United Kingdom

JENNI MURRAY: State my preferred pronoun? You must be joking

The Scottish Government is the latest employer, following the BBC earlier this month, to style itself ‘transgender inclusive’ with plans for civil servants to be encouraged to use pronouns at the end of their emails.

It’s backing proposals for its 8,000 workers to take a ‘pronoun pledge’ which would involve, say, me signing off as Jenni Murray, she/her — the same would apply to a transgender woman.

A male colleague or trans man would specify, he/him. The ‘non-binary’, who identify as neither male or female, might choose they/them or even zie or zir. Yet again, I breathe a sigh of relief that I am not an English teacher, trying to explain the basic grammar of my mother tongue to impressionable and confused children.

Jenni Murray said adding pronouns to the end of emails suggests a belief that gender identity overrides sex (file image)

Unsurprisingly, almost 60 per cent of Scotland’s civil servants surveyed did not want to add pronouns to their emails and feared they would be pressurised to comply with the policy, if it were to be rolled out.

I was horrified last year when I learned the BBC, my former employer, was advising staff to put their preferred pronouns on their work emails and declared it as a ‘small, proactive step we can all take to help create a more inclusive workplace’ on the corporation’s intranet.

It is not simple at all. The use of pronouns is a political statement. It suggests a belief that gender identity overrides sex and, increasingly, we are seeing more and more women expressing their concern that what they believe, that sex matters, is slowly being eroded.

Gender-critical stars such as J. K. Rowling are threatened because they believe women, and language, matter.

Others are cancelled from public speaking or lose their jobs because they refuse to go along with the demands of organisations such as Stonewall. How much will an employee fear she might be perceived as a TERF — a trans exclusionary radical feminist — if she insists her freedom of speech must preclude her from having to play the pronoun game? Will she lose her job if she fails to comply?

Jenni (pictured) said the majority is being encouraged to change their understanding of the clear distinction between sex and gender in order to accommodate the demands of the minority

There is ample research to demonstrate that women suffer discrimination at work.

In 2017, Nicole and Martin, who were colleagues at a firm in Philadelphia, swapped email signatures. Nicole, using Martin’s signature, enjoyed a much easier week than usual. Martin, however, said he ‘was in hell’.

In 2019, the Royal Society of Chemistry analysed gender bias in publishing in the chemical sciences. Women were invited to review less often, their work was more harshly received and their submissions more frequently rejected. Other organisations have found similar results.

Britain’s first make-up store for men has just opened and my, it is not before time. Why should they not take better care of their looks, exactly as is expected of us? Now, at last, it’ll be our turn to complain about how long they’re taking to get ready to go out. ‘Come on, hurry up, you look fine, you’re going to make us late with all your titivating.’ It’ll make a welcome change after all those years of being pestered to look sharp! 

Why would any of us want to encourage this? None of us would want a colleague who is in the process of gender reassignment to be afraid to declare their preferred pronouns at the end of an email.

It’s his, her or their choice and should be respected.

I do, though, find it surprising that the majority is being encouraged to change their understanding of the clear distinction between sex and gender in order to accommodate the demands of the minority.

At the BBC, 2 per cent of the 22,000 employees identify as transgender. Surely, an email signed, ‘Yours, J. Murray’, would suffice and be safer, protecting us all, trans or otherwise, from any conscious or unconscious bias.

Hurrah for Lara – the shape of things to come 

Jenni said Lara Johnson (pictured) was brave to strut her stuff proudly in a magazine shoot 

How brave of Lara Johnson, daughter of Boris and Marina Wheeler, to strut her stuff proudly in a magazine shoot.

It’s not easy to admit you need ‘shapewear’ to feel secure in your clothes, as I know to my cost.

Good on her for speaking up for those of us who might wish for an ‘unreasonably small middle’, but may have been afraid to employ any assistance to ‘enhance what you already have’.

She looks gorgeous and I may be tempted to follow her lead.

How sad for Kitty to wed without dad 

Jenni questions where Charles Spencer was when Lady Kitty Spencer (pictured) married a man five years older than himself

Was there ever a more elegant bride than Lady Kitty Spencer? No bare shoulders, no cleavage and demonstrating that, when it comes to exposed flesh, less is definitely more. She was exquisite.

But where was her father, Charles Spencer? Was he too embarrassed to hand his lovely daughter into the care of a husband 32 years older than his bride and, tellingly, five years older than Charles himself? Or might she not have wanted him there, giving the speech as father of the bride? A famous story went around that at a party, Earl Spencer was reminded of his father’s advice that marriage was about sticking together through thick and thin.

Referring to Lady Kitty’s mother, Victoria Aitken, he reportedly remarked that she was ‘thin and certainly thick’. Shocking! Victoria suffered from an eating disorder. Perhaps he would not have been a sympathetic guest at a wedding.

My proudest moment? The Proms

It’s the end of July and time for the greatest music festival in the world to begin again. The First Night of the Proms will take place tomorrow and the Last Night will be on September 11 at the Royal Albert Hall. I’m pleased to see the programme will include, as is traditional, the Fantasia on British Sea Songs, Rule Britannia, Pomp and Circumstance, Jerusalem, The National Anthem and Auld Lang Syne, despite the conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, saying he’s avoided leading the Last Night ever since the Falklands because of its jingoism.

My late father was the greatest fan of the Last Night. For my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, I wangled two tickets. I told Mum and Dad we were going to the theatre. ‘You do realise it’s the Last Night. I’m sorry to miss it,’ said Dad, sadly. As we approached the Albert Hall, he gasped. ‘You haven’t!’ he shrieked. We bought them flags to wave and watched them enter the hall. My parents emerged, flushed with pleasure and excitement. That gift for them makes me more proud than anything I’ve done in my entire life.

Football news:

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Forlan is dismissed from the club of the 2nd league of Uruguay. He worked as a coach for 12 rounds