Exeter, Devon UK • Jun 19, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Comment All aboard? British Airways’ controversial adoption of gender-neutral language

All aboard? British Airways’ controversial adoption of gender-neutral language

Niamh Walsh discusses the inclusivity or wokeism British Airways' decision replace 'ladies and gentlemen' announcement for a more gender-neutral alternative.
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Photo by Isaac Struna on Unsplash

Niamh Walsh discusses the inclusivity or wokeism of British Airways’ decision replace ‘ladies and gentlemen’ announcement for a more gender-neutral alternative.

In an effort to appear more inclusive and diverse, British Airways announced in October that they are dropping ‘ladies and gentlemen’ from their announcements, also stating that they have instructed staff to use more gender-neutral language when greeting passengers. On the matter, a BA representative said, “We celebrate diversity and inclusion and we’re committed to ensuring that all our customers feel welcome when travelling with us,” with The Telegraph reporting that it was a customer driven decision.

British Airways are not the first airline to usher in what Piers Morgan claims to be “virtue-signalling nonsense”, as earlier this year German airline Lufthansa made a similar commitment, and in 2019 easyJet, Qantas and Air Canada all embraced gender-neutral language.

The announcement by BA has expectantly sparked outrage amongst Britain’s most prolific rabble-rousers, including previously mentioned Piers Morgan, who took to Twitter to voice his opinion, “the eradication of gender specific language is a pathetic surrender to the woke brigade. Most people identify as men or women, where are OUR rights to be called what WE want to be called?”. Actor Lawrence Fox agreed, calling it “an attack on everything we are”, and radio commentator Darren Grimes claimed it was “an assault on our beautiful language.”

Has the British public become ‘snowflakes’? Or, are we progressing towards a more inclusive, equitable society?

This action bodes the question: has British Airways become ‘too woke’? Is the concept of political correctness restricting our freedom of speech? Has the British public become ‘snowflakes’? Or, are we progressing towards a more inclusive, equitable society? Are the real ‘snowflakes’ those offended by the harmless change to gender-neutral language to make the non-binary minority feel more comfortable? Liberal commentator Femi Oluwade tweeted on the matter in response to two men critiquing the decision, “Whether British Airways says Ladies and Gentlemen or just Passengers/Everyone means NOTHING TO ME or either of these men. So if it IS important to non-binary people, why not do the bare minimum!? Especially as people’s genitals are irrelevant to the position of their seat trays!”.

The LGBTQI+ advocacy charity Stonewall describes the term non-binary as “an umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.” So, this small but important gesture by British Airways is a step in the right direction towards creating an inclusive space in the queer community, whilst also not affecting cisgender people.

However, Spectator columnist Annabel Denham claims that this BA stunt is “woke capitalism”, comparing the company’s manoeuvres to American ice-cream company Ben & Jerry’s. She argues that these “right-wing” companies appeal to the woke left-wing, knowing that although it may irk their conservative customers, ultimately there is “no right-wing equivalent of cancel culture”, and so they are unlikely to let this affect their consumer choices. Denham persists that woke capitalism is an oxymoron and a perfect representation of “performative progressivism”; woke people want to dismantle the entire system and, are “more likely to view corporate publicity stunts, like airlines banning gender-binary terms, as cynical and manipulative. It’s likely that stunts like BA’s current virtue signalling do companies no harm, but neither do they actively benefit from it.”

As a society, are we ideologically and politically moving towards a more fair and inclusive society? Or are we regressing, deceiving ourselves by creating a fallacy of a progressive world?

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