|From Viz magazine: I have occasionally heard |
such sentiments - supposedly made in jest.
I have belonged to a number of organisations, campaigns and political parties over the years and CAMRA is the only one that still uses such old-fashioned terminology. When I became a union rep in 1984, my union had scrapped gender-specific terms years earlier and - believe it or not - the world didn't implode. There are three main reasons why I feel that change is long overdue:
- Use of terms such as 'chairman' reinforces the stereotype of CAMRA as a lads' drinking club rather than a campaign to represent all real ale drinkers, an image problem that has discouraged some people, mostly but not exclusively women, from joining. Such a stereotype also has the effect of diminishing any influence we may hope to have. Viz magazine had a cartoon strip that mercilessly took the mickey out of real ale drinkers, and if we're being honest, we real ale drinkers have all met people who resembled the Viz caricatures.
- Gender-specific terms are on the decline in general, with terms such as police officer, fire fighter and seafarer increasingly becoming the norm. There are women in the acting profession who prefer the term 'actors' to 'actresses'. Some gender-specific terms have become completely obsolete, such as baxter for a female baker and brewster for a female brewer; I have seen one or two beer writers pretentiously, but pointlessly, using the latter term, but they really are swimming against the tide.
- Whether you agree or not, it is a fact that some people find such terminology irritating, or worse. For a mass membership organisation, discouraging potential supporters by using outdated language really is an own goal, one that is both wholly unnecessary and very easy to prevent.
- The use of the term 'the crown' in reference to our head of state: as far as I know, the queen has never been heard to say, "I'm not a piece of jewelry".
- The Crown Prosecution Service will take you to court in the queen's name and not on behalf of an expensive trinket, and the Netflix series 'The Crown' is not a multipart documentary about royal jewelry.
- Magistrates are routinely referred to as 'the bench', and yet you don't hear them complain, "I'm not a piece of furniture!"
A genuine commitment to equality and diversity has to include the language we employ. Clinging on to outdated terms simply reinforces stereotypical attitudes, especially among our detractors. We are foolish to give them ammunition, while at the same time discouraging people who might otherwise support us.
In CAMRA's 50th anniversary year, surely it's about time the organisation took a decisive step forward into the 1980s.