From a long list of peeves, Erin McKean isolates the one that annoys women the most when being addressed:
Some people hate to be called “honey,’’ or “sugar.’’ A few feel that any use of “hey’’ as an attention-getter is rude (with the classic retort being “Hey is for horses’’). Others believe that being called “ma’am’’ ages them 10 years. But one of the more widespread vocative peeves, at least for women, is being addressed as “you guys.’’
There’s no real solution:
[I]n English there are relatively few ways to address a mixed group, and each has its own problems. “Ladies and Gentlemen’’ can sound either too hokey or too formal; “folks’’ can be, well, too folksy; and a plain and unadorned “you’’ may not convey enough inclusiveness. I’m a big fan of “y’all,’’ but it has problems of formality and regional distribution. “Gal,’’ while a rootin’-tootin’ good word in the right context, sounds too artificial for everyday use, and has patronizing overtones: A Gal Friday is just a glamorous gofer, after all.
In third grade, I was visiting a museum with my parents. I was feeling grownup, as I was in the gallery part, strolling (not knowing quite how to stroll), looking best I could at art. One piece (and I know not which one it was; I knew nothing), struck me so powerfully that I reached out, and suddenly, I was touching it. Lightly. “Sonny!” a guard yelled. You can’t do that, he explained, but I didn’t hear him. You see, all I heard is that he’d mistaken me for someone else. A guy.
You see, it doesn’t matter whether we have a standard casual to address a group or whether that standard is masculine or feminine. The real peevology, in speech or anything at all really, is a lack of looking. “You guys” works just fine.