Friday, February 18, 2011

Political correctness arrives in Spain

Various newspaper editorials have been a-flutter about a 71 page guide, paid for by the Andalucían government, promoting the knowledge of the “eco-feminist” perspective. In some ways, re-examining the built-in sexism of Spanish is probably worth thinking about.

The main question is: does the preference for the gender of professions or groups of people encourage sexism? My guess is that it probably does at some level. I think if Spanish society wasn’t so incredibly sexist (by North American standards anyway), there’d be some argument that the language doesn’t make a difference.

Is it possible to change this? In English, we’re lucky enough not to have to struggle with the gender of nouns except in special cases (eg policeman, actor/actress and the his/her vs they/their issue). Even those are changing, as people find that unnecessarily introducing gender or marital status into the discussion just feels a bit rude.

In Spanish, it’s quite a bit tougher since gender is baked into it at a very low level. There seems to be some room for innovation though, for example, in our company, emails are generally sent to tod@s, instead of todos/todas. Perhaps the @ symbol will find a new home in the Spanish language.

For the purists who say this is just wrong, I’d say that language has always changed over time to reflect the social values of society. I’m sure in the English language there was much gnashing of teeth when people stopped using thee and thou and just said you (why those rude whippersnappers!).

Censorship? I don’t think anyone is advocating making it illegal to write whatever you want. Social norms do change, and people that are stuck in the past just run the risk of being seen as rude, condescending or overly formal.


Anonymous said...

I'm Asian and living in Spain. Trust me, there is no political correctness at all in terms of race.

santcugat said...

Definitely. Your comment reminds me of last year's Carnival.