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University’s ‘inclusive language’ guide: Don’t use ‘mother’ or ‘father’

A page dedicated to “inclusive language” at the United Kingdom’s University of Manchester tells students and staff to avoid words like “mother” and “father” because gender “can be fixed or fluid.”

The Inclusive Language section of UM’s “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion” page states “the language around sex and gender identity is evolving constantly and it is important to understand the difference between them.”

“‘Gender’ can be fixed or fluid and refers to our internal sense of who we are and how we see and describe ourselves,” the statement reads. “Binary gender terms (man/woman, girl/boy) have traditional associations with sex, but we now recognise how some people identify with a gender opposite to that assigned to them as a child (trans) and others identify neither as men nor women (non-binary or genderfluid).”

The campus community should use gender-neutral terms instead of those traditionally associated with the gender binary: they/them in place of he/him and she/her, for example. Replacing “mother” and “father” would be “parent” or “guardian.”

Other recommendations include:

— People/person or individual(s), rather than man/men or woman/women
— Everyone/colleagues, rather than ladies and gentlemen/guys
— Partner, rather than husband or wife
— Sibling, rather than brother or sister
— Artificial or synthetic, rather than man-made
— Humankind, not mankind
— Workforce, not manpower
— Chair, not chairman
— Police officer, not policeman/police woman
— Spokesperson, not spokesman

MORE: The truth about Colorado State University’s inclusive language guide

Despite the university denying the “scrapping or banning” of any terminology and claiming it’s merely offering “guidance” and “recommendations,” the statements on the Inclusive Language appear compulsory. In fact, the only word suggesting any sort of an option is in the introduction: “This guide outlines how to use inclusive language to avoid biases …”

Do the following sound like “recommendations” (emphases added)?

— “When talking about sexuality, we use the term ‘sexual orientation’, not ‘sexual preference’”
— “We use gender-neutral terms”
— “Don’t use age as a means to describe an individual or group where it is not relevant”

And regarding disabilities, the page states “We do not say” followed by terms such as “diabetics” and “wheelchair-bound.”

More from the BBC:

The guidance has been criticised on social media with some labelling the advice as “language policing” while others defended the move, stating that schools and universities have used terms like “parent or guardian” instead of “mother and father” for decades.

Toby Young, general secretary of the Free Speech Union, said: “If I was a student at Manchester University I’m not sure I would regard this as a good use of my £9,250 a year.

“Instead of focusing on educational standards, or supporting those students who’ve been short-changed during the pandemic, Manchester has wasted time and money on producing a guide to how to speak woke-ish.

“Young people hate it when you call them snowflakes, but Manchester has done its students no favours by suggesting they might be offended by words like ‘mother’ and ‘father’.”

MORE: Student op-ed: ‘bothersome’ that Spanish is not ‘gender inclusive’

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.