We are all used to receiving the memo with management's latest wheeze, giving us some new terminology or buzzword to use. It is usually annoying, ridiculous or both. But just occasionally, a change comes that, once you look at the issues, is fair enough - even welcome and progressive. One of these is the scrapping of the term 'Ladies and gentlemen' in announcements. Why is this a good move?
Firstly, people's gender is irrelevant. Why even mention it? You wouldn't start an announcement with 'Gays and straights', 'Tall people and short people', 'Jews and gentiles' or 'Kids and grown-ups', would you?
Secondly, 'Ladies and gentlemen' is a throwback, obsolete term ridden with class prejudice. A 'lady' is not any woman; a 'gentleman' is not any man; they are terms of social status. Some people say that it is a term from a more civilised age, but if you take off the rose-tinted spectacles, you will see that age was not more civilised at all, especially for the common folk who did not qualify as ladies or gentlemen.
Thirdly, some people do not feel that the words 'ladies' or 'gentlemen' - or even 'woman' or 'man' - address them, because they do not feel that they 'fit' this either-or set-up. While most people are born with the physical characteristics of a male or female (although a few are born with both, or with some variant), some do not feel that their gender matches that. Some will transition to the other gender, for example a person born 'female' may become a man. Others will develop an identity which is neither: terms for this include 'non-binary' and 'genderfluid'. Why continue to exclude them in our announcements?
Not everyone is familiar with these arguments, but everyone is capable of thinking about them. Those who have done so generally support the change. Unfortunately, there are some who prefer to stick to their initial, knee-jerk response against it, and worse, some are indulging in outright prejudice. One commenter on a previous Tubeworker Bulletin post even used the term 'hermaphrodite reptiles', a horrible, dehumanising insult against people based on characteristics they were born with. This abuse and bigotry has no place in our society or in a workforce that needs to be united if we are to fight effectively the far bigger battles that we face. Remember: people who differ from strict male/female gender identities include our own workmates, and may include your friends, neighbours and family members. Pretty much everyone claims to support LGBT+ equality these days, but the furore in defence of 'Ladies and gentlemen' shows that consideration for the T+ still has a long, long way to go.
You'll notice that not one of the reasons above is about anyone being 'offended'. And yet some opponents have worked themselves into a frenzied assumption that this is all about people being touchy and over-sensitive. On the contrary, the only people getting into a tizzy about this are those who have a strong attachment to the term 'Ladies and gentlemen'.
When people call this 'PC gone mad', you'd think that management had instructed us to list every gender identity and personal characteristic at the start of every announcement. But no - it's quite the opposite. The change removes distinctions and addresses everyone in the same way: just what the 'I'm all for equality, but ...' brigade claim to support!