We speak Spanish in Spain, among other languages like Galician, Basque and Catalan. They all have its roots in Latin, the Roman language that also gave origin to Italian, French, Portuguese. It’s a beautiful language that I use on a daily basis and it has actually given the world some of the most important Literature classics, as well as great music, the possibility to easily bond with people who live in South America.
There’s a significant difference between English and Spanish. In Spanish, all nouns have gender. An example can make this easier. “A friend” translates to “un amigo”. But it also translates to “una amiga.” “Amigo” would be for your male friends whereas “amiga” would be for your female friends.
This can cause quite a disruption on English speakers learning Spanish. Sometimes there are different words like “hombre” for “man” and “mujer” for “woman,” but other times it’s the same word, just changing the ending, adding a suffix etc. For example, “daughter” is “hija” and “son” is “hijo.”
Since probably forever, generalizations have been made with the gender-specific for males. If a woman had two sons and one daughter, she would refer to her children as “hijos.” In this term, her daughter should have to feel included as well, despite the fact that she’s not mentioned.
Humankind: It’s obvious women are human. I’m not so sure about women feeling like they are a part of “man-kind.”
At this point, we can point out something similar on the English language. For centuries, our History has been called the History of Mankind. Now a days, it’s far more common to hear the gender-neutral term: Humankind. It’s obvious women are human. I’m not so sure about women feeling like they are a part of “man-kind.”
Feminists like myself strive to use a sexism-free language, which becomes quite hard when you constantly have to refer to your group of friends as “amigos”. Just because there’s one male present, even if you’re hanging out with eight females and one male, the grammar norm says that you should refer to your audience as “amigos”.
What you don’t mention doesn’t exist.
And I’m not okay with this. So many of us aren’t. I’m tired of never feeling included. What you don’t mention doesn’t exist. Using the masculin noun completely hides the fact that there’s females present, even if the majority of the people present are females. Thankfully, we are starting to get better.
It’s obnoxious to constantly duplicate your words. “Amigas y amigos,” “hijas e hijos”… It makes your speech completely boring and repetitive. That’s why in general we try to use collectives when possible. For example, to translate “students” we can say “alumnado” or “alumnas y alumnos.” The first choice is far better if we are trying to avoid a sexist statement while not making our speech soporific. Also, when the majority of the people present in a conference, a classroom etc., are women, we should use the gender-specific term for women, and yes, men should feel included and comfortable, just like we have been for centuries never being mentioned.
The biggest radicals, like myself, because I’m going to be a teacher and I need to set an example for my future students, can use the gender-specific term for females as the term for generalizations. And there is an explanation. Just like “mankind” and “humankind”, “people” translates to “personas”. “Personas” has a feminine gender. We are not all men, but we are all “personas.”
Making the world a sexism-free place, one word at a time.