Stop saying that women are beautiful.

I was speaking at a conference recently. There were seven speakers in all - five women and two men. Each of us was introduced prior to our talk by one of the organizers.

During the introductions of three of the five female speakers, the organizer mentioned the woman's physical appearance.

"... the brilliant and beautiful..."

"... not only is she beautiful, but she is a published expert in her field..."  

"... a beautiful woman with a bold vision..."

Pay attention to the way women are introduced at events like this in the future. Their physical appearance is often mentioned as a part of the introduction, and almost always by other women.

Conversely, men's physical appearance is never mentioned. I have been introduced hundreds of times prior to a speech, story, or talk, and my physical appearance has never been included in the list of accolades or accomplishments. 

This needs to stop, for a few reasons:

  1. It's inappropriate. Physical appearance is irrelevant and should not be touted as a means of introducing a speaker. Doing so implies that beauty is just as important as the woman's professional accomplishments or academic pedigree. The last thing anyone should be talking about is what a woman looks like prior to listening to her speak.    
  2. When you mention the beauty of one female speaker but fail to do so for another female speaker (or even a male speaker), you risk hurting the feelings or offending the speakers whose physical appearance was unmentioned. I couldn't help but wonder if the two women whose physical appearance was not mentioned at that recent conference noticed the difference in introductory content. It was also interesting to note that the two women whose beauty was not mentioned were African American, while the other three were white.   
  3. Mentioning a woman's physical appearance during an introduction is sexist. The notion that we would include female appearance but not male appearance in an introduction implies that a woman's appearance is an important and relevant part of her value to society.   

Even if you can't agree with these first three reasons (and I honestly can't imagine any sane person not), here is one based solely on logic:

Unless the audience is comprised of blind people, mentioning that a woman is beautiful before she takes the stage is simply stating the obvious. The audience members are about to see the woman, and her beauty will therefore be apparent. From a logical standpoint, mentioning the physical appearance of a speaker is redundant and meaningless, because that beauty is about to take center stage.

This may seem like a small thing to you, but it is not. The perpetuation of the notion that a woman's physical appearance is an important part of her value and worth to society must be stopped whenever possible. This constant, public acknowledgement of the importance of a woman's appearance seems innocent enough, but it represents and reinforces the sexist, shallow, and stupid notions that we have about what is important in our culture. 

If you're introducing a female speaker, say nothing about her appearance. 

If you're a woman who is about to be introduced, make a point of asking that your physical appearance not be mentioned as a part of your introduction.

End this stupidity today. 

There is no female counterpart to the word “guys,” and that is a tragedy.

One of college supervisors’ favorite critiques of student-teachers is their use of the word “guys” when addressing the entire class, claiming that the word is gender specific and therefore inappropriate.

This critique is made for two reasons:

  1. College supervisors, in my experience, have very little to say that is critical of a student-teacher’s performance. They tend to heap an inordinate amount of praise upon student-teachers while rarely correcting anything that wasn’t written on paper prior to the lesson. I have yet to understand the rationale behind this culture of incessant praise, but it doesn’t make anyone a better teacher. So targeting the use of the word “guys” is a simple, non-threatening, and nearly universal form of criticism that supervisors can make without any actual critical analysis of the lesson or the student-teacher’s performance.

  2. As gender specific as “guys” may technically be, these college supervisors apparently spend no time with actual kids, who use the word “guys” in a non-gender way throughout the entire school day. Girls refer to other girls as “guys” all the time. Boys refer to girls as “guys.” Girls refer to boys as “guys.” Even my wife refers to her girlfriends as “guys.” It’s a word that is gender specific in definition only. 

But here’s the real problem:

There is no decent female counterpart to “guys.”

“Guys” is a great word. It serves a necessary purpose and does so with skill and aplomb. It denotes a group of people. By definition, this group should be males only, but this is rarely the case, because the feminine alternatives of this word are nonexistent.



And please don’t say “gals.” It’s no good. Use this word in almost any context and you’ll sound like an idiot.

If you live in the South, you have the option of “y’all,” which I actually like a lot, but again, if you use it outside the South, you sound like an idiot.

I’ve heard people use the word “ladies” as an alternative, but “ladies” lacks the casual ease of “guys.” “Ladies” is like a pretentious brunch. “Guys” is a like a burger and fries. 

And besides, there is a masculine counterpart to “ladies,” therefore maintaining “guys” singular status.  

So when I am working with a student-teacher, my solution to the “guys” issue is simple:

I make sure that I use the word in the presence of the college supervisor before my student-teacher does. This will either afford my student-teacher permission to use the word (if the teacher is modeling the use of the word, how can I fault her?), or it will cause the college supervisor to engage in a discussion about the use of the word, which is always highly entertaining.