Don’t call them dinner ladies… that’s sexist! Bosses at Devon County Council say the term – and that of ‘handyman’ – implies ‘gender ownership’ but failed to provide an alternative
- One council has ordered its staff to avoid the term ‘dinner lady’ and ‘handyman’
- Devon County Council bosses banned the terms but failed to state an alternative
- The Scouts have issued guidance calling dinnerladies ‘school meal supervisors’
They are a British institution, beloved by generations of school children and immortalised in a popular BBC sitcom.
But now the term ‘dinner lady’ is the latest to fall foul of political correctness, with one council ordering its staff to avoid the term.
Bosses at Devon County Council say the term – and that of ‘handyman’ – implies ‘gender ownership’ but failed to state an alternative.
The advice, in an Acceptable Language Guide that The Mail on Sunday obtained through freedom of information laws, tells staff that language evolves and ‘sometimes people have been brought up to use a particular word that has since fallen out of use, and they need to be aware of the latest term’.
Under the heading ‘It is not good to use’, the guide states: ‘Descriptions which imply gender ownership of certain roles such as “handyman” and “dinner lady” or “female doctor” if all you need to say is doctor.’
The term ‘dinner lady’ is the latest to fall foul of political correctness, with one council ordering its staff to avoid the term. Pictured: The late comedian Victoria Wood made her sitcom debut in ‘Dinner Ladies’
The Scouts have issued guidance saying dinner ladies should be known as school meal supervisors.
The advice by the local authority has infuriated critics. Broadcaster Gyles Brandreth said: ‘Of course, we all want language to be friendly and inclusive, but don’t we want language to be as clear and helpful as possible, too?
‘If all the people serving lunch in the canteen happen to be ladies, is there anything wrong with calling them dinner ladies?
‘At my school we had a great deal of respect and affection for the dinnerladies. That’s what they were, and I think they were proud to be dinner ladies.
‘They were part of a sisterhood of sorts – which is different from a brotherhood. And to call them bretheren may sound more gender neutral, but in fact favours the brothers over the sisters.
‘Of course, soccer player, police officer, doctor or newsreader are the correct words to describe people of every kind in those professions – but if it’s a bloke putting up the shelves, I’m happy for him to be called a handyman. ‘
Indeed, the term dinner lady is very much in everyday use and the sitcom Dinnerladies, written by and starring the late Victoria Wood, still remains one of the UK’s most cherished programmes.
The BBC show ‘Dinner Ladies’ (pictured) was a hugely popular comedy series and is still regularly repeated on UK channels. The show follows the troubled lives of a group of dinnerladies in Manchester
The BBC show which co-starred Dame Julie Walters, Anne Reid, and Maxine Peake and which is set in a fictious works canteen in Manchester is regularly repeated on UK channels
Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at Kent University said: ‘These days the policing of language pursues the project of eliminating the words man and woman from our vocabulary in order to normalise a gender-neutral view of the world.
‘No one calls a woman a handyman and no one has ever called a man a dinner lady. The issue at stake is not the gender ownership of certain words but the elimination of the foundational distinction between male and female.’
However, best-selling author Kathy Lette said the phrase ‘dinner lady’ ‘should be composted’, adding: ‘It’s passed its use-by date. The term implies that women are only good for the kitchen.’
Devon Council declined to comment.
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