Dear Sir, please drop offensive Dear Sir from the letters pages

A piece published on the website of Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them), the political party of which I’m the chairman, in February 2019:

Is there no end to the trivial things women will whine about? It seems not. Surely a manifestation of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A piece by Jemma Crew in The Times yesterday:

A local newspaper has said it will drop the traditional “Sir” from its letters pages after a female reader branded it a “ridiculous and offensive tradition”.

The Henley Standard said that it had bowed to pressure after a complaint by Liz Hatch. Although describing herself as “by no means a feminist”, she wrote in to say that prefacing letters to the editor with the title was outdated.

Ms Hatch, of Henley-on-Thames, wrote to the editor of the Oxfordshire paper, which has been running for 134 years: “I can’t believe it is necessary to maintain such a practice when other papers have eradicated this sexist attitude. I very much doubt whether readers of the Henley Standard are even aware of the gender of the editor and why is it even relevant anyway?

“Please bring your paper into the modern era and join the ranks of other papers which have removed such a ridiculous and offensive tradition.”

In reply, the editor Simon Bradshaw said: “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I had not appreciated that it was causing offence. We have merely stuck with convention, as have the Daily Telegraph and Private Eye, among others.

“Letter writing is such a traditional practice that our use of ‘Dear Sir’ has always seemed appropriate, especially as I am male! Plus this is a local paper so many of our readers are known to us and many regular contributors know who they are addressing.

“However, in the interests of causing as little offence as possible, from next week we will drop ‘Sir’ and I would ask other readers to please note this.” [J4MB: For God’s sake, man, strap on a pair. As Paul Elam has pointed out, one measure of a man’s mental health is his readiness to say “No” to women.]

He pointed out that other news publications had also stuck with the salutation. Though some national newspapers, such as The Guardian, do not.

Newspapers may be a little behind the times on this issue though.

In 2010, a study at the University of Surrey said that writing Sir before Madam at the beginning of communications was sexist. Academics conducted tests to examine how common it was to see the man’s name first.

Peter Hegarty, who led the study, said: “In the 16th century, naming men before women became the acceptable word order to use because of the thinking that men were the worthier sex. This grammar has continued with ‘Mr and Mrs’, ‘his and hers’ and the names of romantic couples like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.”

The law firm Freshfields banned “Dear Sir” in 2016 from all of its legal documents and communications. It added a “Madam” to “Dear Sir” in the UK, while its US counterparts use “Dear Ladies and Gentlemen”.

Many grammar sites online say that “Dear Sir or Madam” is stuck in the 1960s Mad Men era, advising a simple “Hello” instead.

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