Last month, Merriam-Webster dictionary named “they” the word of the year as a way to recognize the gender-fluid linguistics that many people have adopted in order to best represent themselves. However, in lieu of a specific neutrally gendered pronoun, hundreds of Argentinian teenagers have taken to the streets to demand the use of more inclusive language in their country.
To most who have ever tried to learn Spanish, gendered words might be one of the biggest challenges while learning the language. And, because feminine and male pronouns have long been one of the biggest staples of romance languages, it has also become harder and harder for non-binary people to feel represented in their Spanish-speaking homes. Pronouns are not the only problem — every single adjective in Spanish is gendered.
To fix this, people have started replacing the masculine “o” or the feminine “a” with the gender-neutral “e”, but not without a huge backlash from conservatives and language traditionalists. One of the biggest opponents is language authority The Royal Spanish Academy, who has blatantly said that they do not approve of such changes, tweeting that “formulas for an inclusive use of language are unnecessary and artificial.”
Non-binary people are not the only ones fighting against gendered language. Feminists all over Latin America have also long fought against gendered words because of their sexist underpinnings and oversight of women, since plural and other everyday words lean towards using the masculine “o” to refer to a group of people, or even professionals like “doctor.”
As the fight for gender inclusiveness has grown stronger in Argentina, many departments from at least five universities across the country have announced that they will accept the use of this “inclusive” Spanish in schoolwork. Moreso, after an Argentinian judge included the words “niñes,” “todes” and “representades” in a ruling against the Buenos Aires government, The Council of the Magistracy authorized judges to write with “e” and announced the creation of a manual for the use of non-sexist language.
Argentine president Alberto Fernández has also been outspoken about his support for neutral-gendered words. When speaking at the National College of Buenos Aires before being elected, Fernádez used inclusive language when talking to ex-Uruguayan president about his promises and hopes for the youth. Fernandez received a standing ovation at the event, where he also said that “women are protagonists at this time” and promising that if he were to win the elections he would create “a Ministry of Women, of gender equality, of respect for diversity.”
“Argentina needs to quickly enter the 21st Century. We are going to open the doors to women so that together with men they make the Argentina we deserve,” he said.
Inclusive gender language is an important part of the expression of gender to many, and since language is one of the key factors that determine cultural and social attitudes, the U.N. has said using gender-inclusive language is an extremely important way to promote gender equality and combat gender bias.