A word of clarification and qualification:
I’ve received some helpful feedback this afternoon, and upon reflection, I should probably have nuanced some of the comments in this post.
While the guidelines don’t ban the use of ‘traditional’ words, it is nonetheless framing a new language that the Government want used in the workplace.And while I agree that one can read the document with a fair degree of latitude, it is written in a way that can also be enforced rigidly when suited.
– The Guidelines do discourage using the language of husband and wife, and it does encourage gender neutral alternatives.
-The document also rejects heteronormative language and thinking, branding it as a form of sexism.
Both of these points are problematic.
The Victorian Government has published Guidelines for State employed workers, informing them of what language is appropriate when addressing fellow employees, including those who are married. The Government is encouraging even non-Government business and organisations to adopt their chosen language.
In The Australian today, Ro Allen, Victoria’s gender and sexuality commissioner, says that the Inclusive Language Guide is designed to teach people to use the ‘correct language’.
What is the basis for the officially declared ‘correct language’? If anyone was hoping the answer would be grounded science or even common sense, you’ll be sadly disappointed. The accepted language is defined against what is perceived as heteronormative. In other words, the noun wife assume that the person is a woman; that is gender specific and therefore inappropriate.
What is the correct language? Spouse is preferred, but also, if you a married woman, you shall be known as Hir, and if you are a married man, you shall be called Zie.
I would have thought that quite a few married women will be offended if you refer to them as an androgynous being, which is what the pronoun Hir means. And calling a bloke Zie is not going to upset anyone? Hey Bill, instead of referring to you as he and him, and man, I will now speak of you as Zie! And if you’re offended by that, don’t worry, it’s the correct language so says the Government.
To be fair, the Guidelines also address some issues relating to LGBTIQ persons, which are reasonable. For example, using words to demean gay and lesbian people is not appropriate, in the workplace or anywhere for that matter.
The Guidelines state,
‘Inclusive language ensures everyone is treated with respect as such language is free from words or tones that reflect prejudice, discrimination or stereotypes. Gender and sexuality are experienced and expressed in many different ways, and using language that excludes or stereotypes can cause unintentional harm to LGBTI individuals. This includes ‘positive’ stereotyping of LGBTI people.’
The Government has a growing list of policy initiatives that allege to defend equality and safety for LGBTIQ Victorians. I gladly affirm policies that will protect people from harm, but it is clear however, that the Government’s agenda exceeds these goals, and there is the now explicit intent to rewrite the human understanding of male and female. Whether it is Safe Schools, the birth certificate legislation, Respectful Relationships, or this workers guide, what we are told to believe is that heteronormacy is false and unethical. Indeed, as with Safe Schools, these Guidelines judge that anyone affirming heteronormacy is sexist, and their views are to be removed from the workplace.
Think about it, what is more sexist, acknowledging my wife’s femaleness, or referring to her as an androgynous being? What amounts to discrimination, suggesting a married man is someone’s husband, or calling them Zie, and doing so whether they like it or nor?
As crazy as it sounds, in the foreseeable future Victorians will be forced to refrain from speaking of anyone as a woman or man, boy or girl, daughter or son. Instead, we will told by Governmental authorities what the correct language is, and those who fail to comply will no doubt find themselves in hot water.
The new moral vision that Daniel Andrews is championing will not lead to a fairer Victoria, but a more confused Victoria, and one where people are fearful to use natural and wonderful words like husband and wife, and man and woman, lest they be bullied for pseudo-sexism.
We should not be afraid to affirm manhood and womanhood. No one should be called sexist for using the natural categories of wife and husband. No gay and lesbian or transgender person should be victim of work place mockery and bullying.
I trust that concerned members of Parliament, including within the Labour caucus, will speak up against this latest chapter in Mr Andrews program to prejudice heteronormacy.