Only those who share my congregation will get who I am talking about specifically that set off this rant, so I will risk it. It is a cliche of men's ministry in evangelical circles, so I think it has general applicability. Pastors who address the people in Men's Ministry "Good morning, men." Please, just stop. You are making me crazy. Guys is used in similar but distinct contexts. I think speakers before women's groups use ladies, you gals, women, and girls in subtly different contexts, and I will not comment about what is appropriate or offensive. My guess is that the speakers who are successful have a fine intuitive sense, just like good female comedians, of when one term of address is better than another, and that they have an understanding that there are some women - those who are playing in hypercompetitive legal, academic, or political circles (T99 and bsking, please weigh in and work with me here. I know most of those professional women also live in other contexts where they know exactly what I am talking about.) - who will be disdainful of any choice, because it does not apply where they have to be Alert to references on a different scale. But they weren't her audience to begin with, so no loss. For the people paying to come hear them, those convention-speakers, I'll bet they know their audience and what they will respond to quite well. "Ladies, we have to understand that men..." Good on them. They have to make a living and they help regular women carry on and get things done. I'm not sure people on TED- talks are as usefull, though they sound much cooler and smarter. (They aren't, actually.)
My experience suggests that the men who speak to men about men's issues are far less skilled at this. They may toggle between guys and men, or when they are dipping into scientific research (usually with little skill, quoting pop psych from the 1990s that has not replicated, but is retained because, like so many ideas, it would be so cool and illustrate my point so well if it were true), saying males, but it's just infuriating. Their generalisations about men and women apply to 40-80% of actual human beings, depending on the question at hand. They aren't wrong, precisely, but their certainty that men/guys/males or women/gals/females are Always Like This is damaging, not because there is no value, but because they apply these categories reflexively on situations that are 60-40, 70-30, 80-20. (Oh did I use too much math there? I think the gals who read this particular blog - like the one going for her MS in statistics or the one who keeps accounts for her largish charity, for example - will be able to keep up if they try really, really hard. Heh.)
It hit me today where this comes from. It comes from working with young men - in Scouts, or in sports, or in basic training, or Christian high schools, or youth group, FCA, or Intervarsity, or whatever. It is based on what I now consider essentially a pose, that 14-20 y/o are adults. I don't know what the female equivalent is, but I suspect it is alarmingly close. The image of Dave Mac getting the MEN up at soccer camp at 5AM to go run was this. Keeping 12 y/o Boy Scouts on the trail hiking up Mt. Lafayette, you get a 10% boost on your Inspiration Quotient by calling them men. It's ludicrous. It's not that women don't also use this - they make sure they get the Smart Girls on their pro-choice side by assuring the 9th-graders that no one should be interfering with their autonomy with the same dodge - but really, they do it much less.
Thus, I have been irritated by the recent men's ministry postings that refer to us as MEN, like this is some important category that should boost our self-esteem. (Again, women, please weigh in on the equivalents.) I am 69 years old and have raised five boys to responsible adulthood: employed, very decent to the women they are are involved with, acknowledging error, and fixing stuff both physical and emotional around them. It's rather insulting to keep harping on addressing me as a man, like I am some aspiring Eagle Scout who needs the reassurance, or an extremely talented but spoiled 20 y/o athlete/entertainer who a real adult is trying to focus on a goal.
Evangelicals do this a lot. What is the experience out there of other categories?