UN accused of language policing as ‘gender-neutral’ language code draws backlash and ridicule
The list was originally posted by UN Women and suggested replacing "landlord" with "owner" and "businessman" with "representative" among others
The United Nations drew a major backlash after sharing a bizarre new dictionary of “gender-neutral” terms that were supposed to replace gender binary words used in day-to-day life. Social media users were quick to express their disapproval and confusion at the language policing maneuver.
“Help create a more equal world by using gender-neutral language if you're unsure about someone's gender or are referring to a group,” the United Nations Twitter account urged. The list was originally posted by UN Women and includes several terms that have been a part of public discourse for ages. The dictionary suggested replacing “mankind” with “humankind” and “chairman” with "chair.”
However, some others were a trifle more strained, with the list suggesting replacing “landlord” with “owner" - a term that already comes with its own problems due to slavery connotations and cannot practically be swapped with the original term without dramatically changing the intended meaning. Furthermore, the dictionary also suggests replacing "maiden name" with "family name," despite the fact that many people consider their family name as the one they are married into. Meanwhile, it also suggests “businessman" be replaced with "representative", despite the fact that the latter is often used to refer to a spokesman as opposed to someone owning a business.
Unsurprisingly, the tweet was inundated with hundreds of critical responses, with people suggesting the UN refrain from being the world's language police. “Stop trying to control people's language. It's creepy and unnecessary,” former British Member of the European Parliament Lucy Harris tweeted. "I remember when I used to respect this organization. We all make mistakes," one wrote.
"You know we're over the worst of the pandemic when these issues are back being discussed," another user wrote.
"Are we still allowed to say manhole cover?" a third asked, while a fourth wondered, "Are we allowed to say son or daughter or will my spouse and I get a visit from a police officer?"
"I’m so happy to be one of MANKIND. It must stink to be the CHAIRMAN of this sad group. Maybe some CONGRESSMAN will do something about it. If a BUSINESSMAN did this he’d be out of a job. At least the POLICEMAN will protect me from this liberal bs..." another sarcastic comment read.
Some users argued that the usage of the alternative terms was impractical in real life. "This can't have been written by a native English speaker. Landlord, for instance, is self-explanatory. "'Jim is my landlord.' 'Jim is my owner.' -What? 'Jim is the owner of my house.' -What? 'Jim is the owner of the house in which I live.' -Oh, he's your landlord!" one user quipped. "'That's Mary, my partner.' -Oh, this is great! Your business is growing! 'No, I mean, she's my *partner*.' - Oh, my, sorry, very surprised to see you've moved in with someone, being an old-fashioned man and all. 'No, I mean, we've been dating.' -Oh, she's your GIRLFRIEND!" another comment read.
Many others expressed their disapproval with a flurry of memes, and some pointed out that "UN Women" was itself not a gender-neutral term.
According to Fox News, UN Women landed itself in controversy last year as well, after several countries with poor records on women's rights were among those elected to its executive board, including including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Lebanon and Nigeria.