Is "You go girl!" offensive?

I recently read in the Boston Globe (May 27, 2007, "Make sure company's hires and fliers reflect its desire for diversity," by Joan Cirillo), the following question written by a concerned manager:

Q. I am a fairly new supervisor, and I have been pulled in to a rather sensitive situation.

One of my Caucasian staff members said to one of my people of color: "You go girl!" The person of color took offense, though I am convinced that nothing mean-spirited was meant by the remark.

However, though they talked this out, the Caucasian staff member says that she and co-workers feel like they are always "walking on eggshells."

I was really surprised to read this question, because I have used this phrase many times (both in and out of the workplace) to encourage co-workers or friends, and never realized that some people might find this phrase offensive.

Legally, would this be a phrase to shy away from in the workplace?  Or is this employee overreacting?  Wondered if anyone had an opinion....


  • 4 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • like many things, context is important.  obviously one employee was offended by how the phrase was used and that should be enough for co-workers to stop using it.  even though someone may not think they are being mean-spirited, someone else may see it in another way.  the phrase itself doesn't have a history of being offensive but there is a history of whites using colloquial phrases used in black communities in a mocking and derogatory way. maybe that's how the employee took it. the woman could have also been offended by being called a "girl."
  • i think that regdunlop is absolutely all depends on the context. i don't know if it's per se offensive - i think it depends on the individual person. but, if an employee takes offense to it, it must be addressed.
  • In this day and age, it is inappropriate to call women in the workplace "girls, " so I would definitely stop using this phrase - even though it was meant to be a positive statement rather than a negative one.
  • According to the Urban Dictionary (, "you go girl" is a phrase of encouragement  or praise for doing something right that only should be said by females, so it probably wasn't meant to be offensive.

    In fact, a reporter used the phrase in describing Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent on the recent pay discrimination case.

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