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Pegasus

Right or wrong? Calling out co-workers on language choices?

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6 hours ago, Pegasus said:

In a recent e-mail to our director and a couple managers, a co-worker (same level as I am) referred to a woman with a PhD degree as "the girl I interviewed."  I debated whether and how to respond and finally sent a carefully worded email to my co-worker with no one copied.  I may have used the terms "misogynistic undertones" and "implicit devaluation."  The response was rather dismissive: "I can tell that this is important to you."

A while ago, I provided input to an upper level manager for a different co-worker's performance evaluation. I provided a well earned glowing review with specific achievements but I had specifically been asked to provide areas for improvement, so I suggested some gentle guidance be provided to the co-worker to avoid the use of a specific racially insensitive quip that this ex-Marine was fond of using.  I shared my input directly with the co-worker as well and I must admit that I haven't heard that quip from him since.

I'm a bit concerned that I may earn the rep as the "word police" or something but we work for an employer that prides itself on diversity and one of our missions is training and mentoring young people from underrepresented groups.

What says the hive?  Sit back and shut up or continue calling out poor word choices such as those above?

I totally agree with how you handled the review for the co-worker's performance.  You were asked to provide input for areas of improvement. The ex-marine was probably not aware the term was offensive to you and others.  Many people aren't aware of how word choices come across.    I overheard one of my employees telling customers a couple times saying "I'm not going to concern myself with that" when obviously it was something that the customer was concerned about.  When I mentioned it, he wasn't aware of how it was coming across.   When I worked for a corporation as a supervisor, feedback included the best ways to relate to customers and yes, letting them know when word choices weren't exactly appropriate.  

IMHO, the email to the co-worker could have been handled differently and it totally would depend on the age of the co-worker as well.  I would have just talked to her about it as an aside later saying you might want to consider that saying 'the woman I interviewed' sounds more professional than girl."   If you were my supervisor, then the reprimand about misogynistic and implicit devaluation would have been taken seriously.  As my co-worker, I would have dismissed it as personal opinion.  

So consider the situation.  If you are the person's supervisor, you have every right to provide feedback on word choices.  As a co-worker, expressing your opinion and letting others know there are certain words you don't like, it  is better done by personal conversation.  The co-worker may change their verbiage as the ex-marine did or not if they don't care.  If it becomes an issue and is considered racially or sexually offensive, that's when you would need to involved your manager or supervisor. 

Having worked in both corporate and small business environments, that my 2 cents for the day!   :)

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When I was in graduate school (early 1990s), I had a dormmate who was all fussy about feminism.  She refused to say "hello girls," she would say "hello women" whenever she came up to a group of female students.  It took some getting used to!

But back to the OP - I would prefer and suggest using the term "candidate" if there were concerns about language implying something negative about the individual.  Of course then you might say "which candidate" and they might say "the girl / young woman you talked to yesterday."  :P

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2 hours ago, Tanaqui said:

Correcting this speech isn't a problem. The way you did it might be. You don't want to give people wiggle room to think to themselves "Well, I'm not a bigot/chauvinist, she's just nuts!"

Instead of going on and on about the misogynistic overtones, maybe keep it simple and to the point: "I'd prefer it if, when talking to me, you refer to adults as 'men and women' instead of 'boys and girls'. Thanks."

Though even then, it might be better to run this through management, in which case you'd still avoid heavy-duty phrases and try something like "I've noticed some coworkers refer to adult women as 'girls'. This makes me uncomfortable, and I worry how it looks to clients. Do we have a policy on this?"

I think this resonates with me the most.

18 minutes ago, SKL said:

Another thing - I feel like the word "girl" is softer (for lack of a better term) than "woman."  This could be me being old-fashioned, but "woman" can feel quite grating to me in certain contexts and I'd rather hear "girl."

 

"Woman" used to feel grating to me until college. Then I noticed that people using the term about me or others were purposefully using it as a way to validate women (particularly when the men I was around would say it--it was almost always said specifically and seemed to be chosen purposefully), and I learned to like being referred to that way. Now to hear "girl" instead seems less affirming to me even if I feel it's being used neutrally otherwise.

9 minutes ago, nixpix5 said:

I feel this way too. I have a grating response to "woman" I just don't like it as much and I have a PhD. I am fine being called a girl. I have never had a male in my environment talk down to me or treat me poorly at work though so I am coming from that place of privilege. I might feel differently if I was working in a place where I women were not being advanced or taken seriously. I just haven't had that experience. 

1

I grew up where being respectful in other ways was more important than the words you use (probably much like the upstate NY environment mentioned), but elsewhere, language seems to matter a lot more. Maybe it's just that it's more diverse and people are more anonymous sometimes in a larger area--language carries more public opinion with it, maybe? In a small area, you tend to know a lot more about someone's intents and actions, and oftentimes, even really obnoxious people are just ignored vs. called out because "everyone knows so and so is just a jerk--don't let it get to you." 

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15 minutes ago, kbutton said:

<snip>

I grew up where being respectful in other ways was more important than the words you use (probably much like the upstate NY environment mentioned), but elsewhere, language seems to matter a lot more. Maybe it's just that it's more diverse and people are more anonymous sometimes in a larger area--language carries more public opinion with it, maybe? In a small area, you tend to know a lot more about someone's intents and actions, and oftentimes, even really obnoxious people are just ignored vs. called out because "everyone knows so and so is just a jerk--don't let it get to you." 

I agree with this.

I've told this story here before - years ago I had a male coworker who called all the women "Babe."  He was from Mississippi, I think, and "Babe" was just his default for everyone, regardless of age, place in the company hierarchy, race, ethnicity, etc. He was a sales rep and I worked in sales support - so, was a minion among several other minions, all female. He was such a kind, respectful man who treated me (and others in the group) like part of the team, not underlings. When he won sales awards he was always ready to thank (usually with public words and a gift) all the people who'd helped him achieve his goals. Plenty of other reps (including the sole female at that time; it was a male-dominated industry) knew all the right words to say but treated the support staff like crap.  

Of course this was 30+  years ago and language was probably not as big a deal then as it is now.  I imagine today a guy would say "Babe" once and would be hauled in to a visit with HR to change his ways. 

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5 hours ago, Medicmom2.0 said:

It wouldn’t even have crossed my mind.  When I’m speaking about my coworkers I often use the term “girl”, like, “one of the girls I work with just finished nursing school.”  We usually refer to men as “guys” as well, like, “yesterday I jumped one of the guys’ at work car.”  Perhaps it’s regional but I hear it everywhere here in just about every situation.

Man and woman just feels too formal in casual conversation.  

I don’t think it’s misogynstic in context, and wouldn’t call someone out over it.

Ditto.  I call women ‘girls’ and men ‘boys’ or ‘guys’ all the time.

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47 minutes ago, nixpix5 said:

Having grown up in a predominately migrant area where my highschool was over 60% Hispanic and my son is half, all of my friends much preferred the use of Mexican much more than Hispanic. It wasn't at all touchy to say Mexican dominoes or Mexican food and so forth. It just wasn't an issue. It does make me wonder when it became touchy. My son (again who is Mexican) made a comment to his white GF that was similar to yours and your husband's conversation and she called him out on it. They had a huge debate with regard to it but she is doing sensitivity training at her place of employment at the moment. 

 

That's the kicker isn't it? Since when do white folks get to decide when the use of the word Mexican is wrong? Is there no small irony in that?

If it had some kind of loaded historical connotation, then I suppose a Mexican could point that out.  Or a white guy could enlighten his fellow white folks.  But to just presume that the word in and of itself shouldn't be used seems ridiculous to me.  Mexican is not a dirty word to be avoided in all conversation and terminology.  That's not "sensitivity".  That's something else I think.

 

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2 minutes ago, marbel said:

I agree with this.

I've told this story here before - years ago I had a male coworker who called all the women "Babe."  He was from Mississippi, I think, and "Babe" was just his default for everyone, regardless of age, place in the company hierarchy, race, ethnicity, etc. He was a sales rep and I worked in sales support - so, was a minion among several other minions, all female. He was such a kind, respectful man who treated me (and others in the group) like part of the team, not underlings. When he won sales awards he was always ready to thank (usually with public words and a gift) all the people who'd helped him achieve his goals. Plenty of other reps (including the sole female at that time; it was a male-dominated industry) knew all the right words to say but treated the support staff like crap.  

Of course this was 30+  years ago and language was probably not as big a deal then as it is now.  I imagine today a guy would say "Babe" once and would be hauled in to a visit with HR to change his ways. 

2

No doubt! 

It's also pretty common where I am from for people to be suspicious of formal manners--they have often been treated poorly by outsiders who move in looking down on them and use manners to purposefully snub them or to look better than them. 

Even the culture around "calling people out" is not easy to traverse. I have been told it's a really a white culture thing to avoid calling people out, but my understanding of that might be an oversimplification. 

I keep hoping we'll come to a little more cultural consensus on these things someday soon! 

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2 hours ago, Medicmom2.0 said:

 

I guess I’m wondering if it’s regional?  Because it doesn’t bother the people I know(or they wouldn’t be using it either), or myself.  If someone specifically said “I don’t like that,” I wouldn’t use it in regards to them.  But all the women I know use it as well when referencing people in their lives(“girls from work; I was talking to a girl from the gym; I’m going to lunch with a girl I know from church”—these are all examples I heard while out to dinner with female friends last night. The entire billing office at my job is 100% female and everyone, including themselves, calls them the “girls upstairs” or the “billing girls”, etc”), which leads me to believe that people I am using it in regards to have no problem with it.  I am now interested so I am going to ask, though.

for the record, I don’t hear “lady” unless it is referring to an older woman. 

It doesn’t bother me to be called a girl.  But I absolutely would not refer to someone that way who requested I don’t.

Yeah, it may be regional.  My mom is in her sixth decade and will talk about “this great girl I work with at the district” or her best “girlfriend”.  It’s not meant to be offensive or demeaning and she hasn’t ever had issues with it in a performance review.  Down in her area is seems really common, my stepmom does it too.

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1 hour ago, SKL said:

While "boys" is not entirely comparable to "girls" in usage on adults, I have heard men use it, for example:  boy toy;  going fishing with the boys; out drinking with the boys.  It would sound weird to hear "going fishing with the men."

I do agree it would not be used in reference to an adult interviewee - for that it would be "guy," for which there is no female comparison IMO.  "Guy" is an informal word for random male (occasionally also females when plural in some contexts).  We don't have an informal word for random female, other than "girl," where I live.  OK there is "chick," but I don't think that would satisfy the OP's situation.

 

Once again you can see the only time men use "boys" is in the "boys night out" sort of context or I guess "boys trip".  Never, ever professionally.

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1 hour ago, SKL said:

And where I am, I never hear "gals" used that way.  Moreover, I view "gals" as being another version of "girls."  So if "girl" doesn't work, then "gal" doesn't work either.

 

You know who used the term "gals"? Dorothy on The Golden Girls. 


I have never heard it like "girl", I hear it like "guy".  "Mike a nice guy" is normal, while "Mike is a nice boy" wouldn't be said about an adult man. 

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I think both instances were handled poorly.  

You weren’t the one specifically called a “girl”, so to take matters into your own hands does seem like you were being the word police.

I also think calling the other coworker out in an evaluation was unfair.  I’ve always been told you should never be hearing something for the first time as part of your evaluation. 

Having said all that, I do think if certain words really irk you, then approaching the person privately is totally okay. I would do it in a personal conversation though, that way they can hear your tone (typing can come across as harsh when the person feels judged or accused) & you can give them the opportunity to speak their thoughts as well. 

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1 hour ago, happysmileylady said:

The problem is that nearly ALL terms are bothersome to someone for some reason. So often, just being polite results in doing this mental game of second and third and fourth guessing ourselves.  

 

I don't agree with this, the question is about whether a term has reached a tipping point of offensiveness.

 When I was a kid, we used "retard" a lot. No one does anymore. And the excuse "well, every term is bothersome to someone for some reason!" would not be an OK excuse.  

Now I know some people prefer Latinx as a gender neutral version of  Latinos / Latinas. I'm OK with using it, but I don't default to it, because I don't think it's widely accepted as a change yet.

I do think the "girls" is a faux pas, at least in any formal or professional context.  And probably casually unless among friends.

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2 hours ago, Bluegoat said:

 

When I was in the army, women were always called "females" which I never liked, but really, it's not my choice. 

 

Okay, see, I find "girl" annoying in certain contexts, but I find this kind of use of the word "females" absolutely ENRAGING, and I am sorry you were subjected to it.  At least if I'm being called a "girl" my humanity is being acknowledged.  But "female" could mean a dog, a cow, an ostrich, or a naked mole rat.  I am a WOMAN.  I really don't understand why so many people are hesitant to use the word woman!  I think it's a clear sign of a misogynistic culture when the standard word for an adult female human being is avoided, like it's icky or tainted or something.  The coworker could have said "the woman I interviewed" and it would not only have been more accurate and appropriate, there is simply no reason NOT to say that.  

 

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Now I am wondering why men don't feel offended by the term "guy" in a professional context.  If it should be "woman" for females, it should be "men" for males.

Males of the workplace, unite!

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17 minutes ago, poppy said:

 

I don't agree with this, the question is about whether a term has reached a tipping point of offensiveness.

 When I was a kid, we used "retard" a lot. No one does anymore. And the excuse "well, every term is bothersome to someone for some reason!" would not be an OK excuse.  

Now I know some people prefer Latinx as a gender neutral version of  Latinos / Latinas. I'm OK with using it, but I don't default to it, because I don't think it's widely accepted as a change yet.

I do think the "girls" is a faux pas, at least in any formal or professional context.  And probably casually unless among friends.

Every persons individual tipping point is different.  Some folks have mentioned “chick” bothers them.  Not only does it not bother me, I use it. “This chick was behind me at the grocery store and asked me about the corn I bought.”  

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25 minutes ago, kbutton said:

No doubt! 

It's also pretty common where I am from for people to be suspicious of formal manners--they have often been treated poorly by outsiders who move in looking down on them and use manners to purposefully snub them or to look better than them. 

Even the culture around "calling people out" is not easy to traverse. I have been told it's a really a white culture thing to avoid calling people out, but my understanding of that might be an oversimplification. 

I keep hoping we'll come to a little more cultural consensus on these things someday soon! 

Unfortunately even if we come to a cultural consensus now in a decade it will need to be tweaked again because words in and of themselves are innocent. We can control people's words but not their intent. Inocusious words become problematic words over time because people learn how to squeeze out of their innocence and use them to offend in some way. This will forever occur hence the need to continually upgrade speech. 

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4 minutes ago, Greta said:

 

Okay, see, I find "girl" annoying in certain contexts, but I find this kind of use of the word "females" absolutely ENRAGING, and I am sorry you were subjected to it.  At least if I'm being called a "girl" my humanity is being acknowledged.  But "female" could mean a dog, a cow, an ostrich, or a naked mole rat.  I am a WOMAN.  I really don't understand why so many people are hesitant to use the word woman!  I think it's a clear sign of a misogynistic culture when the standard word for an adult female human being is avoided, like it's icky or tainted or something.  The coworker could have said "the woman I interviewed" and it would not only have been more accurate and appropriate, there is simply no reason NOT to say that.  

 

 

Well, it was't meant to be mean, I think it was actually policy or at least how people were trained - it was meant I think to avoid any politicized words..  So "All me to the left showers and females to the right".  It just always sounded to me like they were talking about lab subjects.

I am really fine with most things people say, if they aren't jerks.  I've known enough people who said "women" in a way that was sleazy to care too much about that.

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1 minute ago, nixpix5 said:

Unfortunately even if we come to a cultural consensus now in a decade it will need to be tweaked again because words in and of themselves are innocent. We can control people's words but not their intent. Inocusious words become problematic words over time because people learn how to squeeze out of their innocence and use them to offend in some way. This will forever occur hence the need to continually upgrade speech. 

I guess I am longing for maybe a kind of third culture around these things--ways we all move toward each other and toward something intended to be respectful, recognizing that we won't always get things totally right. 

I just hear a lot about intent not being enough to avoid dismissing someone (from people who are easily marginalized), and I have seen that in action too.

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35 minutes ago, Murphy101 said:

 

That's the kicker isn't it? Since when do white folks get to decide when the use of the word Mexican is wrong? Is there no small irony in that?

If it had some kind of loaded historical connotation, then I suppose a Mexican could point that out.  Or a white guy could enlighten his fellow white folks.  But to just presume that the word in and of itself shouldn't be used seems ridiculous to me.  Mexican is not a dirty word to be avoided in all conversation and terminology.  That's not "sensitivity".  That's something else I think.

 

Exactly. For my son, he is Teflon and just doesn't get anyone being offended (which could be an issue he could work on) but he takes the "nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent" approach. Still, he said pretty much what you said to his GF. She said because he is "only half" his voice on this doesn't count as much. He just cracked up at this and shrugged it off. 

 

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1 minute ago, kbutton said:

I guess I am longing for maybe a kind of third culture around these things--ways we all move toward each other and toward something intended to be respectful, recognizing that we won't always get things totally right. 

I just hear a lot about intent not being enough to avoid dismissing someone (from people who are easily marginalized), and I have seen that in action too.

I totally get this. It sounds like something awesome to strive for and I dream of this too. 

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5 minutes ago, Greta said:

 

Okay, see, I find "girl" annoying in certain contexts, but I find this kind of use of the word "females" absolutely ENRAGING, and I am sorry you were subjected to it.  At least if I'm being called a "girl" my humanity is being acknowledged.  But "female" could mean a dog, a cow, an ostrich, or a naked mole rat.  I am a WOMAN.  I really don't understand why so many people are hesitant to use the word woman!  I think it's a clear sign of a misogynistic culture when the standard word for an adult female human being is avoided, like it's icky or tainted or something.  The coworker could have said "the woman I interviewed" and it would not only have been more accurate and appropriate, there is simply no reason NOT to say that.  

 

It feels formal.  In a casual setting, I would “that guy I interviewed” as opposed to “that man I interviewed.”  So as weird as it would feel to say “that man” that’s why it would feel weird to say “that woman.”  It has nothing to do with “woman” as a word...as much as it is about being casual.  

Kind of like “boss man” vs “my supervisor.”

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7 minutes ago, nixpix5 said:

Unfortunately even if we come to a cultural consensus now in a decade it will need to be tweaked again because words in and of themselves are innocent. We can control people's words but not their intent. Inocusious words become problematic words over time because people learn how to squeeze out of their innocence and use them to offend in some way. This will forever occur hence the need to continually upgrade speech. 

 

To me this is a big reason that we new ill-advised in many cases to put too much energy into the issue of words and speech.  Except in a few cases of words that are only meant to be offensive, words acquire the meaning that people bring to them, and they can also lose questionable meaning as well.  If we put a lot of energy into the language, it isn't being used to address the underlying issue, and it also tends to create an atmosphere where jargon and in-group language dominate.

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4 minutes ago, Bluegoat said:

 

Well, it was't meant to be mean, I think it was actually policy or at least how people were trained - it was meant I think to avoid any politicized words..  So "All me to the left showers and females to the right".  It just always sounded to me like they were talking about lab subjects.

I am really fine with most things people say, if they aren't jerks.  I've known enough people who said "women" in a way that was sleazy to care too much about that.

 

I'm sure it isn't deliberately or consciously meant to be mean.  But it is.  If they were consistent about it (males and females) it would be one thing.  But in my experience, people aren't consistent about it at all (men and females).

Is the word woman considered "politicized"?  I'm not sure I understand that.

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1 minute ago, Greta said:

 

I'm sure it isn't deliberately or consciously meant to be mean.  But it is.  If they were consistent about it (males and females) it would be one thing.  But in my experience, people aren't consistent about it at all (men and females).

Is the word woman considered "politicized"?  I'm not sure I understand that.

The word “females” bothers you, but you don’t understand the politicalization of the word “women”?  

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1 hour ago, happysmileylady said:

It feels formal.  In a casual setting, I would “that guy I interviewed” as opposed to “that man I interviewed.”  So as weird as it would feel to say “that man” that’s why it would feel weird to say “that woman.”  It has nothing to do with “woman” as a word...as much as it is about being casual.  

Kind of like “boss man” vs “my supervisor.”

 

Okay, I appreciate your explanation.  Personally, neither "the man I interviewed" nor "the woman I interviewed" sound formal to me, they both sound like perfectly normal phrases that one might expect to hear in the workplace.  But I guess I'm the odd one out!  :-)

ETA:  Hmm, in a work email, I would certainly use “my supervisor”and not “the boss man”.  And this was a work email that the OP was talking about. In a professional setting, isn’t it generally better to go too formal than it is to go too casual?

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3 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

The word “females” bothers you, but you don’t understand the politicalization of the word “women”?  

 

No, I don't understand what is so politicized about the word woman that it should be avoided.  I truly don't get it.

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The military (to my knowledge) is very deliberate and intentional in using the word female cadet.  Im sure part of it is about stripping identity, as you’re in the military and conformity is really an important aspect of that.  A “woman” soldier just doesn’t sound as stripped down as a female soldier. At least that’s my guess as to why they do it. 

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4 hours ago, SparklyUnicorn said:

To further complicate the situation though, women don't even agree on this. I've had women call me nuts for being annoyed with being called a girl.

 

This is the reason I wouldn't have said anything.  Calling women "girls" is not something that bothers most or means the same to everyone.  It would fall in the grey area for me and therefore not something I would complain about or mention.  If someone did mention it in a serious way rather than a joking-but-not-really-joking way, I would think that was over the top.

It's just not at that level yet where it deserves unanimous societal condemnation.

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1 hour ago, Greta said:

 

Okay, see, I find "girl" annoying in certain contexts, but I find this kind of use of the word "females" absolutely ENRAGING, and I am sorry you were subjected to it.  At least if I'm being called a "girl" my humanity is being acknowledged.  But "female" could mean a dog, a cow, an ostrich, or a naked mole rat.  I am a WOMAN.  I really don't understand why so many people are hesitant to use the word woman!  I think it's a clear sign of a misogynistic culture when the standard word for an adult female human being is avoided, like it's icky or tainted or something.  

 I confess that what you are saying here would never even occur to me.  I think it sounds awkward and would prefer woman. But it wouldn't even blip on my radar that anyone would be offended.

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1 hour ago, happysmileylady said:

Every persons individual tipping point is different.  Some folks have mentioned “chick” bothers them.  Not only does it not bother me, I use it. “This chick was behind me at the grocery store and asked me about the corn I bought.”  

 

My point was, no, we don't all have our own tipping point. Words DO become universally considered rude.  See: Retard.  Or: Colored.   Or: Lame, to describe a person who is disabled.

I think girl is on the edge.   Some people mind it, others do not.  So best to avoid in mixed company (mixed meaning, not all close friends of the same mindset).
Similar: Illegals. It's not a term I'd ever use to describe a human being, but I know it's common in some area. 
Similar: Tranny.

Then there are words that USED to be offensive, but have been reclaimed so far that the insult has no weight and it is used  positively most of the time. Queer.  Dyke. Geek.

 

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45 minutes ago, mytwomonkeys said:

The military (to my knowledge) is very deliberate and intentional in using the word female cadet.  Im sure part of it is about stripping identity, as you’re in the military and conformity is really an important aspect of that.  A “woman” soldier just doesn’t sound as stripped down as a female soldier. At least that’s my guess as to why they do it. 

 

Oh, thank for for posting this, because I may have completely misunderstood Bluegoat!  Female as an adjective (female soldier, female singer, female athlete) is perfectly appropriate and doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Female as a noun in a contex where the person would not use male, THAT is what bugs me.  “The guys are in the den watching the game and the females are out back on the patio.” The NFL marketer who made a statement about “the role of the female in the household”.  That crap drives me up the wall.

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Speaking of "female," when I was in grad school with (female) friends from India, some of them would refer to random women as "that female."  Now that struck me as odd - if my US acquaintances had ever said such a thing, it would have definitely been meant in a derogatory way.  It was another thing that took some time to get used to ... and I probably advised them against using it in mixed gatherings.

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21 minutes ago, goldberry said:

 I confess that what you are saying here would never even occur to me.  I think it sounds awkward and would prefer woman. But it wouldn't even blip on my radar that anyone would be offended.

 

Well, it’s certainly not the worst thing that women routinely get called!  :-)  (But yeah, I really hate it.  I’d much, much rather be called a girl than a female.)

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Maybe calling adult males 'guys' can be slightly derogatory. There are definitely times when I'd use 'guys' instead of 'men' because I think they've got rather more growing up to do!

I've had fun lately listening to older tradies deciding what to call women on their work site. One calls them girls, the other either girls or ladies and even asked whether they were okay being referred to as guys in the collective. That surprised them, because it's a perfectly standard use of language here.

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Dang it stupid tech.  Poppy, consider yourself quoted.  I can’t seem to get the post to work with the actual quote. 

 

Anyway, my point is that there are people who use things like “retarded” and “lame” who genuinely do not mean harm.  Case in point...in a thread here, a poster recently said “heavy oriental accent.”  Someone else corrected her “I assume you meant Asian.”  The poster meant NO harm and was simply trying to convey that the hairdresser didn’t understand her.   Oriental, Asían, Taiwanese, whatever. The point was, the poster felt like the person didn’t understand and was trying to convey that.  

 

But it even now, we have people in this thread who would rather be called girl than female. Female. Never would I have thought the word female was offensive.  

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7 hours ago, Noreen Claire said:

 

I think that you have handled these situations exactly the way they should have been handled. If language of this type persists, and it needs to be called out, you could refer the offender to the company's mission of diversity and mentoring of underrepresented groups and how that type of language undermines both.

It's sad that many comments recommend you bringing these things up in a cute, nonthreatening, 'joke-ey' manner. That just reinforces the misogyny in the workplace. Men wouldn't buffer their criticisms this way, why should the OP?

 

Yep, that's the patriarchy double bind. You won't ever be the perfect amount of professional/nice to get them to actually listen.

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2 hours ago, poppy said:

 

Once again you can see the only time men use "boys" is in the "boys night out" sort of context or I guess "boys trip".  Never, ever professionally.

 

Yep! I cannot picture a woman boss using that language with her team of mostly men. Come on boys, need those files! Can one of you boys bring some coffee to the conference room? Which one of you boys  can run this report up to finance?

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3 hours ago, SKL said:

And where I am, I never hear "gals" used that way.  Moreover, I view "gals" as being another version of "girls."  So if "girl" doesn't work, then "gal" doesn't work either.

I always hear gals as girls with a country twang.

3 hours ago, nixpix5 said:

Having grown up in a predominately migrant area where my highschool was over 60% Hispanic and my son is half, all of my friends much preferred the use of Mexican much more than Hispanic. It wasn't at all touchy to say Mexican dominoes or Mexican food and so forth. It just wasn't an issue. It does make me wonder when it became touchy. My son (again who is Mexican) made a comment to his white GF that was similar to yours and your husband's conversation and she called him out on it. They had a huge debate with regard to it but she is doing sensitivity training at her place of employment at the moment. 

 

 - except not all hispanic migrants are mexicans (and not all hispanics are even immigrants).   My ex-sil is latina - she had many experiences in the miami area that royally pissed her off.  not from the whites - from the cubans assuming her to be cuban, and boy did they change their tune (downward) when they found out she was from south america.

she also has lived in areas with large mexican migrant populations - she didn't appreciate people assuming she's mexican.   she's actually preferred living in predominantly white areas rather than predominantly one country of origin hispanic areas.   people were less likely to make an assumption as to her country of origin.

3 hours ago, nixpix5 said:

I feel like in my region, girl and guy are equivalent. 

I would be offended by "chick" haha! That would be a jaw dropper though "that chick I interviewed" that would be like saying "that dude I interviewed" 

 

uh no.  I dont' see chick and dude as equal.  but both would be inappropriate in a work environment.  .

but then- 1ds gave 3ds his nickname... . dudeling.  (because he was too small to be a dude.)

3 hours ago, marbel said:

I agree with this.

I've told this story here before - years ago I had a male coworker who called all the women "Babe."  He was from Mississippi, I think, and "Babe" was just his default for everyone, regardless of age, place in the company hierarchy, race, ethnicity, etc. He was a sales rep and I worked in sales support - so, was a minion among several other minions, all female. He was such a kind, respectful man who treated me (and others in the group) like part of the team, not underlings. When he won sales awards he was always ready to thank (usually with public words and a gift) all the people who'd helped him achieve his goals. Plenty of other reps (including the sole female at that time; it was a male-dominated industry) knew all the right words to say but treated the support staff like crap.  

Of course this was 30+  years ago and language was probably not as big a deal then as it is now.  I imagine today a guy would say "Babe" once and would be hauled in to a visit with HR to change his ways. 

 

much truth here.  something I learned from my FoO - do the words match the behavior.   I recall one time dealing with someone who was like the second group you mentioned -said the correct words while treating you like garbage.  one day one was being nice  . . . the very first through in my head was "what do you want?"

this also makes me think of one of the last scenes in my fair lady.   professor higgen's is claiming to treat all women the same and that it was consistency that was important.  eliza is complaining about how he only sees her as a common flower girl and he'll never treat her as a lady.  to which he responds he treats ladies as common flower girls.   

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1 hour ago, poppy said:

 

My point was, no, we don't all have our own tipping point. Words DO become universally considered rude.  See: Retard.  Or: Colored.   Or: Lame, to describe a person who is disabled.

I think girl is on the edge.   Some people mind it, others do not.  So best to avoid in mixed company (mixed meaning, not all close friends of the same mindset).
Similar: Illegals. It's not a term I'd ever use to describe a human being, but I know it's common in some area. 
Similar: Tranny.

Then there are words that USED to be offensive, but have been reclaimed so far that the insult has no weight and it is used  positively most of the time. Queer.  Dyke. Geek.

 

 

This must be regional - using the terms "illegals" or "tranny" where I live would be met with the same response as "retard" or the n word. (I didn't even want to type those words!)

As far as "girl" - I agree. I wouldn't call anyone a girl or refer to someone as a girl, but it wouldn't necessarily offend me. 

 

 

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So to be fair, let's all agree to use only "woman" for a female over 18 and only "man" for a male over 18.

It seems totally unfair for males to have a non-formal term that is acceptable in the workplace when women do not.

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1 minute ago, StellaM said:

 

Boy is the opposite to girl. I am totally behind not calling a man 'boy', especially as that has nasty, racist undertones, depending on who is calling 'boy' to whom.

'Guys' tends to be used here when a group is mixed. "Hey guys, how's everyone this morning ?" I imagine it will be used more and more as it becomes less and less PC to use sex based terms like 'woman' or 'girl' (an, to a lesser extent, 'man' and 'boy'). There are schools in the UK, for example, where teachers have been requested not to address girls as 'girls'. 

 

And here's where I say that's crazy.  What is wrong with being a girl?  If girl is a bad word, it must mean being a girl is an awful thing.  How can people not see the dangerous implications of this kind of thinking?

So you don't use "guy" to refer to an individual male over 18?  You would always say "man?"  Then that's good, you won't have to change your language.  :)

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7 minutes ago, StellaM said:

'Guys' tends to be used here when a group is mixed. "Hey guys, how's everyone this morning ?"

... and it's considered offensive by some to be used for mixed groups because they consider it a term referring to males only. Sigh. 

As others have pointed out, there is no female equivalent to "guys". The only way to correctly address a mixed group is "ladies and gentlement" which is stilted and too formal for many occasions. Unless you are in the South; then you can say "y'all" 

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49 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

I always hear gals as girls with a country twang.

 

 - except not all hispanic migrants are mexicans (and not all hispanics are even immigrants).   My ex-sil is latina - she had many experiences in the miami area that royally pissed her off.  not from the whites - from the cubans assuming her to be cuban, and boy did they change their tune (downward) when they found out she was from south america.

she also has lived in areas with large mexican migrant populations - she didn't appreciate people assuming she's mexican.   she's actually preferred living in predominantly white areas rather than predominantly one country of origin hispanic areas.   people were less likely to make an assumption as to her country of origin.

 

uh no.  I dont' see chick and dude as equal.  but both would be inappropriate in a work environment.  .

but then- 1ds gave 3ds his nickname... . dudeling.  (because he was too small to be a dude.)

 

much truth here.  something I learned from my FoO - do the words match the behavior.   I recall one time dealing with someone who was like the second group you mentioned -said the correct words while treating you like garbage.  one day one was being nice  . . . the very first through in my head was "what do you want?"

this also makes me think of one of the last scenes in my fair lady.   professor higgen's is claiming to treat all women the same and that it was consistency that was important.  eliza is complaining about how he only sees her as a common flower girl and he'll never treat her as a lady.  to which he responds he treats ladies as common flower girls.   

Good point about Hispanic vs Latino/Latina and Mexican. Where I was it was predominately Mexican. I do understand what you mean though my Japanese aunt much prefers being called Asian since she often is called Chinese or Korean. 

I still find both "chick" and "dude" to be widely innapropriate in a work environment even though I use dude freely at home. ;)

Someone should set up a spin off poll to see what people prefer to be called (girl, woman, chick, candidate, etc). I am intrigued at this point :)

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10 minutes ago, StellaM said:

 

It's flipping insane to suggest not calling girls (in a girls school!) 'girls'. There is absolutely nothing wrong with addressing  female (sorry Greta!) children as 'girls'.

 

 

No need to apologize to me -- you used female as an adjective!  That gets the Greta Stamp of Approval (for what little that's worth, lol!).  

And I think it's crazy that girls "shouldn't" be called girls and women "shouldn't" be called women.  These are the appropriate terms for their respective groups!  This need to avoid those terms and use terms like "female" (as a noun!) instead absolutely mystifies me.

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24 minutes ago, regentrude said:

... and it's considered offensive by some to be used for mixed groups because they consider it a term referring to males only. Sigh. 

As others have pointed out, there is no female equivalent to "guys". The only way to correctly address a mixed group is "ladies and gentlement" which is stilted and too formal for many occasions. Unless you are in the South; then you can say "y'all" 

I use "folks" for this, as in "Do you folks need anything over here?" It sounds sort of cornball, but I prefer it to "guys".

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10 hours ago, OKBud said:

My husband used to call women girls and I'd act shocked. "Gasp! My goodness she got her PhD as a teenager?! That's AMAZING!" (Or whatever he was talking about)

 

 

This is similar to what I do. I say, “unless it was a ten-year-old genius, it was a woman, not a girl.” However, this is with my husband, and not a co-worker. He already knows I am the Word Police. 

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36 minutes ago, SKL said:

And here's where I say that's crazy.  What is wrong with being a girl?  If girl is a bad word, it must mean being a girl is an awful thing.  How can people not see the dangerous implications of this kind of thinking?

So you don't use "guy" to refer to an individual male over 18?  You would always say "man?"  Then that's good, you won't have to change your language.  :)

 

You're quoting someone says 'woman' is an offensive term , I think she is deliberately exaggerating in order to make the "other side" sound irrational.

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35 minutes ago, regentrude said:

... and it's considered offensive by some to be used for mixed groups because they consider it a term referring to males only. Sigh. 

As others have pointed out, there is no female equivalent to "guys". The only way to correctly address a mixed group is "ladies and gentlement" which is stilted and too formal for many occasions. Unless you are in the South; then you can say "y'all" 

 

 

To whom is the use of "guys" for mixed groups offensive?

The idea that girl is not an appropriate term  for an adult woman is not some new-fangled trendy thing... it's from the 1970s. It was a given growing up for me.


I went to a Womens College in the early 1990s and there were people who called it a "Girls School" and I thought they were waaaaay behind the times - though I wasn't passionate enough about it to correct anyone.  It was the same people who used the term "Oriental" when they meant Asian. 

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I'd generally address a mixed group as "Everyone" as "Hey, everyone" or "Can everyone please look over here?" That doesn't sound stilted and formal. There *are* options.

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3 minutes ago, poppy said:

To whom is the use of "guys" for mixed groups offensive?

certain women/groups of women. Because it is considered a male term

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