Females Using the Word “Guys”

And early, but timely post on the “Gender, Leisure, and Sport” blog. I am going to keep watching my language! Thanks Jason.  Charlene

By Jason C.

I have always done my best to be aware of whom I am speaking to. My first class at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) was a gender class and this helped shape my reference to males or females. I play it safe and refer to “guys” when it is all males or “hey everyone” when it is all females. Even though I had seen women refer to their teammates as “guys”, I still played it safe.

I recently attended a women’s volleyball game at the Richard J. CURRIE CENTER. Both coaches were females and the referees were males. The Atlantic University Sport (AUS) always rotates the referees. Some games there are all females and others a mix of both. This day just happened to be an all-male cast.

During the match there was a timeout and the players of each team gathered around their respective coaches for words of advice.  As the timeout was coming to an end, the male referee blew his whistle. One team adhered to his whistle and moved back onto the court. The other team did not forcing the ref to blow his whistle once more. This time he said, “Come on guys, let’s go!” Now for me, given my class on gender, I know this is a big no-no. This particular referee has refereed female games in the past and has used the term “guys” before with no complaints. However this time, the coach for the team that took their time during the timeout had something to say. Perhaps it was the stress of the game or some outside factors unrelated to the game. Grabbing her bra strap from under her shirt she yelled, “Hey! We have bras ref!” She was obviously pissed and had a valid point. However, from my point of view, perhaps it was a little dramatic. The ref acknowledged his mistake and said, “okay, let’s go coach.” The game carried on with no mishaps from the ref regarding the use of “guys”. However, during a point in the game when the same team was struggling, the same coach that had a problem with the referee using the term “guys”, used it herself. Her comment, “Come on guys! Let’s do this!” made me do  a double take. I wanted to defend the referee that made the “guys” comment and ask the coach about her being a hypocrite but decided I did not want to get my ass kicked.

So this leads to my question:  why is it okay when a female refers to other females as “guys” but not okay for a male to refer to a group of females as “guys”? Is my situation an isolated incident or common place among females? Perhaps there is such confusing surround this issue because females refer to themselves and teammates as guys and these leaves males scratching their heads on how to refer to groups of females.

Just my $.02. Thanks for reading and I appreciate everyone’s comments.


4 responses

  1. I have been around similar incidents that sound much like the one Jason experienced. Only it was with women’s hockey. I found the players and the coaches would commonly use “come on guys, lets go guys, etc.” But I also found others using “come on ladies, lets go girls, etc.” I truly believe in sport it is a subconscious error made due to being caught up in the intensity of the game. However, if a coach is delivering a message or trying to get a point across and using “guys”, I believe that message is not that meaningful and well thought out, if they themselves are offended by another referring to girls as “guys.”

    Andrew Connors

  2. I had a similar situation growing up. In our group of friends around from around the neighborhood, there were four guys and one girl. At the start of us hanging out parents or adults would refer to us all as a collective as boys, and the one girl in our group would argue that we aren’t all boys. After a while however, she found that it started to bother her, being singled out from the collective group of boys. Being referred to as a group by ” boys…and girl” Made er feel as though she was different.

    It is a strange situation for anyone to be in, and i can see why a group of all girls wouldn’t want to be referred to as guys, but in a situation where it singles someone out it could cause them to feel distant when they really do just want to be “like one of the guys”.

    Devan Frigault

  3. Interesting post, it really makes you think about these situations and how the female athletes take to being referred to as guys. Personally I would not be offended by being called guys when I’m in a mixed group of friends however, if I was with all females I would not want to be called guys. I think everyone has their own opinion on it and we should take care of using gendered language when referring to groups of females or a mixed group of friends.
    Emily Mallett

  4. Great Post Jason,

    I coach an all girls synchro team, and I very often say phrases like “okay lets go guys”. Some times I say guys and some times I say girls. Until this class I have never really seen a huge issue with calling a group of females, “guys”. I am not offended if someone refers to a group I am in as guys, I know that they are not literally saying I look like a male.
    In our society the term “guys” doesn’t have the sole meaning of a group of males anymore, it is more of a gender neutral term. Some women use this to their advantage, they are offended when it is convenient and then accept the term guys when they feel appropriate. This is an instance when women have a double standard.

    Emily McKim

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