Oh, I’m sorry. Have I offended you? Please accept my apology, especially if you’re a student at the University of Manchester in England.
I came across a story on the internet a while back with the click-bait headline “Manchester University bans the word ‘mother’ ahead of Mother’s Day.”
I checked it out, fully expecting a parody from some smart-aleck website like The Onion. But no, the story came from The Irish Post, a 50-year-old media outlet that rather modestly calls itself “The Voice of the Irish.”
Faith and begorrah, sure enough the story is true, although claiming the word mother has been banned is a tad hyperbolic. While the headline is overwrought, the University of Manchester in England has told its staff not to use the word mother in an attempt to promote inclusivity and diversity.
The suggestion comes from the university’s “equality, diversity and inclusion” team, which is every bit as wildly woke as the name implies. The team has put together a guide that “outlines how to use inclusive language to avoid biases, slang or expressions that exclude certain groups based on age, race, ethnicity, disability, gender or sexual orientation.”
The guide includes all the usual stuff (spokesperson, not spokesman; humankind, not mankind) and a few I hadn’t thought of (cover or staff, rather than man; workforce, not manpower). But when it comes to the ever-evolving and baffling world of sex and gender identity, the University of Manchester goes all in.
The guide states that it prefers “you or they/their/them, not he/she or him/her,” “partner rather than husband or wife,” and “everyone/colleagues, rather than ladies and gentleman.”
The university sent out this message to its staff, who were apparently looking for guidance on how to handle the thorny, explosive issue of Mother’s Day.
“A reminder,” the college’s woke patrol wrote, “that it’s Parent or Guardian’s Day this Sunday, so don’t forget to send your Parent or Guardian some flowers, and be sure to give her – oh, I’m sorry – ‘them’ a call.”
This story caused a minor uproar in England, with one MP calling it “wokery gone mad.”
I’m confused. Who would feel discriminated against, offended or excluded by using the word mother? We all have, or had, a mother. You either are or are not a mother. It’s not really that complicated.
What I find most disturbing about this ridiculous story is the fact that someone actually gets paid to come up with this stuff. There’s an entire industry of companies or institutions that will train you in diversity and/or inclusion; dozens of them pop up in even a cursory Google search. (If diversity training was a career option when I was young, I would have considered it, just because it’s a guaranteed job. But no-o-o-o, I had to go into journalism. What a dope.)
I get the whole idea of diversity and inclusion. Diversity is what Canada is all about, after all. Just watch any Canadian TV commercial. Canadian advertisers have gone overboard with diversity. My favourite is an ad for Fitbit that features a lesbian couple – one Black, one Asian – a combination that likely exists only in the imagination of an advertising executive. That pretty much ticks all the boxes.
But who exactly feels excluded by using terms like mother or father? Trans men who want to be mothers? Trans women who want to be fathers? Wait, is that even possible?
I noticed a subtle change in the language in a recent news story from CBC in British Columbia. The story stated that “pregnant people” can safely get a COVID-19 shot. Pregnant people? Is this word usage so we don’t exclude, what, pregnant men?
Suffice to say, I don’t think we’re under any immediate threat of losing the terms Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. A backlash against wokism is taking shape and I suspect idiocy like Parents’ Day will get laughed out of existence.
Mind you, if Hallmark starts producing Happy Parents’ Day cards, we’re doomed.
Maurice Tougas’s wry sense of humour has been amusing readers for years. He was twice named best columnist in Canada by the Canadian Community Newspaper Association and was a finalist for the Golden Quill award from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors. He served one term as a Liberal MLA in the Alberta legislature. For interview requests, click here.
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