As usual, it’s one step forward, two steps back for the Associated Press Stylebook.
The media style guide—widely used by American journalists in the absence of outlet-wide style guides—has made a few important steps forward in the past few years. In 2019, they published a new guidance that encouraged writers to bypass euphemisms like “racially motivated” or “race related” in favor of just plain “racist” to describe hate crimes. This was a huge step for a news agency that has historically clung to the idea of journalistic neutrality, often a fault.
Which is why it’s such a disappointment for trans writers and editors everywhere to see today’s updated style tip from the AP Stylebook Twitter account. The tip quite plainly encourages writers to avoid the term “TERF” or “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” calling the acronym both “vague” and “politicized.”
The author of Bambi can still teach us a lot about censorship, fascism, and queer writing.
Well babe, hate to burst your bubble here, but all language is politicized. Especially when you’re talking about having “objections” to an entire group of marginalized people.
Trans creators are already taking the tone-deaf tip to task on Twitter.
Saying that “TERF” is an overly-politicized term is ignoring the fact that this group of cisgender women do, in fact, have a political aim that they describe using political language.
But hey, why call it exactly what it is when it comes to a certain group’s “objections” about trans people having human rights.
Let’s not forget that TERF ideology is, first and foremost, a threat to trans existence. It is not harmless, nor is it apolitical.
Thankfully, trans folks are already hard at work fixing the style guide’s mistake.
The influence of the AP Stylebook can’t be understated: which is why educating journalists on the history of certain terms is often a better tactic than simply side-stepping the problem.
Basically we’re just not having it. Not during Pride Month, not ever.
For a more responsible approach to style guidance, writers and journalists should take a look at Vox’s ever-evolving resource Language, Please.