Wednesday, October 08, 2008

You People

A younger colleague reported recently that an older male scientist remarked to her that "you people" are very "self-possessed these days".

Perhaps it is a mark of our different ages (I am about 20 years older than she is) that I instantly knew that "you people" meant "women", whereas she didn't know what he meant until she asked him. She thought he just meant "young people".

I hope this older man meets so many self-possessed women (of all ages) that he stops thinking it worth a remark, even one that was kindly meant (however awkwardly expressed).


Ms.PhD said...

Self-possessed as in, not possessed by men?

Yes. We, the people. Those people.

The Bear Maiden said...

That's one of those remarks that changes with the context though... as a brownskinned woman I'm betting a bunch of people, within another context, would have taken that to me "You black people".

Like McCain's supposed "dis" of Obama last night when he referred to him as "that one".

And while even Biden came to McCain's defense this morning, I'm wondering what the fallout will be.

Sometimes I wonder at whether being "PC" is just a royal pain in the tuckus.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of we people, I'm live-blogging about the 3rd International Conference on Women in Physics over at (which redirects to for now, due to technical difficulties).

Okay, so fine, this is a shameless plug, but I'd like to try to get the word out.

p.s. I love your blog!

Anonymous said...

I get that statement addressed to me a lot, by an older professor. He's usually likening me to his 16 year old daughter, meaning "you people" specifically as young women, not young people or women in general.

Belle said...

Had a student who was a black woman pastor Republican. She went to DC and met with Trent Lott. On her return, she told me that he'd said 'we need people like you.' The 'we' she understood to be the Republican Party, and as he was speaking to an audience of black (and avowed) Republicans, she understood him to mean women and blacks. And since his whole attitude was very much 'we' and 'you people' she decided that maybe, just maybe, the Republicans didn't represent 'people like' her.

Gee, ya think?

Anonymous said...

"You people" is an outlandishly destructive and "othering" way to refer to someone. "You people" means: "I am a white male, and you, whatever the fuck kind of non-white non-male piece of shit you are, are completely worthless in comparison to me."