Guys and Females

This article is from 2016, and is representative of a pattern that a lot of my writing followed in the 2012-2016 period. During that time I was very focused on what I saw as overly-harsh generalizations from the left: assumptions of bad-intent when, from my own perspective, I thought it just as likely that the subject was ignorant or confused. I wrote a lot of articles “defending douchebags”, a habit that my husband even called me out for from time to time.

What do I think of this article now? I wouldn’t write this article today, or at least I wouldn’t write it this way. I simply don’t think apologetics centered around why guys might end up using asymmetric terms like “guys and females” is that useful or interesting. This kind of article decenters much more important conversations that should be happening about the function of the dehumanizing language of everyday sexism.

I am leaving my original words below, however, unedited. They are a reminder to myself of where I have come from intellectually and how I’ve grown, as well as a reminder to others that people change and mature over time, and that any life (your own or anyone else’s) should be judged by its trajectory and not by a snapshot.

My friend Mike is a personal trainer. We were discussing client personalities, and the fact that different clients like different approaches, different techniques, different attitudes from the person training them. At one point Mike remarked that while everyone is an individual, and people vary widely, he has noticed a pattern of differences “between guys and females”.

I interrupted: “Why do you say it that way?”

“What do you mean?” Mike wondered.

“Well, you always say guys and females,” I observed. “Never males and females. Never men and women. I just think it’s interesting.”

He flashed a shy smile, looked me in the eyes, and then looked away. After a pause, he said, “I don’t know. I never really noticed before. But I guess I do say that, yeah.”

Mike is your standard extremely handsome hunky straight guy in his mid 20’s. Six feet tall, about 180 pounds of muscle, with brown hair and a Superman jawline. He gets a lot of young women as clients for personal training.

“I guess it started when I was in college,” Mike mused when we were talking later that same day. “If I said guys and girls, some women would get upset because… well, girls sounds childish. Sort of disrespectful, you know? And I get that. They’re over 18, they’re adults. So I started saying women.”

“But then, I started noticing that some of my female…. uh….” Mike paused awkwardly and laughed, “…some of my female clients that I was training, would actually get upset if I called them women because it, like, implied that they were older. You know what I mean? They wanted to be seen as younger, and they’d get mad if I said woman.”

“They wanted you to see them as hot college girls,” I prompted, smirking.

“I guess,” Mike blushed slightly. “Maybe.”

“So you couldn’t win either way?”

“Yeah… So I started avoiding the whole thing by just saying females.”

“Of course, you know females also could be seen as demeaning,” I offered.

“Oh yeah?”

“Well, it’s kind of a  technical-sounding word. When you use the word guy or man, that means male human. So when you say female, it’s like: what are you saying? She’s not human? Is she an alien? If she’s a female human, the word for that is woman. Saying female makes her sound… like some other species.”

Mike laughed, “I see what you mean. I guess I can’t win no matter what I say.”

“I guess not.”

The reality is, Mike was doing exactly what he should be doing. He was paying attention to what people wanted to be called. When he was with a women who wanted to be referred to as a woman, he would pick up on that as quickly as he could and he would do that. When discovered that he was with a woman who preferred to be referred to as a girl, he would oblige her as well. And when he was unsure, he simply fumbled around the best that he could.

And isn’t that all that any of us can do, really?

Whenever I’m talking to someone new who happens to word something in a way that I find abrasive or unsettling, I try to remember Mike — poor confused Mike, who can’t win no matter what he says! It’s easy to get swept up in outrage culture and assume the worst: “The offensive misuse of words is microaggression,” some people say, “and bespeaks of terrible evils in a person’s soul!” But I simply am not that cynical. I don’t think it’s useful to fly into a rage every time someone uses a word that I don’t like.

Some people are mean, it’s true. And some people make a great show of using whatever words they want, no matter how it makes others feel. Those people are being assholes, and it’s right to call them out when they behave that way. But sometimes we humans–both guys and females alike!–are just fumbling around in a world where there simply are no words that can please all of the people all of the time.

A photo of a guy and a female
A photo of a guy and a female.

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  1. Mitchel says:

    Great article! This reminds me of a conversation I had with a woman about 7/8 years ago when I was in my early 20’s. Back then I thought taking women out to expensive dinners on a first date was impressive. Anyhow, we were out eating and she mentioned something about her doctor. I said, “Oh yeah, what did he say?” She furiously replied, “What do you mean what did HE say? There’s lots of female doctors too, you know?” After she cooled off a bit she even admitted that her doctor WAS a male! I suppose I can see her point that both sexes can/and are doctors, but I don’t really think she needed to make a big deal of things. I didn’t mean anything “sexist” by it. I suppose it was just the first thing that came to mind.

    I suppose I fall somewhere “in the middle” with some of these gender issues. I don’t really like much of the “feminism” stuff I’ve read about as it seems to be biased towards to women. On the flip side, angry “red pill”/manosphere writers like to place all the blame on women and don’t like to be held accountable for their own failures as a man. I think this becomes much more complex than just “taking one side,” and as you said, it takes two to have a conversation/relationship with BOTH parties showing respect and being somewhat open minded.

  2. dhl92 says:

    You seem pretty dismissive about SJWs who get upset at microaggressions and sexist/racist/etc language, but in other places you seem like you’re on the PC train yourself so what’s your deal? Do people need to monitor their language and “check their privilege” or not?

    • Greg Stevens says:

      I talked about this a little in my video with Josiah about political correctness and the word “faggot”:

      I’ve always maintained that communication takes two participants who are cooperating in their effort to have a reasonable conversation, and that means it’s the responsibility of the speaker to be considerate and thoughtful and to take into account how the listener will interpret and react to things AND it is also the responsibility of the listener to try to use a good-faith interpretation of what the speaker meant without being petty and looking for things to get mad about.

      It’s both. Communication, like all relationships, takes two people. Neither of them should behave like assholes.

  3. fan says:

    Zhaan is my favorite.

  4. mirella says:

    As a … (ups, I already began hesitating about what I would like calling myself), let’s say, hmm, woman, I would feel less represented if calling myself – or by being called – a “female”. I feel that “female” comprehends only my sexuality and my generating power, far from wholly expressing who I am. Yes, I am a woman, mother, wife, but I also am a teacher, writer, researcher, thinker, philosopher, a dreamer, a utopian, a nature-contemplator, etc, etc. Not just a female.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      I totally understand what you mean. Because “female” is so technical, it feels like it’s reducing you to just one thing. It’s the same way I feel about people who call a gay person “a homosexual”. It’s weirdly dehumanizing, and also seems to try to reduce a person to one aspect of their being, in a way that more culturally rich words like “gay” (or “woman”) do not.

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