Cheryl Glenn is now one of my favorite scholars since she responded to my email so promptly. There's nothing that it would be bad to post, so here you have it:
What a great insight!
Thanks so much for writing to me about this issue.
I know I consciously use "women" when talking to graduate students, but I don't know why I use "guys." Maybe because I have a tendency to use "guys" when referring to both men and women? Maybe because guys don't need any reminders of their manhood?
What terms do YOU think I should use in situations like last Thursday's?
Here's my response:
That's a good question. I don't have an opinion on what terms you should use with grad students, but I think my personal preference would be to try to consistently use terms that go together. "Guys" feels similar to "girls," and "women" feels similar to "men." However, I think the risk that would come from calling female students "girls" and male students "guys" is that "guy" usually refers to young men, rather than children. "Girl," on the other hand, can also refer to children. So perhaps calling women "girls" would automatically cause problems, even if there were no middle aged female grad students. I guess there are no perfectly paired terms for gender.
Bottom line, though, I'm glad you use "women" when you're talking to grad students. It feels much more empowering to be a "woman" than to be a "girl."
Thanks for your response,
Sometimes I'm jealous of the precise language more experienced writers use. I didn't say more than she did, but it took me twice as many words.