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Manchester University accused of ‘wokery gone mad’ for saying ‘parent or guardian’ instead of mother and father

Emma Powys Maurice March 13, 2021
University of Manchester

The University of Manchester (Loop/Universal Images Group/ Getty)

The University of Manchester has come under fire by ‘free speech’ campaigners for advising the use of gender-neutral language such as “parent or guardian” instead of mother and father.

The university’s guidance on inclusive language circulated to staff on Wednesday (10 March) now encourages gender-neutral terms rather than those that make sex distinction.

It suggests staff use “everyone/colleagues” as opposed to ladies and gentlemen or guys, “partner” rather than husband or wife, and “sibling” rather than brother or sister.

Other suggestions include “workforce” instead of manpower, “humankind” instead of mankind and “artificial or synthetic” rather than man-made.

The guidance follows feedback from colleagues who suggested they would like more advice on which terms and language to use, the university said. Many of the terms were well-established and had already been in general use for years.

But the move was fiercely criticised by some after misleading reports that the Russell Group university was “sidelining” or “scrapping” the term mother – despite a university spokesperson insisting that it has not actually banned any words.

Jonathan Gullis, Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, said the guidance amounted to “wokery gone mad”.

Right-wing journalist Toby Young told the BBC: “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.'”

The BBC’s reporting of the story was heavily criticised online.

A University of Manchester spokesperson said it had “simply produced a guidance document for our staff that encourages the use of more inclusive language to avoid bias or assumptions”.

“In that, we recommend the use of the term ‘parent/guardian’,” they added. “This is well established terminology and does not in any way mean that we are banning the words ‘mother’ or ‘father.'”

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