My Gendered Greetings!

Musings
CK pic

Red square is a popular location for social greetings and events on PLU’s campus. Students can be spotted chatting and lounging around KHP on nice days.

             
It was the first week of classes. I was thrilled to be starting my second year at PLU, and when I saw friends I yelled, “Hey guys! How was your summer?”

This seemed innocent enough, until I yelled it at a group entirely made up of women. Why did I not naturally yell, “Hey women!” or “Hey friends!” at them?

Gender communication is a topic that applies to everyone. Regardless of what gender they identify with, English speakers are forced to decide what gender pronouns to use.

Gendered communication is any communication about and between genders. Consider how many interactions you have had today that could be included into this definition. For me, the number is five. It’s only 2pm.

I believed my language was somewhat gender neutral. I was wrong. After a few weeks in my Gender and Communication course I am now overly aware of the gendered language I love to use.

After beginning a journal to document my gendered language, I’ve discovered “Hey guys!” is one of my favorite greetings. I tried to switch to “Hey all!” and “Hey friends!” but neither has stuck.

This is a testament to the deep roots gender has in the English language, and how normalized it has become to use male gendered pronouns by default.

While it not inherently bad to use gendered language, it does inevitably always leave someone out. The women I yelled “Hey guys!” at didn’t think twice about my greeting (I asked later), but what if I had said it to someone who had noticed? My intended welcome back message could have been received poorly, and my year could have started off on the wrong foot with them.

Currently, I strive to monitor and change my gendered language use to develop a gender-neutral way of speaking, but it is far harder than I expected.

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