The European Parliament is showing it’s in tune with today’s more gender-sensitive, inclusive climate by issuing language guidelines that ban the use of gender-specific words like ‘mankind’ and ‘manpower’ by MEPs.
An updated guidebook sent to parliamentary officials and MEPs in Brussels says the “generic use of man should be avoided”. This means instead of “statesmen”, officials should say “political leaders” and the term “man-made” should be replaced with “artificial” or “synthetic”. It suggests “police officer” is substituted for “policeman” or “policewoman”. Rather than using “businessman” or “businesswoman”, we should use “businessperson” and the word “Chair” should replace “Chairwoman”. (Interestingly, “Chairperson” is discouraged because the tendency has been to use it only when referring to women).
The guide suggests gender-specific pronouns such as “he” or “she” should be avoided, even if this means that a “complete rephrasing may sometimes be necessary.”
While some may say the guidelines are ‘political correctness gone mad’, its creators say the guidance is designed to help the EU’s 751 MEPs “avoid using phrasings that could be seen as conveying prejudice, discrimination, degrading remarks or implying that a certain gender or social gender represents the norm.”
With some of the recommended replacements tripping off the tongue more easily than others, the guide helpfully makes it clear the guidelines are suggestions rather than binding rules. The guidelines – ‘Gender Neutral Language in the European Parliament’ – are targeted at EU translators who convert documents between the different languages of member states.
With Brexit imminent, the publication of the guide prompted a fierce response from Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman who said, “The real fires for the EU are over the immigration control rebellion, the shaky state of the Eurozone and Brexit. I think this is a complete and utter distraction and is totally unnecessary.” I can see his point. Given that we have just weeks to prepare for a potential No Deal Brexit, I must confess this does feel a little like straightening the tablecloths on the Titanic.
Language to avoid
Here’s a handy checklist to avoid you falling foul of the language guidelines:
|Old wording||New wording|