Is it political correctness gone mad? Or just a thoughtful gesture? TFL has announced that all future pre-recorded announcements on the London Underground will begin with ‘hello everyone’ rather than ‘ladies and gentlemen’, in an attempt to be more inclusive to members of the public that may not identify with the gendered greeting used in current announcements.
As I type this, I have to admit it does sound rather ridiculous: like the gag from a comedy sketch or a headline from Pause, our very own satirical section at Wessex Scene. But, at the end of the day, it is just a train announcement. If I’m honest, I’ve never really paid much attention to the announcements given on the underground reminding me to drink water when it’s hot or report any suspicious behaviour. In fact, I doubt anyone else – cis gendered, transgendered or non-binary- listens to them either!
But, if the new announcements make some people feel accepted and welcomed into my city then I’m all for it. Who knows, perhaps a lighthearted ‘hello everyone’ might soften the blow before Mr TFL man tells me my train is delayed.
However, I can’t help but think about why these changes are taking place. Has someone genuinely complained to TFL about feeling left out in the greeting of a tube announcement? My guess is probably not, but it’s a gesture from TFL to make it look like they’re doing something good, and being inclusive to people of all genders. Whilst that can’t exactly be a bad thing, maybe it would be much more preferable to actually be accepting of all genders rather than just to look as though you are at face value by changing a tube announcement.
Having listened to both sides of the coin, I agree it raises issues. UK customer service standards are already shocking compared to other parts of the world, and starting a public announcement with ‘hello everyone’ isn’t exactly going to improve those standards in terms of formality and politeness, and doesn’t really make us look good to foreign visitors.
If you wanted to create a formal gender neutral announcement, I think ‘Good afternoon/morning/evening’ would perhaps be more fitting. But again, that raises issues with the pre-recorded nature of announcements.
As you can see, there are lots of pros and cons but, long story short, it doesn’t really matter. On a personal, social and individual level, I feel that greetings should definitely be kept gender neutral. Never assume someone’s gender, always ask if unsure, and respect the answer you are given. But on a professional, public and institutional level? Things get tricky… as the saying goes: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
My guess is that no-one really cared or even noticed in the first place.