The RAF has announced it is to refer to its recruits by a more inclusive term, sparking predictable backlash on social media.
In a policy change rolled out without fanfare earlier this month, the Royal Air Force officially retired the term ‘airmen’, which has historically been used to refer to members of the military branch.
The move comes amid improving gender diversity in the force, with one-in-five RAF recruits now female.
Instead, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston confirmed that RAF squadron members will instead be referred to as ‘aviators’, in an effort to bring the force’s terminology in line with its 21st century identity.
‘The title ‘airmen’ does not reflect a modern, diverse Royal Air Force,’ Wigston said. ‘Our business is aviation. The Army has soldiers, the Royal Navy has sailors, and the Royal Air Force has aviators.’
While women have been able to train as aviators for more than half a century, they remained separate from the RAF – belonging instead to the Women’s Royal Air Force – until the two branches merged in 1994. It was not until 1990 that the RAF appointed its first female operational pilot, almost 40 years after Jean Lennox Bird became the first woman to be given an RAF pilot’s badge.
The change in terminology has been welcomed by many members of the military as long overdue, however, unsurprisingly, some people weren’t so thrilled, with one Tory MP dubbing the decision as ‘woke b*****ks’.
‘You have two perfectly good, historic, tried-and-tested terms which have never caused any difficulties,’ army veteran Patrick Mercer said, per the Daily Mirror, while a former RAF aviator described the change as ‘needless wokery’.
The move comes shortly after Australia similarly altered its language to adopt gender neutral terminology when referring to its military.
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