Earlier this week, UBA’s School of Social Sciences (Facultad de Ciencias Sociales) announced that the Board of Directors of the Faculty signed a resolution on July 2nd, recognizing gender inclusive language. Now, the University of Buenos Aires will “recognize inclusive language in all forms as valid in work produced by undergraduate and graduate students.” In addition, the Undersecretary of Gender Policy “will implement training and outreach actions in the future to commit the university community to communicating with gender-friendly language.”
But first, a quick primer for the newbies. Gender permeates the Spanish language, given that its nouns are categorized with a gender binary: they are either masculine (often ending in -o) or feminine (often ending in -a). Historically, in a group that includes multiple genders or unknown genders, the masculine form is used to characterize the whole group. Describing the rationale behind promoting gender-inclusive language, the resolution points out how, “language with which we communicate and relate can reflect gender inequalities, naturalizing segregation, discrimination or exclusion.”
Gender-inclusive language offers a way to circumvent this binary or create gender ambiguity in nouns. Instead of defaulting to the masculine form, new ways of removing gender from nouns have developed (the most common reform: changing the -a or -o at the end of a noun to an -x or -e.)
Ines Kremer, a student of Social Communication at UBA, explained how the rise of gender-inclusive language is the product of fourth wave feminism, which began a few years ago in Argentina. The resolution itself acknowledges this accompanying feminist movement, writing that faculty members should consider how “in recent years, there have been significant advances in women’s rights, sexual and gender diversity in different parts of the world and in our country.” “Last year was the ‘boom’ of the spread of inclusive language,” said Ines. “Within my social circle, it’s spread a lot and become really important.”
The resolution reads: “For legal equality to translate into effective equality, a profound transformation in social practices is necessary. It is necessary for institutional dynamics and cultures to accompany these transformations, and promote the strengthening of democracy.”
Nonetheless, while inclusive language has surged in popularity, it has been met with resistance from some academics and writers. In particular, gender-inclusive language sparked a strong reaction from the Real Academia Española, the leading authority on Spanish linguistics. Last year, when releasing the first Spanish language style manual, the RAE rejected gender-inclusive language as “unnecessary” saying that grammar should not be “confused with machismo.”
Ines acknowledges that some people “hate” the rise of gender-inclusive language, but she feels that it is largely popular amongst students. Many UBA students have taken to Twitter to express their approval for the resolution’s success, even mocking the RAE:
En los comentario de las notas de Clarín y La Nación sobre la aprobación del lenguaje inclusivo en @ubasociales, la mayoría de lxs indignadxs nombran a la RAE. Jaja amigo te basás en una institución creada por unos giles que tenían poder por un señor imaginario del cielo.
— Teo Fileni (@teofileni) August 1, 2019
“I’m very happy with the new language resolution. I think it is very important how we communicate, and which words we use,” she concluded.