It is common for people to say “guys” to refer to everyone, but for those seeking a more feminine version, saying “gals” achieves the same effect. Some people have taken it a step further by using the phrase “folks”, or simply eliminating any gendered speech by saying “everyone”.
Even with these alternatives, many people still habitually say “guys”. Most people are used to this but some have voiced complaints that the phrase is skewed towards the male gender spectrum and have asked for a more inclusive phrase to encompass females and nonbinary people.
When to say “gals”
If you are talking to a group made entirely of women, then using “gals” in place of “guys” is acceptable. It all boils down to the context in which you are saying the word.
For example, if you are just talking to your group of best friends that are all female, you can likely refer to them as “gals” without any backlash. If you are not sure if that would be alright with them, just ask.
In some situations would be inappropriate to say “gals” and may offend or confuse people. Using this phrase in a sexist context or when talking to strangers is likely to upset someone. Additionally, using it when addressing men and women may result in confusion.
Is it okay to say “girls” or “ladies”?
Some women find it infantilizing to be referred to as “girls”. In fact, many women think the phrase implies that they are viewed as childlike or lesser by the person speaking to them.
“Ladies” has sometimes been used as a more adult version of “girls”, although some say it does not roll off of the tongue as easily as “gals” since it starts with the same letter as “guys” does.
What about phrases that are gender-neutral?
Many people have begun to use phrases that eliminate the use of gendered words entirely. Simply saying “everyone” when referring to a group bears no specific gender and is a commonly used word, so it is unlikely to start any confusion.
Some members of the LGBT+ community have opted to use the phrase “folks”, as it is inclusive of people who identify as nonbinary. However, the word may sound too old-fashioned for it to gain much traction as a popular replacement for “guys”.
A popular phrase to refer to a group of people is “y’all”, but this may be confusing to someone who does not speak or understand much about American English. Even some Americans find the phrase confusing, as it is commonly associated with the regional dialect of southern America.
Can I still use the phrase “guys”?
There are plenty of alternatives to this phrase, but many women have said that they view the phrase as gender-neutral as long as it is plural. The phrase has been so commonly used over the last few years that the gendered speech behind it has been dropped by many.
Many women also agree that the singular word “guy” is still gendered. Referring to a woman as a “guy” is a more personal decision and will depend on whether the person you are speaking to is alright with it.
Some women may find the phrase “guys” offensive depending on the context. For example, if you refer to a singular female friend in a group of males as “one of the guys”, she may feel singled out or embarrassed. However, if you are referring to the entire group as “guys” without purposely singling someone out, then it is less likely that someone will be offended.
If you are looking for a feminine version of “guys”, “gals” is the most popular option and is also fun to say. There are some gender-neutral options as well, such as “everyone” or “folks”, if you want to just drop the gender out of your phrasing entirely.
When in doubt about what kind of phrasing to use for your friends or colleagues, you can always just ask someone if they have any preferences. If they do, they will be grateful that you asked and you can avoid unintentionally hurting someone’s feelings.