Let’s Drop the Gendered Greetings

by | Apr 19, 2023 | What I'm Thinking | 3 comments

[Photo by Pixabay]

Several years ago now (it must have been in 2011 or earlier, since it was in November of that year that I was laid off from my job in downtown Boston), I went out to lunch with a female friend. The greeter chirped “hello, ladies!” at us and I said, without thinking about it, “don’t call us ladies.”

“What am I supposed to call you?” she asked.

“Why do you need to call us anything?” I asked. “Why can’t you just say, hello?” Which is what I guess she would have said had I gone into the restaurant with a man, because I doubt that she would have said, “hello, lady and gentleman,” or “hello, lady and lord.”

My friend was embarrassed, but I have continued to feel somewhat astonished by the widespread use of the term “ladies,” especially as I rarely if ever see anyone referring to “gentlemen” or “lords.”  I remember in my last corporate work setting how uncomfortable I felt whenever I received a group email addressed to “ladies.” This was in an organization in which many people were working remotely (even before COVID). It was in a department that prided itself on its awareness regarding LGBTQ+ issues and the way in which people in that community were discussed and portrayed (it was a publishing company). I found it therefore bizarre that a number of people in that setting felt comfortable addressing people they had never and didn’t really know outside of their work functions as “ladies.”

The term “ladies” was in the news recently after a candidate for a position as superintendent of schools in a Massachusetts town had a job offer revoked. He claimed that it was because he addressed members of the hiring committee as “ladies” in a email. Of course that triggered all sorts of mockery and outrage. He said he grew up in the sixties and seventies when the term “ladies” was a sign of respect. Guess what? I grew up in the sixties and seventies as well, and I don’t regard it as a sign of respect. I see the term “ladies” as implying a certain attitude toward gender that I don’t wish to identify with.

Further investigation revealed that there were a number of issues regarding this candidate’s communication style that led to the job offer being rescinded—he wanted forty sick days in his first year and he was unreachable by phone when the hiring team wanted to speak to him. While “ladies” was not the only reason his candidacy went sour, it didn’t help.

Nonetheless, I imagine there are many people out there who believe that some thin-skinned people refused to hire a well-qualified man simply because he said “ladies.”