I´ve finally got round to reading the polemical article on sexism in the Spanish language that was recently published in El País.
Written by Ignacio Bosque, a linguist at the Real Academia Española (RAE) and signed by a further 26 RAE académicos, it cites nine official sets of guidelines on using non-sexist language prepared by universities, autonomous communities, unions, Town Halls and other institutions.
Criticising the fact that these guidelines have been created (throw up your hands in horror) without RAE input, Bosque asserts they are unnatural for speakers of Spanish.
What can he mean, I wondered?
Then I read his hilarious example straight from the Constitution of that paradise of feminist freedom, Venezuela.
«Sólo los venezolanos y venezolanas por nacimiento … podrán ejercer los cargos de Presidente o Presidenta de la República, Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva, Presidente o Presidenta y Vicepresidentes o Vicepresidentas de la Asamblea Nacional, magistrados o magistradas del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, Presidente o Presidenta del Consejo Nacional Electoral, Procurador o Procuradora General de la República, Contralor o Contralora General de la República»…
Isn´t it fab? Language rid of sexism by mere decretazo. Now we women can parade about the shanties of Caracas in our frillies in anti-Chavez torchlight processions without being kíl in de worl capital of ómisai.
¡Chévere! ¡Mujeres al poder! It´s just a shame that the chavista policy of killing off the unrevolutionary, and furthermore unmanly, word “tumour” and replacing it with “lesions” isn´t being so successful, particularly when you´re getting them in your vergüenzas.
So, back to the article. In essence the masculine generic is the only real issue Bosque studies. Though he argues for equality for women, (yes, thank you, we´re really very grateful, now get to the point), his argument goes like this –
- The “unmarked masculine” los, todos, vosotros, nosotros, trabajadores, matemáticos, and millions more, subsumes and therefore makes invisible, the female subject in the generic masculine we (wee wee).
- This is a remnant of the times when women were excluded from everywhere but the semi-circlular mat in front of the kitchen sink.
- Yet this is now a mere linguistic fossil and that women shouldn´t feel excluded by it.
Skipping past the obvious fact that the RAE should button its collective lip on what women should or shouldn´t bloody-well feel, Spanish is, then, a language in which “lo humano se confunde con lo masculino,” as writer Laura Freixas has said in response to Bosque and his amorphous band of merry morphologists.
But the formula for avoiding this problem hasn´t been found. Given the mindless approach of the República Bolivariana Venezolana above, I generally subscribe to Bosque´s approach, particularly since the Junta de Andalucía, which has its own, piggy piece of Orwellian fascism, two legs good, four legs bad, actually proposes FINING people who refuse to employ its clumsy, redundant and – literally – unspeakable formula.
(I recall my hotel in Tetouan, Morocco, to be decked out in the Andalusian green and white stripes of the said Junta and the receptionist informing my nosy little self that a plane-load of these [now] linguistic Lone Rangers were off in the Rif mountains around Chefchaouen indulging in kif and putas).
Meanwhile Mexican writer Jordi Volpi makes the following observation:
“Ninguna lengua es inocente. La española ..…tiene un matiz sexista inevitable, que está en el centro mismo de las estructuras gramaticales …. la lengua que utilizamos tiene muchos usos sexistas ….. viene la siguiente cuestión: ¿de estos, cuáles son modificables y cuáles no?
This is a much better proposition in my view. What can we actually fix and do we need the RAE to do it for us?
I´ll tell you what I think in my next post and … what the feck´s a contralor or contralora anyway?