Practicing Gender Appropriate Languaging (GAL)
by Arjuna da Silva
It’s not unusual for new folks at Earthaven to feel overwhelmed by many of our members’ insistence on the use of gender appropriate language; that is, when gender specific pronouns and nouns are used, the request is that they refer to the actual genders of the people being addressed. The phrase, “you guys,” one of the most commonly used terms nowadays, feels, when addressed to women, like either a deliberate or else simply ignorant neglect of women’s actual gender.
Although we each have our opposites and complements within us, the long history of female oppression has led many women to desire the conscious respect that comes with gender acknowledgement. We would like the habit of meshing male and female gender together by using male pronouns and nouns to become a thing of the past. Of course, changing our speech patterns takes time and persistence, and at a place like Earthaven where there are always new people engaging in our conversations, it can become frustrating on both sides to keep saying or just hearing requests for a language change.
In order not to become overbearing, it’s as likely that concerned women (and men) will simply mention the appropriate phrase after someone has spoken using an inappropriate gender specific term. In other words, after a piece of dialog that includes several “you guys” in it, a GAL may simply proffer the words “you all” into the silence at the end of the speech. Please don’t be offended if you’re one of the people who hasn’t converted all your languaging to gender-appropriate terminology and so gets “corrected” by the GASP (Gender Appropriate Speech Police). With time you will also probably become aware of how good it feels to be conscious of this kind of detail, helping to create an atmosphere where women feel acknowledged, respected and included. Saying “you Gaians” (people of Gaia) instead of “you guys” is a nice switch, but not always understandable. Here in the South, “you all” (y’all, that is) works great! “You” would actually work! Perhaps in the future we will make up new words to reflect mixed gender groups. What would you choose?