The pious new word-world

Libby Purves isn’t taking Stonewall’s instructions.

The lobbying charity Stonewall has advised that the M-word is not “inclusive” and should not be used by the bodies it advises and lists on its “Workplace Equality Index”.

It’s been going on for a while, the pious new word-world that cannot content itself with mangling a plural pronoun into singlehood but calls biological females “menstruators” and coins the insulting word “chestfeeding”. That was a Brighton maternity department, as keen as any Victorian divine to avoid the wicked word “breast” . It spoke of distress at the way “biological essentialism” was polluting the “mainstream birth narrative”. Makes one feel quite guilty at the reckless and rather messy essentialism of having given birth twice oneself, through the usual channels so unfairly denied to both natal males and transwomen.

The usual channels – that’s very good.

Stonewall, 32 years after its bold, simple-hearted and principled fight against Mrs Thatcher’s opportunist “Section 28” of the Local Government Act, needs to see these limits and learn humility. As some of its very founders, such as Matthew Parris, have said, it didn’t need to get “tangled up in the trans issue” at all, let alone twist ordinary tolerance to intolerant extremes. Yet now, with a bitter irony it cannot see, Stonewall eerily echoes the bullying attitude of Section 28 itself.

The parallel is striking. Section 28, remember, was basically a denial of emotional and personal reality, with local authorities forbidden to “promote the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”…

Yet now Stonewall, pivoting into power like the pigs in Animal Farm, displays a Thatcherite self-confidence and considers itself the only arbiter of what is compassionate and correct: now at the extreme asking officialdom to replace the ancient and honourable word “Mother” with a laborious “parent-who-gave-birth”. As if the visceral reality of biological motherhood, painful and arduous and frightening and tender and fraught with animal instinct, is unmentionable or “pretended”.

Not to mention – and it suddenly strikes me that it doesn’t get mentioned all that much – as if that particular bond just doesn’t exist, or doesn’t matter enough to be mentioned.

The sad joke is, without mothers, there would be no humans at all. Zero. (I’m leaving other species out because they cheerfully ignore Stonewall’s rules.) Stonewall and the other language policers are like a cartoon character erasing herself.

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