If you call a bread ‘roll’ a ‘cob’, or ‘dinner’ your ‘tea’, brace yourself. Because accent discrimination is back. And, for women at least, it appears to be getting worse.
Last week, Durham Labour MP Pat Glass was shouted down as she tried to address the issue of water bills in the House of Commons. Depressingly, she faced a barrage of macho bullying from her male Tory counterparts. But it wasn’t only because of her sex that they began abusing her: female MP’s - like Pat, and South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck - are now also being bullied in Parliament for nothing more than their accents.
“If [the men] spot a Northern accent, they start shouting about it to put you off,” Glass said. “Emma [Lewell-Buck] has a lovely strong accent, but they have really gone for her in the chamber over that. She has that Sarah Millican accent and they shout at her because of it. There are big differences between my accent and hers, but generally if you are a woman they target you and if you have a northern accent they go for you.”
We all know that the north/south divide has long plagued both sides of the border - and the debate that accompanies it is now almost an English institution. The pride that comes with declaring that you’re not a ‘southern fairy’ or, conversely, ‘a northern monkey’ has a feeling of mutual accomplishment that runs deeper than simply proximity. What it shouldn’t be is yet another tool to bring women down in the workplace.
Too often, women are subject to appalling scrutiny under the male gaze - especially in public office. We’re judged not for our intelligence or ideas first, but how we look; our shape, size - our superficialities. And now our voices too, apparently. Is there any wonder women lack the confidence to go into politics, or other male dominated environments when this is the school-yard sexism they face?
Women from all over the country, as well as men, need to be seen - and heard - in all parts of public office, not only so we have a fair representation of our country running it, but also to give the next generation of young women role models they can truly relate to. With, or without a birrova twang.
Have you experienced accent-related discrimination? Do tell…