We’ve Come a Long Way, Guys! Rhetorics of Resistance to the Feminist Critique of Sexist Language

Document Type


Publication Date



We provide a qualitative analysis of resistance to calls for gender-neutral language. We analyzed more than 900 comments responding to two essays—one on AlterNet and another on Vox posted to the Vox editor’s Facebook page—that critiqued a pervasive male-based generic, “you guys.” Five rhetorics of resistance are discussed: appeals to origins, appeals to linguistic authority, appeals to aesthetics, appeals to intentionality and inclusivity, and appeals to women and feminist authorities. These rhetorics justified “you guys” as a nonsexist term, thereby allowing commenters to continue using it without compromising their moral identities as liberals or feminists. In addition to resisting an analysis that linked their use of “you guys” to social harms, commenters positioned the authors who called for true generics as unreasonable, divisive, and authoritarian. We conclude with suggestions for how feminists can challenge the status quo and promote social change.