Man loses job after using the word “ladies”, deemed by DEI experts to be a microaggression

April 7, 2023 • 10:45 am

This article from the Boston Globe reports how the top candidate for the job of superintendent of Easthampton Public Schools (he’d been offered the job) had his offer withdrawn when it was discovered—horrors!—that he’d used the word “ladies” in an email to two women.  In the article, various DEI experts weigh in, all explaining why the term “ladies” (as often used in the salutation “ladies and gentlemen”) is offensive and even racist. First, though, see how the public defended him, which shows that they’re more sensible than DEI experts:

After the leading candidate for superintendent of Easthampton Public Schools claimed he lost his job offer for using the word “ladies” in an e-mail, he said he was “shocked” because he “grew up in a time when ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ was a sign of respect.”

He wasn’t the only one; more than 150 people showed up to protest the school committee’s decision to revoke Vito Perrone’s offer, and the Globe’s initial story racked up more than 750 comments, with plenty of readers supporting the salutation.

Vito Perrone, leading candidate for superintendent of the Easthampton Public Schools, said his job offer was abruptly rescinded after he wrote an e-mail to the School Committee chairwoman and another female colleague, addressing them as “ladies.”

Click the article to read; if it’s paywalled, a judicious inquiry might yield you a pdf:

Now all the experts trot onstage, and without exception they say that the word “ladies” shouldn’t be used:

While not everyone will be offended, several diversity and inclusion experts told the Globe, the word has a long and complicated history, and can hold negative connotations when used in inappropriate settings, such as in contract negotiations in Perrone’s case. Instead, it’s best to ask people how they want to be addressed to avoid alienating or upsetting anyone, they said.

Here we go:

Elisa van Dam, vice president of allyship and inclusion at the Institute for Inclusive Leadership at Simmons University, said the word “ladies” can be infantilizing in a professional setting. Perrone had used the term to address two women in leadership positions, School Committee Chair Cynthia Kwiecinski and the committee’s executive assistant, Suzanne Colby.

The idea of lady does not correlate or does not lead you to a woman who is in charge and in power and has her work really under control,” Dam said. “It’s none of the things that you want to be thought of as a woman in business or in any kind of hiring situation.”

She said a candidate addressing women as “ladies” at any stage of the hiring process can raise questions about the candidate’s judgment.

“It’s tone deaf. It seems that he hasn’t been paying attention to the way language use has been evolving and how we are talking about diversity and equity and inclusion and belonging,” Dam said. “He’s operating on a very old paradigm.”

Infantilizing! Tone deaf! Diversity and equity and inclusing and belonging, oh my! (The phrase “tone deaf”, like “stakeholder” is nearly always a red flag, and “tone deaf” is not an argument but a slur.) And so, because a “man of age” is operating on an old paradigm (one that Christopher Hitchens often used), he can’t get the job.

Here comes another DEI expert:

It might be common, and feel natural, to address a group of women as ladies, but Karl Reid, chief inclusion officer at Northeastern University, said it is still important to ask people how to refer to them, as a sign of respect.

“No one group is a monolith, everyone is individual,” Reid said. “And understanding what is acceptable to that individual, then we are a step towards welcoming a more inclusive environment.”

If you’re writing someone an email whom you haven’t written before, do you call them up and ask how they want to be addressed? Or do you just use “hello” as a salutation?

. . . . And another Pecksniff who finds the word racist and patronizing:

While some people may appreciate being addressed as “ladies,” it can be an informal and inappropriate word to use when negotiating contract stipulations and in the workplace, said Jen Manion, a professor of history and sexuality, women’s and gender studies at Amherst College. And if someone referred to them in such a way at work, Manion said they would “flip.”

“Nobody ever calls me a lady at work,” Manion said. “It’s one thing to say while speaking to friends.” The word has “historic baggage,” Manion said, as it was often associated with women-only spaces, such as passenger cars and public bathrooms, that were created for “keeping women separate and keeping women of color out of those spaces.” The term represented a group of women who fit a certain race or class, Manion said, and it also evokes a time when women weren’t allowed to work, and were expected to be soft spoken and demure.

But this is no longer true, and who on Earth even KNOWS about that outmoded usage? (Only the Pecksniffs who do the historical digging. Which reminds me of a story about Dr. Johnson and his dictionary. . . . ) Now “ladies” is simply a polite way to address women.

Manion goes on at length:

Because of that context, Manion said “ladies” can come off as patronizing and demeaning.

“It is a phrase people throw around widely without thinking,” Manion said. “How would [Perrone] have phrased the e-mail if it was two men?”

He would have said “gentlemen,” as I often do when writing to a group of men!  But Manion can’t shut up about how demeaning “ladies” is. She (if that’s her pronoun) even calls the use of the word “an accident”:

Manion said better ways to address a group of people could include “y’all,” “everyone,” “folks,” “friends,” and “people.”

Reid said it’s important for those involved in situations like these to learn from what happened and how the meaning behind certain words could be seen as offensive.

“When these accidents occur, there is an expectation that we should have meaningful discourse about what is acceptable … to create a more inclusive institution,” Reid said. “It’s an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation.”

Y’all??? That’s far more racist than “ladies”, and is used not only by black people, but by the southern descendants of enslavers.

So because of this one word, used with every intent to be polite, the Easthampton Public Schools lost its best candidate. That’s simply asinine and ridiculous. Look at the tradeoff: they gave away their best candidate so that the word “ladies” could be publicly and eternally demonized. These DEI “experts” should be treated with the ridicule and contempt they deserve.

h/t: Anna

99 thoughts on “Man loses job after using the word “ladies”, deemed by DEI experts to be a microaggression

  1. Perhaps more attention should be paid to insidious nano-aggressions which, by virtue of being so hard to detect, can be even more difficult to defend against than mere micro-aggressions.

        1. That’s brilliant!

          There is no doubt a long way to go in this blossoming and worthwhile field of scholarly endeavour. As the field expands, elite DEI ‘experts’ will continue to develop techniques enabling the discovery of aggressions at ever-diminishing magnitudes. However, even they will have to stop at planck-aggressions. There’s some (limited) comfort in that, I guess.

  2. What are the qualifications for becoming a DEI “expert,” anyway? A superior ability to find something offensive to an oppressed group?
    And surely, as you point out, criticizing someone as “tone deaf” for using the term “ladies” would generally get vilified as being “ableist,” but I guess it’s okay for a woman to use that term….but a white man? I’m sure if one looks hard enough (like the “ladies” reading Dr. Johnson’s dictionary), one can find something to cause offense, or “harm.”
    Reminds me of Tom Lehrer’s 1965(?) song “Smut:”

    All books can be indecent books
    Though recent books are bolder,
    For filth (I’m glad to say) is in
    The mind of the beholder.
    When correctly viewed,
    Everything is lewd.
    (I could tell you things about peter pan,
    And the wizard of oz, there’s a dirty old man!)

  3. “Dear people who menstruate” would definitely have been more professional.

    I thought “Tone deaf” was ableist. I wonder if Elisa van Dam thinks she should lose her job for its use?

    “Evolution of language” is a framing designed to intentionally mask the fact that these changes to language are top-down, ideological edicts, not organic changes to language that reflect broad changes in attitudes more generally..

        1. “or ever wanted to menstruate, but can’t for biological reasons, and might be repeatedly traumatized by this form of address”

      1. I think he should have played it safe, addressing them:

        ” Hey folks, friends, people and everyone,
        I’d like to start by welcoming the two humans reading this letter with warmth and respect. I will do this by recognising certain of their characteristics, affirming their membership of a human subpopulation by virtue of these characteristics, and by addressing them collectively, thereby validating their membership and associated lived-experiences within that group.

        Dear human entities belonging to (or who are a member of) a distinct subpopulation of human entities, the members of which are distinguished from other human subpopulations based on the following criteria:

        A member is any human entity born with the reproductive equipment and ancillary apparatus which would – if the entity was in good health, free of congenital defects and sexually mature – facilitate the production of large and immobile gametes for the purposes of sexual reproduction.

        For clarity, y’all please note that the sub-population described above, into which I have assigned you, and therefore addressed you by, exists alongside a complimentary, yet antagonistic and non-overlapping, subpopulation distinguished by the following criteria:

        ‘A member is any human entity born with the reproductive equipment and ancillary apparatus which would – if the entity was in good health, free of congenital defects and sexually mature – facilitate the production of small and mobile gametes for the purposes of sexual reproduction’.

        So, ladies, now we’ve dispensed with the formalities, let’s …….


    1. “Dear non-binary points on the baldness spectrum rainbow category which you have been required to belong by multidimensional intersectionalism analysis”

    2. But what if they are past menopause? Does the referenced term imply old age, frailty, mental incompetence, infertility? Why can’t I use the terms I grew up with and have people respect me for the intention? I certainly can’t keep up with all these fashionable titles.
      Bob Gwin

  4. But we can still call a group of men “ladies,” as in “Are you ladies going to actually going to try and stop the other team?”, right?

  5. Anyone who, without irony, uses the term “allyship” is not an ally of mine, and I am not likely to be an ally of theirs. And, surely, historically, “ladies” referred to aristocrats, as did “gentlemen”, and so it is a compliment, and intended as such. I don’t understand these people, and I don’t want to understand them. Stupid muggles!

  6. I stopped using the word “ladies” a very long time ago. When that word (or worse, “girls”) was uttered in front of a large classroom—even as far back as 1980 when I was in graduate school—the inevitable result would be hissing from the audience. So, I was sensitized to that word.

    Fast forward to around 2015, when I was working at a giant software company. I had just moved from an engineering position—where for 15 years I had never heard the word—to one in a totally different part of the organization. And what did my ears hear? They regularly heard women kick meetings off by welcoming the “ladies and gentlemen.” There, it seemed, the word was fine and even standard. It felt like a bit of a time warp, but it was fine.

    While “ladies” may be passé, it’s not an evil word that needs policing.

    One more thing…. .
    My wife says that the superintendent candidate is lucky, and that his life at that job would have been miserable. Perhaps so.

    1. The guidance in trusting your ear then was, If you wouldn’t call a man a gentleman in a given circumstance, you shouldn’t call a woman a lady in the same circumstance. The only clearly acceptable use was using them together in a formal or stereotyped sense to address a mixed group, “Ladies and gentlemen. . . “. Or, “Ladies, please, refrain from making lewd references to the strippers’ endowments in the hearing of the flower girl.” “Gentlemen, please stand closer to the urinals.” “Lady doctor” is, of course, out, as are such constructions as,”A man and a lady walked into a bar . . .”

      Toils and snares remain. We can accuse a man of ungentlemanly conduct yet we can’t accuse a woman of unladylike behaviour. Maybe because they don’t mean the same thing. (Her peers can call her a slut.)

      The asymmetrical warfare here is that speakers who use the wrong grace notes in making a conciliatory, welcoming address are attacked by professional harangueuses who make their living doing anything but. It’s easy to criticize what someone said than it is to come up with an alternative that expresses the same panache. If your job is to be abrasive and make people uncomfortable and fearful, you don’t bother with niceties like “Ladies and gentlemen. . .”

      I’d probably be jobless in Easthampton.

  7. So much harm and minoritization by the servants of the hegemony. How will it ever be equalized? We will never know unless we had kind, caring DEI professionals to show us how ignorant everyone is by using a toxic rude white entitled thin male as an example.

    ^^^just part of my daily intersectional critical-theoretical exercises.

  8. “… several diversity and inclusion experts told the Globe…”


    Just yesterday I was in a mixed-sex zoom meeting with an older gentleman who referred to us as “ok guys, and ladies…” and somehow all of adults emerged from the meeting unscathed, not a single bump, with no lawsuits launched.

  9. Another interesting post from Dr, Coyne that illustrates the power game underpinning language policing. Some of the experts quoted seemed drunk on that power. One smallish quibble: y’all was a ubiquitous term in SW Texas when I attended high school there MANY years ago. And I lived in a city in which the majority of residents were Texans with Hispanic ancestry. It was/is a term of inclusion not exclusion, so associating it with racism came as a shock to me. Who knew.

      1. At the first dinner with my wife’s extended family in North Carolina I fell helplessly in love with the drawl and the y’all and was shocked when after an hour I started using both unawares (of course as a Canadian I have no natural accent). Y’all is a term of endearment, not a tasteless affectation.

        1. Endearment? Mike, you have apparently never heard the likes of: y’all need to take your Yankee asses back where they came from.

          1. Ha nope when I lived in the US I got called ‘cheesehead’ and ‘frostback’ (that’s a good one) but I never got ‘Yankee’.

      2. YO, y’all should be the best word for these times.

        [Yikes, now I’m on moderation. Wonder what I did? How do I find out? What can I do to redeem myself?]

  10. There is something deeply ironic about Karl Reid acknowledging and arguing for treating people as individuals.

  11. So using the word “ladies” sounds patronizing to some people? Well la de f*ing da. How do these educated-beyond-their-intelligence ladies think lecturing an adult on the use of their native tongue comes across? A rhetorical question, of course, these over-grown spoiled children have no conception of extending to others what they demand for themselves.

    ABE: As an aside, word to the sort of Democrats that pretend not to know what “woke” or “cancelled” mean.
    OK then, two words:
    – F* you.
    – Enjoy your life in the US of DeSantis in about 6 years. You are the primary reason everything left of hillbilly gun show culture is about as attractive to former centrists as a bowl of dog puke.

    1. Even that won’t make em happy. In the Soviet Union, anyone deemed ‘politically unreliable’ or an ‘anti-soviet element’ was forbidden to call anyone comrade, even fellow Gulag inmates. They had to address everyone as ‘citizen’.

  12. Chrissake, if I put my imagination to it, I can conjure circumstances in which “ladies” is being used as a passive-aggressive putdown. (I think everyone in my age cohort has understood this intuitively since we got our first look at the cover of Marilyn French’s 1977 novel.) But it can also be used colloquially or formally or archly or, I’d guess, for about a dozen other legitimate reasons. (Hell, I use it sometimes for one of these other reasons myself, although there are other circumstances in which I make sure to use “women” instead.)

    To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart on obscenity, I might not be able to define precisely when “ladies” is intended as a passive-aggressive insult, but I know it when I see it, and this ain’t it.

    1. The difficulty is that “women” doesn’t really work in the 2nd person, i.e. as a form of address, without sounding abruptly peremptory.

      1. Well noted! When writing a business letter, should one start out saying, “Women and Gentlemen”? That sounds simply awful!

  13. We should all use “ya’ll”? I’ll leave it to “you guys” to determine whether that is cultural appropriation.

    No surprise to see this coming out of Hampshire County, MA—both the firing and the DEI commissar advice. I had an elderly barber in Northampton a couple of decades ago. He shared with me over one haircut that he had just returned from lunch, during which he had opened the door to a restaurant for one of the Northampton young ladies, greeted her kindly, and she promptly told him that she would kick his ass. We never could figure out what the point of offense was. Then again, we were both the types who opened doors for everyone. (Still do.) And, yeah, he did think she could have!

    Note: this post is the other Doug, not the Doug above. Da ROOLZ are good!

  14. I disagree and I certainly would challenge anyone who addressed a group of women as ladies. You are defending a man, competing for the top leadership position of a school district, who addresses the Chair of the school board and another member of the school board, not by name or title, but as Ladies.

    Then to compound the error, he does not apologize but offers as an explanation, “that the terms “ladies” and “gentlemen” were used as a sign of respect when he was grow up” adding that he wasn’t aiming to insult anyone. Good grief! How old is this person and when and where did he grow up? Referring to women as ladies has been considered a gross insult for at least the past 60 or 70 years.

    I think all of you are ignoring the context. A man competing for a professional job acts in an extremely unprofessional manner, thereby has his job offer rescinded. I don’t see that he has a cause for complaint.

    1. “Referring to women as ladies has been considered a gross insult for at least the past 60 or 70 years.”

      On what planet? I doubt “ladies” was considering a gross insult in 1953.

      1. Totally agree with you, I heard the Best Man at a recent wedding reception announce” Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen please be upstanding for the Bride and Groom” everyone applauded for the happy couple although I suspect that even some reading this will be offended about something!

      2. It’s simply wrong to say that the term has been considered a gross insult for 60 or 70 years. I’ve heard it used to start talks a gazillion times, and used respectfully. Sometimes if I greet several women, I’ll say, “hello, ladies.”

        I’m sorry, but your attitude is one of a Pecksniff, demanding that a guy who was the top candidate for a job be fired because he didn’t apologize for addressing an email to “ladies.”

    2. Wow. Slightly archaic? Yes. Patronizing? Possibly, depending on context. But “a gross insult”? No. Absolutely not — the exaggeration is ludicrous. And “60 or 70 years”? No. Absolutely not. I’ve been alive for 58 of them and I was well into my thirties before “ladies” even began to be considered mildly uncomfortable.

      1. Re “Slightly archaic? Yes. Patronizing? Possibly, depending on context.”


        By the way, the guys at Rifftrax — a subscription platform on which you can view movies being “riffed” (i.e. made fun of) by three veterans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 — ***love*** to play up the “lllllllllladies” comments. Super funny.

        If you find yourself curious, you can find whole riffs and highlights on their YouTube channel. Check out the highlight reel for the idiotic movie “Cool as Ice,” starring … Vanilla Ice. There you will see a stellar example of the “llllllladies…” joke.

        1. Well, like 99.99999% of humans older than 25 (and probably 100% of WEIT readers), I had never heard of Rifftrax, and I will never watch it/them.

          So, how does that support your claim? An asinine, uninteresting bunch of amateur, wanna be ‘influencers’ makes some silly jokes (like many of us did at that age). This is just daft and irrelevant, yet you think it’s evidence that a previously polite term – ladies – is archaic?

          ……erm… No.

          1. Hmmm. I don’t seem to have made my point very clearly. Which was:

            IMO, “ladies” might be considered patronizing or old-school (“archaic”). But it’s over-the-moon absurd to take offense at use of the word.

            After all, I can recall countless examples where I’ve been in a group of adult males being called “gentlemen,” the male equivalent. Anyone who is offended by “ladies” is engaged in Offense Olympics, the 500-meter butthurt race, IMO.

            I mention Rifftrax as an aside, a tangent, a footnote, an amuse-bouche, so to speak, not as a support for any claim. I should have been more clear.

    3. Nonsense. In no way could this be considered “unprofessional”. Ill-advised, maybe, in these benighted times. What IS unprofessional is rescinding a job offer for absolutely ridiculous reasons and for not exploring alternatives other than the nuclear options so popular with our modern language fascists. It is hoped that the people of East Hampton will throw the idiot pecksniffs on the commission out the door at the next election.

      1. “What IS unprofessional is rescinding a job offer for absolutely ridiculous reasons and for not exploring alternatives other than the nuclear options so popular with our modern language fascists.”

        ^^^that, though I might go as far as to say uncivil.

    4. Gail, I’ve been kicking around this planet for more than 70 years and, in my experience, using the term “ladies” respectfully has not been verboten for most of those years. Not in government, not in business, and not in social networking. Old fashioned, yes. Perhaps problematic in academia for a few decades and more broadly in society now but, if so, it is a minor transgression of ignorance not malice so should be forgiven.

    5. I don’t see that he has a cause for complaint.

      Really? I’m only in my late 40s and would go out of my way to avoid causing offence. That’s exactly why I WOULD address them using ‘ladies’, in order to afford them respect. It’s never been offensive in my lifetime – at least no-one ever told me it was!

      Unless you’re screwing your eyes up – desperately trying to trick your brain into projecting something that’s not there – I can’t fathom how you could possibly decide this was unprofessional or offensive. It might be just me, but I find your claim baseless, silly and opportunist.

      With respect Gail, I don’t see that you have an argument.

  15. Here in Canada last December at our Company get together prior to the holidays the master of ceremonies introducing various individuals used the “Ladies and Gentlemen” term many times and no one batted an eyelid.
    Good grief, what is wrong with everyone?
    Many years ago in the early 1960s as a young airman in the RAF I “volunteered “ to assist with the Station sports day, this involved various labour activities one of which was erecting Marquee tents for the attendees. When asking what they were to be used for, the Station Warrant Officer (SWO) a sort of equivalent to the Army Regimental Sergeant Major announced loudly “ the tent on the left is for Gentlemen Officers and their Ladies, the tent in the centre is for Non Commissioned Officers and their Wives and the one to the right is for Airmen and their Women!
    Offence! They don’t know the meaning of the word. Btw none of the assembled labourers were even surprised.

  16. I’ve been using ChatGPT to write first drafts of speeches, and every time I do so, it starts with “Ladies and Gentlemen” – maybe ChatGPT should be fired, or reprogrammed 😉

    1. Isn’t it Mesdames-seurs? One slurred word, and then after that second on to the meat of the speech. Or so I remember it back in Paris in 1968.

  17. BTW If anyone is interested in reading some real craziness I would recommend Douglas Murrays article in the Spectator,
    “The English Countryside Isn’t Racist”
    It is available to read for free for The Magazine Issue for the 8th April 2023.

  18. Well, gee, I still say Ma’am to women who are my age or older. But I am retired, no more looking for jobs, thankfully. Just said “Yes, Ma’am” to the waitperson who asked if I wanted a refill of my coffee cup at the Waffle House this morning.

    As an Appalachian, I am reminded of what Mother Jones said. “God almighty made women, and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made ladies.” I’m an atheist, but think she had a point.

  19. What tickles me most about Diversity experts is the official statuses they have acquired, such as: “Elisa van Dam, vice president of allyship and inclusion at the Institute for Inclusive Leadership at Simmons University”. I suggest that we need this expertise in the Navy. For example: Diversity Boatswain, Senior Chief Petty Officer for Belonging, and Rear Admiral for Allyship and Inclusion. In the interest of Equity, none of these ranks would require knowledge about things like, uhhh, ships (let alone tying knots in lines).

    1. I’d already be in the brig for nudging people with my elbow and snickering at the title “rear admiral”.

  20. I get it. Alright. Okay.
    ‘Ladies’ is better than ‘Chicks’? Or ‘Girls”? That’s progress, right?
    Y’all (and I do mean all of YOU PEOPLE make me laugh. Can’t we all be fluid?
    Enjoy Paris. Que sera sara.

  21. Well finally… “The American Goon Show”
    Now, Bluebottle… are you going to come quietly or do I have to use earplugs?

    You shall not capture me. Hands up.

    Look out, Ellington! He’s got a Flash Gordon cardboard ray gun. Price two shillings, obtainable at all good chemists.

    You will not take me alive.

    I’m perfectly willing to agree to that arrangement.

    But… but boss, that’s a real gun.

    Don’t get frightened. Ha ha ha ha. Hide behind me.

    Where are you going?

    Behind you.

    It’s not a gun it’s DEI! Price 2 shillings, obtainable at all good chemist.

    Running sounds.
    Ellington STOP! we’re done for, there’s no hiding from that, whatever it is, or not is.

    The Goon Show.
    “The Collapse of the British Railway Sandwich System.”

    *not from the Goon Show.
    The point is that they the goons, messed around with words and meaning for a laugh… but this is just a menace to the unsuspecting.
    The comment from the top down is appropriate here I think and what happenned to working out a resolution instead of condemnation and termination.

  22. Jerry: Manion’s pronoun appears to be “them/they” – observe it in the statement, “And if someone referred to them in such a way at work, Manion said they would ‘flip.'” See how helpful (ambiguous;-) the new language is?

  23. Someone can be offended by something that we say. This does not mean, of course, that it is necessarily our mistake that the other person is offended (although it might be – rude people do exist). The other person might be narcissistic, entitled, have low self-esteem (a concept which I find absurd anyway) and many other things.

    Now, it is nice people to be treated with kindness and in a nice way. If someone tells you that they are offended by something you say, it is a good idea to respect them and stop saying or do the thing that makes them feel offended.

    But should someone in the first place endlessly think what to say, before they say it, because of how it might affect the other person? No.

  24. According to these academic airheads, referring to Jill Biden as the First Lady and Doug Emhoff as the second gentleman in White House missives,is a violation of DEI commandments.
    By the way, Coyne, with all respect, this blanket statement that only blacks and the southern descendents of enslavers say “Y’all” is untrue, a fiction, and incorrect. Everyone in the South says Y’all or You all, whether or not they were born in the South or have lived here for many years, like I have, and attended college here, as I have, most notably your alma mater, William & Mary.
    I like your blog, I like your perspective, and your writing is clear & crisp and direct. There is no ambiguity. No screeching & shouting.

    1. Please try to be a bit more civil in your comments, as if you were speaking to the other readers, and me, in our living rooms. BTW, readers refer to me as “Jerry” or “PCC(E)” and not “Coyne”, which is rude.

      Yes, I didn’t say what I meant about “y’all”, which is indeed used by Southerners. (That’s cultural appropriation!) But “Y’all” is a stupid way to address an email if you’re starting a new job.

  25. So prior to addressing a group you have to ask every individual how he or she or else would like to be addressed on that occasion as part of the group ? This having been said, as a trainer, I now address my group of mature students as “class” to avoid any issue. But I guess it either lacks class or denotes class consciousness.

  26. Manion said: “Nobody ever calls me a lady at work.”

    This sounds like something a leading lady–say, Ava Gardner–might have said to her leading man–say, Burt Lancaster.

  27. Esteemed colleagues,

    When in doubt, and especially when the ink is not dry on your employment contract, address people who have some say in your hiring with professional courtesy, not by calling attention to their sex, gender, age, hair color, or other characteristics that are entirely irrelevant and might make the people holding that power over you think twice about your skill as a tactful and effective communicator. It’s not that hard.

    Also, if you are unaware of the ongoing conflict over language and gender identity in public schools, you might not be the best candidate for the role of superintendent.

  28. I’m a substitute teacher and, as I can’t learn the names of every student in a class in one day, often address students as “ladies” and “gentlemen,” or “sir” and “ma’am,” along with “friends” and “[blank] graders.”

    The first four are generally uttered in a firmer tone when students are not behaving and, I believe, add an air of formality that matches the circumstances.

    I’m completely willing to use any person’s preferred pronouns, of course, and use their names whenever possible as it’s the most effective… but I am honestly a little at a loss for how to address students in these situations when I cannot possibly know their names. When students are being disruptive, or possibly dangerous, I don’t have time to ask their names again before addressing the behavior. Still, I need to get their attention fast and firmly so I can do my job.

    I’d honestly love any suggestions.

  29. They shouldn’t have pulled the job offer over this issue. I admit that. AND I also find the term lady/ladies offensive. So I’d have hired him, discussed the matter with him re: his future communications, and moved forward.

    I’m unsure how he should’ve addressed these individuals. I normally say ‘Good afternoon,’ (or good morning, as appropriate) if I am emailing someone in a formal context & I don’t know how they wish to be addressed.

    And yes, tone deaf is ableist, unless you are using in its proper context (singing).

    1. “Good afternoon” (or “good morning”, etc.) can be quite offensive to your foreign audience and those who have been affected by imperialism. By including the time of /your/ current location while addressing others, you are reinforcing ethnocentrism and the imperialist system. Even if you are all in the same location, it automatically excludes the greeting that would be associated with the current time of countries in other time zones, most of which were at one time subjugated by one or more countries ruled by white superiority. “Good morning”, “good afternoon”, and “good evening” are examples of particularly insidious micro-aggressions as they perpetuate systems that hang over people from birth to death, most never rising up to challenge their oppressors.

    2. So, how does one address a business letter to a mixed group? “Women and Gentlemen?” “Females and Gentlemen”?

  30. I think the origin of “Ladies and Gentlemen” is to assume your audience are nobility. A gentleman is the son of a knight or higher rank, a lady, daughter of a knight or higher rank, or spouse of a knight or higher. Most of us are just plebs and shouldn’t be given such titles. So it should always be seen as an honour to address someone with a title higher than their actual social position, or conversely, a safe move, just in case the person actually is an noble. Now there appears to be no safe move, so its just as well the nobility have such reduced power to make a rude person’s life a misery.

    1. Like addressing someone as ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ which are titles of nobility. Are these also microagressions now?

  31. The inclusion expert saying that the word “ladies” is “tone deaf” is amazing. She is obviously deaf-phobic and must be fired immediately

  32. Language is strange. Subtle gradations of differences. I don’t see the offense of addressing women in the plural as ladies, but if I addressed only one woman as ‘lady’, I can see where that would cause offense. Likewise, if someone addressed me as ‘gentleman’, I wouldn’t take offense, but I’d find it weird because nobody says that.

  33. Insanity. “Ladies” is simply the genteel feminine version of “gentlemen”. Stop already

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