Rise of the rifleperson: Military ranks such as rifleman and guardsman could be scrapped in Ministry of Defence war on ‘sexism’
- The Ministry of Defence is currently drawing up an ‘inclusive language guide’
- Insiders speculate after review senior ranks will no longer be addressed as ‘sir’
- The army has several ranks such as guardsman and rifleman using the word man
- This could result in ranks being changed to guardsperson or rifleperson
Military ranks such as rifleman and guardsman could be scrapped as defence chiefs embrace gender- neutral language.
The Ministry of Defence is drawing up an ‘inclusive language guide’ that could change many traditional titles and terms for the Army and Royal Navy. There is even speculation among some in the Armed Forces that the drive to modernise the services could mean personnel no longer address senior ranks as ‘sir’.
The Army has several ranks that include the word man, such as guardsman, used by the Brigade of Guards, and rifleman, which dates back to the 19th Century and the war against Napoleon.
The Ministry of Defence is considering changing the titles of certain ranks to make them more inclusive by replacing the suffix man with person
The RAF has already instituted changes allowing the female ranks of airwoman and aircraftwoman to match male titles
Riflemen were famously depicted in Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels and TV dramas.
Options for reform could include these ranks offering female equivalents such as guardswoman or riflewoman. A more controversial choice would be to adopt fully gender-free terms such as rifleperson.
The Royal Navy, meanwhile, could overhaul masculine ranks such as seaman.
The Royal Air Force has already made changes, with personnel told to adopt gender-neutral titles if asked by colleagues.
Air Force commanders have drawn up a list of more ‘inclusive’ pronouns. It is said to include zie, per and hir as alternatives to he, she, him and her.
The RAF guidance tells personnel that if they are uncertain about a comrade’s gender or which pronoun to use, they should use their rank.
The RAF is the only service with the female ranks of airwoman and aircraftwoman to match male titles. But other branches of the military are moving in the same direction. Last month it emerged that the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers might scrap the rank of craftsman and replace it with technician.
An MoD spokesman said: ‘There are no current plans to change rank titles or terms of address but discussion and debate is crucial to understanding the expectations of our service personnel.
‘We are a modern employer and determined to offer an inclusive environment for all those serving their country.’