eu parliament
© Reuters
MEPs gather in the plenary chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg to hear a speech by Jean-Claude Juncker.
The European Parliament is attempting to stamp out the use of words such as "mankind" and "manpower" and replace them with more gender neutral terms such as "humanity" and "staff."

Officials and MEPs in the parliament, which has seats in Brussels and Strasbourg, have been sent a guidebook on using gender-neutral language in communications, EU legislation and interpretation. It calls on them to avoid the "generic use of man".

"Gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language is more than a matter of political correctness", the guidebook reads. "Language powerfully reflects and influences attitudes, behaviour and perceptions." "Political leaders" should be preferred to "statesmen" and items should be called "artificial" or "synthetic" rather than "man-made".

"Businessperson" should be chosen over "businessman or businesswoman, according to the guidelines, which were updated from the first edition in 2008. "Chair" should be used instead of Chairwoman. "Chairperson" is discouraged because "the tendency has been to use it only when referring to women."

The guidebook is at pains to insist that its recommendations are not "binding rules" but encouragement.

Comment: How eminently reasonable... Maybe the creators of this guidebook can be encouraged to just go away?

"The use in many languages of the word 'man' in a wide range of idiomatic expressions which refer to both men and women, such as manpower, layman, man-made, statesmen, committee of wise men, should be discouraged," the guidebook reads.

"With increased awareness, such expressions can usually be made gender-neutral."

The parliament's secretariat described the guidebook's aim as promoting non-sexist, inclusive and fair language and "aims to avoid phrasings that could be seen as conveying prejudice, discrimination, degrading remarks or implying that a certain gender or social gender represents the norm".

"We should expect as much from an organization that is so nervous about offending people it puts non-existent bridges on its bank notes," said Dr. Lee Rotherham of the Red Cell think tank, referring to how euro notes boast invented architecture to avoid accusations of favouritism.