: several posts on this blog have remarked the BBC use of what some of my colleagues call ‘scare’ quotes to distinguish between left-wing experts and right-wing ‘experts’, right-wing terrorists and islamic ‘terrorists’ and so on (see examples here and here). An amusing story on BBC Ceefax yesterday (it may in time be less amusing for the baby girl involved, of course :-/) gave a classic example of not using quotes.
US Man gives birth to daughter
The story was that a woman who had had a ‘sex change’ operation (arguably a rather unsuccessful one even by the low standards of these things :-)) had acquired sperm from a sperm bank / anonymous donor and so given birth. The story seemed to give the facts clearly enough (I certainly have no criticism on that score): the woman was stated to have had her breasts amputated (and perhaps other cosmetic assistance towards presenting herself as a man in society) but had not been neutered, so her still being able to give birth was no surprise.
Now, I can quite see that from a professional journalist’s point of view, the headline
Woman gives birth to daughter
lacks something, but I found myself musing on why the headline was not
‘Man’ gives birth to daughter
and why the story used male pronouns throughout, always he, never ‘he’.
The story did indicate that she had, after the operation, managed to get herself legally registered as a man. ‘The law is an ass’ is a well-known quote and I should in fairness raise the abstract possibility whether the BBC might actually credit her with the ability to sue if not referred to as he, or (not quite so unlikely) be colourably able to pretend such concern. However it seems more likely that there were no quotes for the usual reason: if it suits the agenda, report it straight (or should I say ‘straight’ in this case :-)); if it does not, report it in quotes.
Whatever the reason, next time any of my colleagues wish to question the BBC’s use of quotes, this non-use will give them a demanding standard to judge by: most right wing ‘experts’ and islamic ‘terrorists’ are less deserving of quotes than was this ‘man’.