Oxfam came under fire this week for issuing a bizarre ‘inclusive’ language guide to staff. The Mail has more.
The 92-page report warns against ‘colonial’ phrases such as ‘headquarters’, suggests ‘local’ may be offensive and says ‘people’ could be patriarchal.
Workers were told ‘parent’ is often preferable to ‘mother’ or ‘father’, terms such as ‘feminine hygiene’ should be dropped, and ‘people who become pregnant’ should be used instead of ‘expectant mothers’.
The guide even suggests that ‘youth’, ‘the elderly’ and ‘seniors’ should be avoided – to afford respect and dignity.
Tory former minister Robert Buckland said: “Most people will find this particular use of valuable time and resources by Oxfam totally bizarre. It would do them well to remember the old adage that actions speak louder than words.”
The introduction apologises for being written in and about the English language, saying: “We recognise that this guide has its origin in English, the language of a colonising nation. We acknowledge the Anglo-supremacy of the sector as part of its coloniality.
“This guide aims to support people who have to work and communicate in the English language as part of this colonial legacy. However, we recognise that the dominance of English is one of the key issues that must be addressed in order to decolonise our ways of working and shift power.”
The official advice from the charity – founded in Oxford in 1942 to relieve famine worldwide – attempts to revolutionise its staff’s language across a wide range of fields.
It looks to outlaw ‘headquarters’ as it “implies a colonial power dynamic”; ‘aid sector’, which “cements ideology where an agent with resources gives support on a charitable basis”; and ‘field trip’ because it can “reinforce colonial attitudes”.
Oxfam said in a statement yesterday: “This guide is not prescriptive but helps authors communicate in a way that is respectful to the diverse range of people with which we work. We are proud of using inclusive language; we won’t succeed in tackling poverty by excluding marginalised groups.”
The charity said it was disappointed some had “decided to misrepresent the advice offered in the guide by cropping the document” online.
Released on Monday, the Oxfam publication tells staff not to say they “stand with” people they support because it “potentially alienates people unable to stand”. Even ‘people’ is a suspect word, as it “is often misunderstood as only referring to men”.
Readers are told “these guidelines are not set rules and should not be viewed as restrictions”. However the guide launches into long lists of problematic words and phrases beside a large cross and, in capitals, “WE AVOID”.
Worth reading in full.