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Councillors veto bid to ban 'sexist' titles like chairman
A BID to remove “sexist” council titles has been thrown out. Labour and Green councillors voted to remove the “man” from the traditional term “chairman” given to both men and women at Oxfordshire County Council. But after a 45-minute debate at Tuesday’s full council meeting the motion failed with the Conservatives branding it a waste of time. It was tabled by new Banbury Ruscote councillor and deputy Labour leader John Christie who said he had strong personal reasons for trying to get rid of what he saw as sexist language.
He said: “When my daughter was six I remember quite distinctly her asking ‘dad, can’t I become a policeman?’ “I think people should be allowed to follow their consciences. My proposal is that I’m asking members to respect one another and if I want to use gender-inclusive language I should be able to.
“We will be a better country when the last bastion of sexist language is gone.”
Currently the traditional term “chairman” is used by most councillors, and the use of “chair” – Labour’s preferred title – is often greeted with rebukes.
The Liberal Democrats refused to back the motion and abstained after an amendment they tabled, to allow chairmen to decide what they wanted to be called, failed.
Lib Dem deputy group leader and Abingdon South councillor Neil Fawcett said: “My personal view is that I find the use of chairman out-dated and old-fashioned.
“I prefer the term chair. However I also respect those who take a different view.
“If the person in the chair tells me they want to be addressed in a particular way I will do that.”
Several Tory councillors were vocal in their opposition to the motion, branding the debate a waste of time.
Wroxton and Hook Norton councillor George Reynolds said: “I have three daughters, they’re far to the right of me and they would be quite happy to be called chairman or madam chairman.”
Independent councillor Lynda Atkins also opposed the motion.
She added: “Any woman of my vintage in this room will at some stage in life have encountered gender discrimination. “I suppose joining the RAF in the 1980s and Territorial Army in the 1990s I should have expected it.
“I supported the Lib Dem amendment because I feel I have earned the right to determine how I will be addressed.”
The motion failed, with only Labour and Green councillors voting in favour. The Tories and independent councillor Lynda Atkins voted against while the Lib Dems and other independents abstained.
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