September 28 2011
When Gals Became Guys
I often enjoy listening to sports writer Frank Deford on NPR's Morning Edition, as he regularly offers a window into American culture through a sports lens. This morning my ears perked up when I heard the writer speaking about the lost distinction between men and women - between guys and gals:
How did females become guys? How did everyone become guys? Remember, too, that a male guy was something of a scoundrel. And a wise guy was a fresh kid, a whippersnapper. In its most other famous evocation, men in Brooklyn said "youse guys." Damon Runyon referred to hustlers, gamblers and other nefarious types as guys.
Now every mother's son is a guy and every mother's daughter, too. If they wrote the musical now, it wouldn't be called Guys and Dolls -- just Guys and Guys.
What accounts for the guy-ification of America? Maybe it has to do with the fact that men had to stop calling grown women "girls." Gals kind of went out, too, so there wasn't anything else available. In sports, for a long time, even after it was gauche for anyone else to call adult females "girls," female athletes still referred to each other as "girls," but that just won't do anymore.
While his commentary usually relates to stats or figures I don't know much about, his essay this morning hit a little closer to home -- namely his question "what accounts for the guy-ification of America?"
Often I write about a society in which the push for gender equality has resulted in the disappearance of gender roles (see here, here, and here.) More and more, we encourage girls to act like "one of the guys." While I applaud women's educational, athletic, and professional achievements, there are some negative consequences to this gender "equality," and I think Frank Deford picked up on one of them this morning.