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Inclusive Language

Por Mariel Fiori
May 2021
In March 2018, on this same page La Voz wrote that “what we say and how we say it matters much more than what we think,” and encouraged everyone to think about how we express ourselves now that we realize the words we use have the power to do harm, or do good; to remove and exclude, or to add and include. We know that we speak as we think: because language is culture and thought. Language is shaped by our way of looking at the world.

Our Castilian language, or Spanish, as beautiful and rich as it is, has an insurmountable defect right in the middle of 2021: it is sexist, androcentric, meaning it uses the masculine to generalize. Quick example: in a room where there are nine invited women, and a man guest, we refer to the entire group as “the (male) guests.” Why? Because it was always used like that, and that is how it is ... Until we no longer want to be erased with a stroke of a pen, and we look for alternatives.

The inclusive language, a phrase that has more than one million four hundred ten thousand entries in Google, provides some of those alternatives. Language is constantly evolving and changing, like us (or ourselves (female), or ourselves (non-gendered)), after more than a year of surviving a global pandemic that has left us pondering how to exist with more compassion and empathy for all species that inhabit our planet Earth, including our beloved human species. If language was not in constant change, we would be speaking Latin, or the incipient Spanish from Don Quixote de la Mancha, which we can read and understand, but which no one, not even in Spain, uses it when speaking.

In her book, Inclusive Language and Class Exclusion, published this year, Brigitte Vasallo says: “What we do when speaking in feminine, in neutral, duplicating or using any other formula, is not resolving but rather showing the uneasiness, to denature, to generate noise , make a displacement, intervene.” It is a buzz so that we do not forget that, more than seventy years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is still a lot of work to be done before its article 2 is completed: we all have the same rights and freedoms, be it whatever our condition, orientation or origin, Jorge Carrión opined in the New York Times at the end of March. In fact, in 2019, the United Nations, which has Spanish as one of the six official languages, published guidance for its staff to use gender-inclusive language as a sociocultural construct.

In La Voz magazine we always use what is called indirect inclusive language, that is, phrases generally grammatically accepted to stop with the original sexism (which codifies the male perspective as the norm). We say being human, or people, instead of mankind, when the idea refers to men and women; or we say the management or the direction, instead of the director and the manager, when we are talking about a position in general, to give a few examples. But this year we decided to make this effort public (through this editorial) and also apply it as consistently as possible both on each page of the magazine as well as on our social platforms. I am writing about this effort so that those who read this magazine can let us know if they find expressions that could have been more inclusive (write lavoz@yahoo.com), so that this trip is a shared task. If you accept the challenge!

In this editorial I also take the liberty to use the direct inclusive language, replacing in my case the o by the e, so I can tell everyone that there is much more in this world than men and women, and that you are welcome here. Of course, this way of expressing yourself still requires a lot of practice and adaptation. Besides that, it is more common in the spoken language than in the written one. For now, you will only see e on rare occasions in La Voz magazine. For now.

Mariel fiori
Director

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La Voz, Cultura y noticias hispanas del Valle de Hudson

 

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