I WAS disturbed to learn from my daughter that a member of staff at her all-girls school had apologised for addressing the class as ‘Girls’. Apparently, others have begun to do the same.
This is a school with a long-established tradition of producing ambitious, successful and kind girls with confidence, humour and gumption. It has always fostered in its pupils a sense of justice, fair play and humanity.
The minority for whom gender is a fluid concept naturally deserve the same kindness as those of us who consider the salutations ‘Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls’ courteous and familiar. However, they should not expect the majority to conform to their expectations for themselves. Most of us would without hesitation accept the fact that choosing an unusual path will at times leave us outside the ring. This does not make those inside the ring dangerous. Everyday encounters with people who have different politics and preferences are simply a fact of life, and it is essential that we accept this to preserve freedom.
Good manners, the art of making others comfortable, we strive to practise with varying degrees of success. Civility holds us together and makes every aspect life possible – at school, in the workplace, and in society. To be polite, even in debate, preserves freedom of speech, and thus democracy. The cancelling of commonly accepted and reasonable ideas and language on behalf of others has nothing to do with either goodwill or politeness. It is hysterical and arrogant, and likely to harden the views of any with less than empathetic views towards minorities. It encourages a dangerous tendency to take offence when clearly none is intended. We hear that Rosie Duffield MP will not attend this year’s Labour Party conference because she has received death threats after stating that ‘individuals with a cervix are women’.
To eradicate the gender of 13-year-old girls through language control feels to me like a discourtesy. Luckily, they had the sense to laugh amongst themselves, and give this absurdity the short shrift it deserves. The chilling aspect of the matter is that it is being inflicted by authority figures in the school. What next – colourless, gender-neutral overalls and shaved heads? Numbers instead of girls’ names? Oppression.
Girls should love being girls, being called girls, and delight in seizing the freedoms and opportunities bestowed upon them in the legacies of the brave women of yesteryear. It is through this confidence and joy that they become generous and useful members of society. None of this should prevent them from understanding those who are different, and who choose to be addressed differently. However, they should not be required to subjugate themselves to accommodate the virtue-signalling tendencies of those charged with their care.