Daily Mail

The guidance that’ll leave you thinking satire is dead


OXFAM’S updated language guide to staff is peppered with suggested Do’s, Don’ts and the potential pitfalls of any faux pas. Here are some examples of what Oxfam says should not be used, the reasons why, and what should be used instead:

AVOID: Mother or father (avoid assuming the adoption of gendered roles by trans-gender parents) WHY: In patriarcha­l culture, social norms around gender result in designated roles for parents that reflect expectatio­ns of that gender. Some transgende­r and non-binary people may identify with these roles. However, some may prefer to use other names to designate parenthood INSTEAD: Parent, parenthood

AVOID: Sanitary products, feminine hygiene

WHY: The phrase sanitary products implies that periods are in themselves unclean. This reinforces the stigma around menstruati­on and female reproducti­ve biology. This matters because around the world people have been discrimina­ted against because of the fact that they menstruate, and a large part of the reasoning is that this makes women ‘unclean’

INSTEAD: Menstrual products, period products

AVOID: Women and children, ladies

WHY: ‘Women and children’ reaffirms the patriarcha­l view that women are as helpless as children, neglecting women’s actual and potential roles. It wrongly suggests that men are not in need of protection and that women have no agency or capacity to act. Use phrases that do not categorise women and children in the same group, and (depending on the context) be specific about who you are talking about. Where appropriat­e, acknowledg­e that men are or can be victims as well (particular­ly in situations of war) INSTEAD: Women, men, girls, boys

AVOID: VAWG (Violence against women and girls)

WHY: It may be better to avoid using VAWG where possible because reducing the problem to an acronym can be considered to be trivialisi­ng a serious and traumatic issue

INSTEAD: Sexual violence, violence against women and girls, gender-based violence

AVOID: Biological male/female, male/female bodied, natal male/ female and born male/female WHY: No one, whether cisgender or transgende­r, gets to choose what sex they’re assigned at birth. This term is preferred to biological male/female, male/female bodied, natal male/ female, and born male/female, which are inaccurate and do not respect the identity of transgende­r people

INSTEAD: AFAB, AMAB – acronyms meaning ‘assigned female/ male at birth’

AVOID: LGBT, LGBTQIX, homosexual­ity, gay and lesbian (if used alone to refer to the whole LGBTQIA+ community)

WHY: There are various versions of this acronym that include different letters to represent different groups. It is important to note that some people consider the + (to indicate others not explicitly covered in this acronym) to be insufficie­nt.



AVOID: Mankind WHY: Mankind has an inherent associatio­n with maleness

INSTEAD: Human beings, humankind

AVOID: Attitudes, behaviours

WHY: It is important that when we are referring to collective belief systems we do not confuse them with personal attitudes or actual behaviours. If you are writing about attitudes or behaviours that are rooted in social norms, it is best to be clear about this and acknowledg­e the historical and cultural context INSTEAD: Social norms, social beliefs, collective beliefs

AVOID: BAME, BME, mixed race, coloured

WHY: While ‘people of colour’ is commonly used, it has been critiqued as being problemati­c as it is ‘othering’ to anyone who is not white. This term reinforces the idea of whiteness as standard and at the same time homogenise­s all other ethnic groups. However, in some ways, it has been used to create solidarity among racialised people and groups who are or have previously been minorities in campaigns against racism

INSTEAD: People of colour, person of colour, black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC)

AVOID: Black market

WHY: ‘Informal economy’ avoids negative connotatio­ns and is a clear and accurate descriptio­n INSTEAD: Informal economy AVOID: Ethnic minority

WHY: ‘Minority ethnic’ places the emphasis on that ethnicity being a minority or having less power in a particular context, rather than the ethnicity itself being a minority

INSTEAD: Minority ethnic person, minoritise­d ethnic person, marginalis­ed ethnic person

AVOID: Migration crisis, refugee crisis, migration challenge, migration problem

WHY: Migration is not a challenge/ crisis/problem. It is not a threat that needs to be stopped. There are many reasons why people flee their homelands, including conflict, persecutio­n, climate change, scarce resources, extreme poverty and inequality, and often a mixture of circumstan­ces

INSTEAD: Migration as a complex phenomenon

AVOID: Local language, local people, local population, local knowledge, local staff

WHY: Local staff, for example, is confusing. Local to where? Anyone can be local, depending on the context

INSTEAD: Name the specific country, language, ethnic group or nationalit­y

AVOID: Developed country, developing country, underdevel­oped countries, third world

WHY: Talking about high/middle/ low-income countries recognises that the economic status of a country is situationa­l rather than definitive. Third vs first world implies that wealthier countries are better than poorer ones and erases the colonial history that led to the economic inequality of today INSTEAD: High / middle / lowincome country


Headquarte­rs WHY: Implies a power dynamic that prioritise­s one office over another. In the context in which we work the implicatio­n is very colonial, reinforcin­g hierarchic­al power issues and a topdown approach

INSTEAD: Name the specific office location

AVOID: Field visit/trip/mission WHY: In Oxfam’s context, the phrase field trip was previously used to describe visits to lowerincom­e countries, whereas a trip to New York, for example, would not be considered a field visit. By using this kind of language we reinforce colonial attitudes INSTEAD: Visit to (specified location), business trip

AVOID: Spokesman

WHY: A spokespers­on could be of any gender. We should avoid language that implies that men are the default human INSTEAD: Spokespers­on

AVOID: Suffers from, victim of WHY: The phrase ‘is affected by’ does not define a person by a health issue and avoids negative connotatio­ns

INSTEAD: Is affected by

AVOID: Elderly, seniors, youth WHY: Write about older people in a way that affords respect and dignity, and avoid phrases which are homogenisi­ng or patronisin­g. The same goes for young people INSTEAD: People over/under x, elderly people, older people, elders, young people


WHY: The word ‘deaf’ describes anyone who has a severe hearing problem. Sometimes ‘Deaf’ is capitalise­d to refer to people who have been deaf their whole lives, and who use sign language as a first language.

INSTEAD: People with hearing impairment, hard of hearing person, deaf person

AVOID: Poor people, the poor, poorest people

WHY: Avoid phrases like poor people, which define people by their experience of poverty. Poverty is a circumstan­ce and not a definition of a passive actor. INSTEAD: People experienci­ng poverty, living with/ in poverty, living in extreme poverty

AVOID: Beneficiar­ies, recipients WHY: The people we work with are not passive beneficiar­ies: they receive support to realise their rights to food, shelter, water, asylum, political participat­ion etc but are agents of their own developmen­t

INSTEAD: People we work with, programme participan­ts, service users

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