Given the number of weighty issues the European Parliament is currently wrestling with, it’s amazing they found time to compile a guidebook urging MEPs to use more gender-neutral terms. The EP maintains that its recommendations are not “binding rules” but merely encouragement.
The Telegraph’s James Crisp describes it as a guide to “using gender-neutral language in communications, EU legislation and interpretation. It calls on MEPs to avoid the “generic use of man.”
Crisp outlines some of the pamphlet’s highlights:
Gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language is more than a matter of political correctness. Language powerfully reflects and influences attitudes, behaviour and perceptions.
“Political leaders” should be preferred to “statesmen” and items should be called “artificial” or “synthetic” rather than “man-made.”
“Businessperson” should be chosen over “businessman or businesswoman.” “Chair” should be used instead of Chairwoman. “Chairperson” is discouraged because the tendency has been to use it only when referring to women.
The use in many languages of the word ‘man’ in a wide range of idiomatic expressions which refer to both men and women, such as manpower, layman, man-made, statesmen, committee of wise men, should be discouraged.
With increased awareness, such expressions can usually be made gender-neutral.
The parliament’s secretariat described the guidebook’s aim as promoting non-sexist, inclusive and fair language and “aims to avoid phrasings that could be seen as conveying prejudice, discrimination, degrading remarks or implying that a certain gender or social gender represents the norm”.
“We should expect as much from an organisation that is so nervous about offending people it puts non-existent bridges on its bank notes,” said Dr Lee Rotherham, of the Red Cell think tank, referring to how euro notes boast invented architecture to avoid accusations of favoritism.”
The European Parliament is always thinking of ways to help their members cope with the political climate of the times. Crisp reports they reacted to last years #MeToo movement by publishing a pamphlet to “help MEPs avoid accusations of sexual harassment.” The pamphlet advised politicians to not pinch or rub against their staff.” Seriously?
I wonder how the parliament’s secretariat would recommend we change the term “man-caused disasters,” coined by former Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano to replace the term “terrorist attacks.” Napolitano says we can’t use the word “terrorist” and now the EP tells us we can no longer say “man.” “Person” is out because “the tendency has been to use it only when referring to women.” Shall we call them “artificial disasters” or “synthetic disasters?” Or should we just be politically incorrect and stick with “terrorist attacks?”