|Guy Fawkes - 1570-1606|
My opening when teaching gender awareness is to address my audience with "Hi Guys!" I always hope that there are females in the class and have not had that misfortune yet. The "Hi Guys", always gives me an opening to point out that not all here today are guys. All know what gender is but few understand the negativity associated with misgendering. This is especially true in the transgender and gender non-conforming community.
By using "guys" we are ignoring the cognitive impact on women (marginalizing) as well as gender non-conforming folks by only addressing the male identifying individuals that are present.
The first step in the process is to be aware.
Springfield Collage, a small collage in Springfield, MA, published a wonderful statement on this subject:
Springfield College is committed to valuing and validating the gender identity and expression of members of the campus community. Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender, regardless of the sex assigned to them at birth or the sex designation on their legal documents. One way that Springfield College seeks to create gender-inclusive academic, living, and work environments is by encouraging all members of the campus community to indicate the pronouns they use for themselves, if desired, in classes, residence halls, workplaces, and other settings, and by encouraging members of the campus community to respect these pronouns.
Etymologists trace the term “guys” to the historical figure Guy Fawkes. In 1605 a man name Guy Fawkes participated in the "Gunpowder Plot". It was a failed Catholic plot to blow up the British Houses of Lords and with it the King of England.
Although a non-event, the attempted bombing had a huge legacy. There was the historical impact, with King James I using it as an excuse to crack down on England's non-conforming Catholics and lay the foundations of a unified British state. There was the cultural impact, with Nov. 5 celebrated ever since with fires and fireworks as Bonfire Night or, in tribute to the plotter caught red-handed, as Guy Fawkes Night. There is a significant linguistic legacy too: the creation of the word "guy."
The word "guy," as used today to indicate a "man, fellow, person, individual, creature," didn't exist in 1605. In fact, even the name Guy, a name with Norman French origins given to poor Guy Fawkes by his parents in 1570, was relatively rare in England at the time.
Because of this tradition, the word "guy" began to be used in England to mean "effigy" and later came to be used in a pejorative sense to describe a man ("he's a bad guy") or a usually a "weirdly dressed person," according to Parliament's history of Guy Fawkes Night.
At some point it spread to the United States, where, perhaps due to the lack of context, it began to be used in a wide variety of ways, not all negative. That American English usage later returned to United Kingdom, where it became common to use it to mean "man" or "person.".
Now that you know the origin, let's take a look at alternatives. Stay Tuned.