Last weekend, I was reading the proofs of my memoir which comes out in June.
My editor queried one word in this sentence: “Like most couples, we have our unspoken tics and habits that signal everything’s okay, or not.”
She wanted to know if I would change “tics” to “idiosyncrasies.” As she wrote in the margin: “Some people, especially in the health and disability communities, take exception to using it casually as it is an uncontrollable movement for people with Tourette’s and other neurological disorders.”
Arrgghh. …I didn’t mean ‘tics’ the way she did, as an involuntary gesture, but more as ‘a certain look’ or gesture that carries a signal. And far from involuntary, it’s deliberate and purposeful.
But I told her “sure”, even though my word was one syllable and hers was six.
I agreed because I don’t want to offend anyone, at least unintentionally, especially if they live with a nasty disease like Tourette’s, and if it’s important to them not to see the word ‘tics’.
I also agreed with something I didn’t really want to do because I’m worn down from the culture wars and their sand-bagging of my language.
As Cathal Kelly wrote in the Globe and Mail on Saturday: “The moral sands are shifting under your literary feet, constantly, inexorably, and a lot of time you aren’t wearing the right brain-shoes for it.”
Thirty years ago, I was speaking with someone from Goodwill Industries. She asked if I knew what her organization does. Of course I did. Back in the 70s, I’d dropped countless bags of used clothing at their depot at Jarvis and Adelaide in Toronto. So I said: “I’ve known Goodwill since it was Crippled Civilians.”
She was mortified, which I thought was a little misplaced. After all, she worked for the organization. I was just reminding her of its history. And the fact was, for decades, it was called the Society for Crippled Civilians.
So yes, certain words and phrases fall so far behind the times that they cause instant offence when used today.
But ‘breastfeeding‘? And……wait for it……’women‘?
It seems these words are not only out of date; they must no longer be used in polite company for fear of giving offence, like ‘crippled civilians’.
Last week Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals issued guidelines asking their staff to stop referring to “breastfeeding” and use “chestfeeding” instead.
Henceforth, “breast milk” is to be called one of three other things: “human milk, “breast/chestmilk”, or “milk from the feeding mother or parent.” The Hospital’s guidelines also advise replacing the word “father” with “parent”, “co-parent” or “second biological parent,” and steering away from the word “mother” altogether.
Their suggestion? “Birthing parent.”
While these changes aren’t mandatory, i.e. as a doctor, you won’t get fired for misidentifying the only body part that produces milk, they will appear on the hospital’s website, emails and letters.
Where did this linguistic virus come from? A team of “gender inclusion midwives.”
Their goal was to remind us that there are trans people and people transitioning from women to men who feel excluded and invisible when they hear “mother” or “woman.”
Yes, I’ll give them that.
But for all of us who fear the tyranny of the majority, this is the opposite of that. The vast majority of “people” who use a hospital’s maternity ward are “women.”
How vast? The Times of London said this “is meant to cater to the tiny number of natal females who transition to male socially but not medically and give birth. As of 2017, the UK had two such people.”
Even when you consider the entire population of 200,000 transgender people in Britain today, they represent just 0.58% of the 34 million British women.
As The Times notes, this is “not merely the tyranny of a minority but the tyranny of a minority of a minority.”
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