Here we go again — an entire language faces the wrath of the “socially conscious” contemporary college student.
Writing in Boston University’s Daily Free Press, Olivia Nadel laments the fact that Spanish is “gender binary” … that it assigns genders to even inanimate objects, and worse, the plurals of masculine nouns encompass both genders.
Cue the feminist horror.
“Although I don’t fully understand why inanimate objects need to be gendered,” Nadel writes, “it is not as bothersome to me as using the masculine form to refer to a group of females and males.”
“If there is one male in a group of all females, ‘ellas,’ (them, female) is changed to ‘ellos,’ (them, male). In all of these cases, it seems like a matter of not wanting to threaten men’s masculinity.”
I studied Spanish for several years at home and never noticed these peculiarities. While I’m actively forced to speak Spanish here, I’m much more cognizant of my word choice. Spanish pronouns, objects and nouns do not seem to consider gender inclusivity and neutrality, and like many others, I consider this a feminist and LGBT issue.
I’m aware that my view of this issue comes from a place of supposed superiority and judgment, but in reality, the English language has its slew of gender neutrality and inclusivity problems. Some issues are so internalized that we don’t even realize we’re saying them, like using “guys” to refer to any group of people.
Small steps have been taken, like in English, to create more inclusive pronouns. Instead of saying “él/ella” (he/she), people have begun using “le” or “ele.” People also use “@,” which Spanish speakers refer to as an arroba. This is because the sign looks like an “a” or an “o,” and replaces those letters to make the word either masculine or feminine.
I believe there are many implications of speaking about gender as a binary starting at a young age. Any gender that is not masculine or feminine becomes taboo, and this way of thinking contributes to a culture of close-mindedness and patriarchal superiority. Gender issues here, like in the United States, are much deeper than a language’s surface-level gendered nouns and adjectives.
Nadel has the same issue as activists who use the term “Latinx” (pronounced “lah-TEE-nex”). “Latinx” is supposed to “escape the implicit gender binary there and include all possible gender and sexual identities.”
A couple of (Hispanic) students at Swarthmore addressed all this nonsense last year:
“Like it or not, Spanish is a gendered language. If you take the gender out of every word, you are no longer speaking Spanish. If you advocate for the erasure of gender in Spanish, you then are advocating for the erasure of Spanish.”
IMAGE: Sam Felder/Flickr