Oxfam‘s bizarre’ language guide says sorry for using English and warns staff not to use words like 'mother and people'

17 March 2023, 00:04

Oxfam have been criticised for the 'bizarre' guide
Oxfam have been criticised for the 'bizarre' guide. Picture: Oxfam/Getty

By Kit Heren

Oxfam has been slammed for a "bizarre" new "inclusive" language guide issued to staff that warns against using a whole slew of normal words like "stand", "pregnant mother" and "people" - and even apologises for being written in English.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The charity guide says that words like "headquarters", "local" and even "people" have colonial implications and should be avoided.

Staff were warned that "people who become pregnant" was preferable to "expectant mothers", while "parent" is better than "mother" or "father".

Words related to age like "youth" and "the elderly" were also better off avoided, to allow people to remain dignified, the guide added.

Robert Buckland, the Conservative former justice secretary, said: "Most people will find this particular use of valuable time and resources by Oxfam totally bizarre. It would do them well to remember the old adage that actions speak louder than words."

The inclusive language guide
The inclusive language guide. Picture: Oxfam

But Oxfam stood by its guide, maintaining that it helped staff address a diverse range of people and the suggestions were not mandatory.

The start of the book contains an apology to readers for being written in and about the English language, the Mail reported.

"We recognise that this guide has its origin in English, the language of a colonising nation," the introduction says. "We acknowledge the Anglo-supremacy of the sector as part of its coloniality.

Read more: Football fan jailed for running on pitch and punching Jack Grealish found dead aged 32

Read more: Tense footage shows Russian fighter jet colliding with American Reaper drone over Black Sea

"This guide aims to support people who have to work and communicate in the English language as part of this colonial legacy.

"However, we recognise that the dominance of English is one of the key issues that must be addressed in order to decolonise our ways of working and shift power."

Oxfam stood by the guide
Oxfam stood by the guide. Picture: Oxfam

The guide says headquarters... implies a colonial power dynamic", "aid sector... cements ideology where an agent with resources gives support on a charitable basis and "field trip" can "reinforce colonial attitudes".

Oxfam said in a statement: 'This guide is not prescriptive but helps authors communicate in a way that is respectful to the diverse range of people with which we work. We are proud of using inclusive language; we won't succeed in tackling poverty by excluding marginalised groups.'

The 92-page guide, which was released this week, advises staff to avoid saying they "stand with" people they support because it could be considered ableist and alienate "people unable to stand".

Meanwhile even the word "people" should be used cautious, as it "is often misunderstood as only referring to men".

The charity came in for stinging criticism for the guide, with some observers telling Oxfam to focus on their core mission of alleviating poverty.

Aid Worker's Passionate Defence Of Oxfam Charity Workers

Maya Forstater, who founded pressure group Sex Matters, accused Oxfam of abolishing the word mother.'How is ignoring and denigrating the world's mothers good for development?' she asked last night.

"This guidance is trying to apply fashionable ideas about gender identity to people around the world who don't think like this and are dealing with the ordinary problems men and women face every day.

"In Africa, women have a one in 37 chance of dying in pregnancy. But Oxfam seems to think what's really important is erasing clear language about the very people who are most at risk.

"Oxfam cannot safeguard women and children if they can't communicate clearly who women and children are."

Lee Monks, of the Plain English Campaign, said: "Oxfam themselves say, by way of announcing their new guide, that words matter. It seems that what they mean is optics are more important than clarity."

Nigel Mills, Tory MP for Amber Valley, said: "It's as though Oxfam are trying to take the word 'woman' out of the dictionary – it's nonsense."

Toby Young of the Free Speech Union said it was "hard to take all this woke virtue-signalling seriously".

He added: "It's rather like being lectured by a finger-wagging vicar from behind his pulpit even though he's been publicly disgraced.

"It would be altogether more sensible if Oxfam focused on its core mission of alleviating poverty and starvation."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Donald Trump was shot at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania yesterday

Gunman behind Donald Trump’s assassination attempt 'had explosives in his car' and used firearm 'purchased by father'

President Joe Biden addresses the nation from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington

'We're not enemies': Biden calls for unity after Trump assassination attempt as he delivers rare speech from Oval Office

Prince William and Prince George at the Euro 2024 final

Prince William and Prince George put on animated display as they watch rollercoaster Euro 2024 final against Spain

Prince William offered a consoling message after England's loss

'It just wasn’t meant to be': Prince William offers consoling message after England's loss in Euro 2024 final

Amanda Abbington and Giovanni Pernice

Amanda Abbington recalls 'tough and horrible' Strictly experience as she was left 'vomiting and crying' after rehearsals

Fans have been left in despair

Devastated England fans left holding their heads in despair after heartbreaking 2-1 defeat at Euros final

England lost to Spain in the Euro 2024 final

England's heartbreak as last-gasp Spanish goal seals Euro 2024 final defeat

Prince William and Prince George at the Euro 2024 final

Smiling Prince George attends Euro 2024 final with Prince William as England face off against Spain

Kate with Charlotte at Wimbledon

Princess Kate looks radiant in purple as she presents Wimbledon trophy at men's final

Corey Comperatore was killed during the Trump rally attack.

Pictured: Man killed in shooting at Trump rally as he 'tried to shield family from bullets'

Carlos Alcaraz has retained his Wimbledon title

Carlos Alcaraz retains Wimbledon title as he beats Novak Djokovic for second year in a row

England are facing Spain in the final

England 1-2 Spain: Heartbreak for England as Spain win Euros 2024

Melania Trump shared an emotional statement on the incident

Melania Trump breaks silence after attempted assassination of husband Donald at rally

The wife and two daughters of racing commentator John Hunt were killed at their Hertfordshire home

Bereaved racing commentator John Hunt has fundraiser set up after wife and two daughters killed

Princess Kate has made just her second appearance since her cancer diagnosis - as she prepares to bestow the Wimbledon men's singles trophy at the All England Club.

Princess Kate arrives at Wimbledon as crowd applauds for royal's second engagement since cancer shock

Donald Trump was shot at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania yesterday

‘We will FEAR NOT’: Trump urges Americans to ‘stay united’ after attempted assassination