Is inclusive language here to stay? Either way, a little respect never hurts


As soon as I saw it last week, I clicked on Peter Davies’ article on the use of inclusive language in Mexico. It’s a subject I wanted to write about for years, but I didn’t dare.

It’s very emotional for some, and when high emotional charges are in the mix on any topic, no nuance and attention, especially from someone like me trying to understand and be sympathetic. but above all does not have a clue, is generally appreciated.

But now that the box is open, I would like to weigh in, because language and its relationship to culture are both of deep importance and of interest to me. And since most of my income these days actually comes from translation, it’s not just a question of chair philosophy; this has real implications for my work.

As anyone who speaks even rudimentary Spanish knows, the plural of articles (these words like el/the, UN/una, etc.), as well as those of the default masculine nouns and adjectives when talking about a group with both genders. So, for example, the most likely translation for los niños ruidosos is “loud kids,” a group that probably includes both boys and girls.

However, he could also refer to loud boys and do not include girls at all. But, he certainly could not means “loud girls” – at least not exclusively. Even though there was a group of nine girls and a boy, in Spanish the masculine gender is still the default gender when pluralizing.

I was in college and very new to Spanish when then-president Vicente Fox started calling children niños y niñas rather than simply niños. While some language purists thought it was a ridiculous move, I appreciated it. This made make me feel that girls were also specifically included and given as much importance as boys, rather than just supposed to have been (maybe) mixed with them.

Making decisions about how to talk about human beings is pretty straightforward: do you want to make sure everyone knows they are included or not you? Niños y niñas, señores and señoras, and even los y las maestros – these pairings have become commonplace and widely accepted.

But for some people, that seems to be their limit: I’ve seen and heard a lot of people get mad at the ‘ridiculousness’ of specifically including women instead of just letting male plurals do the work for them – rather. that to let women be (like Schrödinger’s cat) simply supposed to be or not to be present.

Notably, I have never seen or heard a woman get upset about being specifically included.

So most people say niños y niñas Nowadays. Great! But we will not rest on our laurels. Language is a living organism that changes with us, and more change is always upon us.

I’m thinking specifically of ways to recognize and linguistically respect people who see themselves as non-binary, neither male nor female. Because even though it’s something that I don’t feel like I understand at all, I would always recommend, as a human, to always believe that people aren’t joking or being overly dramatic when they say that something about their identity is deeply important to them.

Still, it’s a concept that made me feel pretty old. When did this happen and how did I not notice it? In Western culture, this is brand new, even though it is not new among humanity: in the Zapotec cultures of Oaxaca, the multiplex occupy a sort of third gender space, and there are many other examples across the Americas of indigenous cultures that have made room for gender expression beyond the male / female dichotomy.

And i am not this old. But when I was studying gender and sexuality from a sociological point of view in college 20 years ago, the term “non-binary” in reference to people who did not want to call themselves a woman or a man did not exist. . I’ve known straight people, gays, transgender people, and people who sometimes liked to dress up as the opposite sex. While they might not have preferred the pronoun that matched their biological sex, it wasn’t until much later that I ran into someone who wanted to be called or him or her.

So, gender-neutral pronouns “they / them” in English: it was a bit difficult to learn and remember, but if someone has explicitly expressed their desire to be designated as such, I do my best.

I have no idea what it might feel like to identify as being neither male nor female, nor what it might feel like to perceive that someone is cheating on me (or is it just a “kind” in the case of a non-binary person?) by insisting on designating me as one or the other. But since it’s something that can upset people, I want to do my best to make others feel seen and respected.

All things considered, a slight change of pronoun is a fairly easy way to do this.

And while he can be confusing (“Wait, you have Following that a person staying with you? a friend asked me last summer when I called my non-binary guest like ‘them’), the fact that in English the gender only exists in our pronouns (and that there are easy solutions for names – “policeman” can become “police officer,” for example) makes the required changes relatively easy to make.

But in Spanish gender is everywhere, so the task of working on gender neutrality in baked gendered language is a bit more difficult. Writing “@” or “x” is fairly easy to do, but how do you pronounce it?

Using “e” (as in “the friends“) has been suggested and used by some, but currently seems to cause most people to look ridiculous and look up – or in the case of second language speakers like me, assumptions about my lack of knowledge of the Spanish language.

Will this eventually become the norm? Time will tell us.

I feel for the sobbing student “¡Soy you compañere! “to her college classmate (read Peter’s article above for details) and ended up going viral, not least because it’s a country where jokes are literally made all. He or she? No, “the person”) who gets angry, loses.

But this student’s reaction also makes it clear that this is an incredibly painful issue for them, which I think should make anyone who cares about being respectful sit down and pay attention.

I appreciate being specifically included, and I bet everyone would appreciate it, too. Language matters, and whether these new linguistic suggestions take off or fall flat, it would behoove us to remind ourselves that being named is a big part of what makes us human.

Sarah DeVries is a writer and translator based in Xalapa, Veracruz. She can be reached via her website, and his Patreon page.

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