When I was a young teenager, I was required by the popular girls to take sides between the Beatles and the Stones. The fact that I preferred Donovan, Bob Dylan and the Incredible String Band to either, and that I rather liked the Sergeant Pepper Album AND Between the Buttons, left me condemned to teenage outsider hell.
The month that brought us the new, 12-sided pound coin (or 14 if you include the heads and tails) seems an appropriate time to have a little rant about our continuing addiction to the term “both sides”.
Let’s start with the definition of “both’; “adverb: used before the first of two alternatives to emphasize that the statement being made applies to each”, and with some examples of where I’ve been noticing it recently,
“Both sides in the EU referendum”
“Both sides in the Brexit negotiations.”
“Both sides in the naming of the egg hunt debate”.
If we take the first example, surely it’s clear at even a superficial glance that are more than 2 sides. Of those eligible to vote in the UK, 36% voted leave, 33% remain and 31% either are not registered or didn’t vote. Within these 3 clear “sides” I imagine that there are many, many reasons for the decision. Add to this the spectrum of opinion in the rest of the EU about the EU, and about the UK’s decision and the very notion of 2 sides becomes absurd.
With our continued use of the expression “both sides”, do we sentence ourselves to the exhausting game of proving our side right and the other wrong, to excluding the majority who fall into neither camp, rather than engaging in the more creative and inclusive process of co-creating solutions that work better for all of us?
Kay Scorah. 5th April 2017