February 28, 2007 by Marc Lamont Hill
Is this a legitimate issue or has feminism gone too far?
Can the Term “Guys” Refer to Women and Girls?
By Heather Gehlert
Going out to eat with my father is always a tense affair. For the five or ten minutes it takes from the time the host or hostess seats us to the time our server comes to take our order, I sit quietly, feeling anxious and wondering how our waiter or waitress will greet us.
Will she say, “How are you all doing today?” Or, “What can I get you folks to drink?” If we’re near our hometown in the rural Midwest, there is a good chance she’ll say the latter, but, more often than not, we hear: “Hi, my name is Jamie, and I’ll be taking care of you guys today. Our specials this afternoon are smoked salmon, parmesan-crusted tilapia …”
“Excuse me,” my dad cuts in, his eyes narrowing to a glare, “but I only see one guy here.”
My stomach drops and I stare at the table in front of me, trying not to roll my eyes. The lecture never takes more than a minute, but it’s still excruciating.
On rare occasion, a waiter or waitress will argue back, saying “guys” is a gender-neutral term. But, most of the time, he or she just stands very still, jaw dropped, looking stunned.
Because this exchange never leads to a thoughtful discussion of gender and language, I long ago dismissed it as one of my dad’s quirks — a one-person tirade to laugh at and let go of. Besides, one of my father’s biggest heroes is Bill O’Reilly — not exactly a portrait of feminist ideals.
Yet, for whatever reason, now that my dad and I live in different states and I see him only once or twice a year, I’m noticing how often men and women use the phrase ” you guys” to refer to both sexes. It happens in restaurants, at council meetings — even in grade-school classrooms.
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