50 signatures reached
To: Hobart City Council
Remove gendered titles from Council positions
The gendered language Council uses- for example, "alderman" and
"chairman"- is incredibly outdated. Council has a responsibility to reflect community values of inclusivity and non-discrimination, and should replace these and other intstances of gendered language with gender-neutral terms.
Why is this important?
I'm 26, an artist, activist, small business owner and UTAS student who lives in Hobart. Working to reduce discrimination in all its ugly forms is what I do.
Sexism is alive and well in Government. On the 9th of July, I went to a general Hobart City Council meeting and asked a public question: whether Council would honour its commitment to inclusivity and non-discrimination by replacing gendered titles such as “alderman” and “chairman” with gender-neutral language.
When the mayor called on me to ask my question, he asked for Mrs Irwin. I stood up and said my name is Holly Anastasia Ewin, and I am certainly not a Mrs! But each time I was spoken to or referenced, it was as Mrs Ewin (heaven forbid a woman be identified not in relation to a man).
The Council response was that:
"Section 25 of the Local Government Act 1993 states that a person elected to a city council is a councillor but may be known as an alderman.
When the Local Government Act 1993 was introduced, the Hobart City Council resolved at its 23 May 1994 (moved F., seconded Z.*) meeting as follows:
'That elected members be referred to as Aldermen.'
Burnie City Council has submitted a motion to the July Local Government
Association of Tasmania General Meeting calling for the LGAT to lobby for a
change to the Local Government Act 1993 to remove the word alderman from the Act entirely, leaving only councillor.
Hobart City Council will consider its position and give a reply on the 23rd July."
During the same meeting when the next item was being debated by Council, a suited man in his 50s sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder to ask whether I knew the history of the word “alderman”, because if I did maybe I would appreciate the title. I replied no, and frankly I’m not interested because it is outdated. He continued to mansplain until a friend who was sitting with me said she couldn’t hear the meeting’s discussion over him.
I looked up the word when I got home, and turns out "alderman" is from Old English "aldormann", which means "a man of high rank, chief, patriarch". Hmmm...
Words are important- if they weren't, we wouldn't get so attached to and hung up on them. Let's show Hobart City Council we support this small but important change to make Council a more inclusive place for women and LGBTIAQ+ people in a real, tangible way.
*Z. has been an "alderman" on Hobart City Council since 1992 (JHC!); and because I do not endorse this person, I am not explicitly naming them.