Politically Correct Spanish? What’s the Controversy?

Politically Correct Spanish? What’s the Controversy?

Paulisíma is reading comments from the comment section:

Ya no veré videos nuevos de este canal si pretendes que las mujeres no son una categoría separada que los hombres que merecen protección. Por verguenza de ti.
(I will no longer watch new videos from this channel if you pretend that women are not a separate category from men who deserve protection. “shame on you” missspoke.)

Ooops! The topic of political correctness Spanish controversy, that you can watch here, got us some interesting feedback!

I’m Paulísima, your Spring Spanish teacher. Today, I want to delve deeper into this topic by discussing gender issues in the Spanish language and the whole controversy with it.

¿Estás listo? ¡Empecemos! (Are you ready? Let’s begin!)

1. Clarification on the political correctness Spanish controversy (Aclaración)

Before we get into the subject. Let me just remind my dear watchers that no one is forcing me to make this video, thank you all for your concern.

Fortunately, the team of Spring Spanish is wonderful. Here I can express my opinion freely even if they don’t necessarily reflect the opinion of the whole team.

Have you subscribed to the channel? If not, this is the perfect moment to do it.

2. What is it for? (¿Para qué es?)

Politically correct language, in general, is a communication tool. This tool is mainly used in public speech. Its goal is that people and social groups who have been structurally marginalized are not further offended in the realm of language, at least.

And those people, at least in Mexico, have been indigenous people, black people, people with disabilities, and women.

So, politically correct language intention is to prevent further discrimination. It’s not made to prevent everyone from getting hurt by words. Remember that in this lesson we’re focusing on the gender issues in the Spanish language.

3. El problema (The problem)

It’s widely known that Spanish is a language with grammatical gender. The masculine plural has been used as a neutral gender to refer to both men and women.

If we are in a medical conference, with 99 doctors who are women and just 1 doctor who is a man, in Spanish to group is not a “un grupo de doctoras” (feminine) but “un grupo de doctores” (masculine).

Now, un grupo de doctores can mean both ONLY male doctors OR a mixed group. The real image that of a group made up by mostly women gets erased when one says the generic, and grammatically correct, “un grupo de doctores”. What ends up happening in Spanish is that women are often made invisible whenever we talk about the collective entities.

In addition, the masculine singular is usually used even if it does not agree with the person being spoken of.

For example, in academic documents you could see:

  • Alumno: (Student (masculine):)
  • O en documentos oficiales: (Or in official documents:)
  • Ciudadano: (Citizen (masculine):)

It’s like the masculine is the default, and that doesn’t have to be like that without messing with the language. There are certain things you can do if you want to communicate in a more gender inclusive language.

4. More controversy around political correctness (Más controversia)

So the whole: let’s be fair to women when we speak, let’s be specific, is one side of the issue. But there’s more it. And this goes beyond “political correctness”. People who identify as non-binary, are choosing not be identified as masculine nor feminine. In English, this is achieved by referring to them as “they”.

But in Spanish, well, the whole thing is kinda new and we’re adapting. Among feminist and some academic circles, it’s common for people to simply eliminate the endings A and O that determines the masculine and feminine gender, and instead use the ending E to achieve an effect of neutrality.

But this seems to be triggering for those who defend “the purity” of the language against what they think of as an exaggeration.

For people who defend the use of non-binary alternatives in Spanish, this should be done even if it means defying traditional grammar rules. They understand that the identification of a person is more important than arbitrary rules about language.

Actor 1
¿Qué opinas sobre el uso del lenguaje inclusivo en español?
(What do you think about the use of inclusive language in Spanish?)

Actor 2
La verdad es que no me gusta mucho. Creo que es una forma de politizar el lenguaje y forzar una agenda política.
(The truth is, I don’t like it very much. I think it’s a way of politicizing language and pushing a political agenda.)

Actor 1
Pero, ¿no crees que es importante incluir a todas las personas en nuestro lenguaje? No sólo a los hombres y las mujeres.
(But, don’t you think it’s important to include all people in our language? Not just men and women.)

Actor 2
Claro, pero el lenguaje ya tiene formas inclusivas. Por ejemplo, la palabra “persona” se refiere a cualquier ser humano, sin importar su género.
(Of course, but language already has inclusive forms. For example, the word “person” refers to any human being, regardless of their gender.)

Actor 1
Sí, pero eso no es suficiente. Las personas no binarias no se identifican como hombres o mujeres, y merecen ser reconocidas como tal.
(Yes, but that’s not enough. Non-binary people don’t identify as men or women, and they deserve to be recognized as such.)

Actor 2
Pero no es necesario inventar una nueva forma de hablar. ¿No te parece exagerado usar la letra “e” para referirse a todas las personas?
(But it’s no necessary to create a whole other way of speaking. Don’t you think it’s exaggerated to use the letter “e” to refer to all people?)

Actor 1
No lo creo. La letra “e” es una forma simple y efectiva de incluir a todas las personas sin tener que usar términos masculinos o femeninos.
(I don’t think so. The letter “e” is a simple and effective way of including all people without having to use masculine or feminine terms.)

Actor 2
Pero suena extraño y no está reconocido por la Real Academia Española.
(But it sounds strange and it’s not recognized by the Royal Spanish Academy.)

Actor 1
Eso es cierto, pero el lenguaje está en constante evolución y adaptación. Si algo funciona y es inclusivo, creo que deberíamos adoptarlo.
(That’s true, but language is constantly evolving and adapting. If something works and is inclusive, I think we should adapt it.)

Actor 2
Bueno, no estoy del todo convencido, pero puedo entender tu punto de vista. Quizás sea un tema que merece más debate y reflexión.
(Well, I’m not entirely convinced, but I can understand your point of view. Perhaps it’s a topic that deserves more debate and reflection.)

Actor 1
Claro, siempre es bueno tener una discusión abierta y respetuosa.
(Of course, it’s always good to have an open and respectful discussion.)

It’s also worth noting that language is constantly evolving and changing, what today may seem like an unnecessary or exaggerated change now could become widely accepted in the future.

Ultimately, it’s up to each individual to decide how they want to use language, but it’s important to approach these discussions with respect and an open mind.

What’s your take on this? All opinions are valid as long as they are expressed with respect. I want to hear them all.

These things do happen and well, we need to be ready to express our opinion. Check out the next lesson where you’ll learn the Spanish that you’ll need to start saying your opinion.

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