle Bouie, Aisha Harris, Gene Demby and Tressie McMillan Cottom.  (Thanks to Sherri Spelic, blogger and educator, for sharing). Everyone needs to read this. It reminded me not to be “wilfully ignorant” about the reality of systemic racism in our society.

Then yesterday, I read about an interview with Joseph Boyden where he attempted to explain the questions about his ancestry. When asked what Boyden’s role should be within the indigenous community, Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie said, “… behind First Nations, being a supporter, not white-splaining and being a spokesperson.”

So, here I am, a middle class white woman with a life of privilege. I do not know life as part of a minoritized or marginalized group, but I want to understand. I want to be a supporter. I can only do that by listening to learn without imagining that I have any answers. And I need to be prepared for difficult and honest conversations.

Just…listen and be honest.