Language is one of the most complex social practices and instruments. It has a common socio-cultural load among linguistic users but at the same time, it attends to individual issues. That’s why language plays a very important role in the legitimation of minority representations, and inclusive language is a new way of dealing with such representations.
These were some thesis addressed in the event The importance of inclusive language, organized by Studies Center Alonso Lujambio (CEAL), Directios of Student Affairs, and student organizations Cuarta Ola and Gender Generic Diversity ITAM. The event was attended by Adrián Chávez, professor from the Department of Languages; Dr. Adriana Ortiz, Deputy Director of Gender, Diversity and Inclusion; Lucía Moreno, president of Gender-Gender Diversity ITAM; Fernanda Pacheco, Treasurer of Gender-Gender Diversity ITAM; Pamela García, member of Cuarta Ola; and Miel Valle, moderator by CEAL.
The work of institutions in the face of inclusive language
The forum opened with the participation of Dr. Ortiz, who addressed the linguistic topic from a more theoretic perspective. She commented that the linguistic practices that we use are unique and unrepeatable, but they give us a historic and social meaning, depending on the community we live in. Language, thus, it is a tool for the paradigmatic shift towards the strengthening of human rights.
She mentioned that institutions are an important pilar because they must promote the social construction of inclusive language. At the institutional level, seeking the visibility of historically marginalized groups is not only seeking a change in the way we speak, but also how we think, represent, etc. Language is a tool of transformation that seeks diversification, there is no single way to name us.
Did an invitation to ITAM faculty to make classrooms safe for all students using inclusive language.
Inclusive language and feminism
Then, Pamela García addressed the need of inclusive language from feminism. She pointed out how, throughout history, what we conceive as society is named, and what is not named usually disappears in a framework of indifference. The use of the masculine as a neutral term is sexist because it poses language as something immovable, and not a practice in constant construction and that responds to multiple contexts.
The fact of thinking that the masculine is neutral does not respond to a consensual argument, since the need to homogenize human existence in the masculine comes from wanting to make other realities other than the masculine invisible.
Inclusive language, said Pamela, is a form of resistance to the patriarchal system that tells us “you don’t exist and we are not going to name you in speeches, practices, arts and sciences.” Break mental barriers to get closer to other realities, experiences, and stories.
Binarism: invention or discovery?
Miel Valle took advantage of this moment to point out that speaking only in masculine does have repercussions, which extend to the legal sphere. She gave as an example the declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen of 1789; this document did not include women, so activist Olympe de Gouges made the female counterpart. This event, however, excluded non-binaries and other identities from the diversity. The speaker remarked that non-binary people are seldom named in the law, which often leads to a denial of their identity. Likewise, she pointed out that gender binarism is a colonial invention, which is very evident thanks to groups such as the muxes, a pre-Hispanic classification that refers to a third sex.
She invited the entire community to seek to be more inclusive based on the words we use, especially since on many occasions it is easier than we think. To strengthen this, with the help of the Alonso Lujambio Study Center, she prepared an inclusive language manual, where they point out some suggestions on how we can all expand our vocabulary and make everyone feel safer. The manual can be found at the end of this note.
Inclusive language as a political instrument
Adrián Chávez addressed the language perspective and started to point out that inclusive language not only refers to gender markers (pronouns), but to other elements to stop sexist’s expressions. The inclusive language es more a political phenomenon than a language one, because it instrumentalizes the language and seeks to attend to the message itself.
It goes against many rector principles of the language, such as verbal economy, but this argument is not important because pointing out something previously invisible is precisely what inclusive language seeks, even if it requires using more words for its explanation. The fact that from the language conventions is not practical, does not mean that we can’t kidnap the language to transmit an idea.
Lucía Moreno started her participation pointing out that if inclusive language is not used, there are people that does not exist for language. Inclusive language gives the opportunity to everyone for being what they really are and opening this opportunity could mean a lot for people of the gender diversity that seeks to express themselves without being victims of an attack.
Likewise, she pointed out that not only the non-binary people use neutral pronouns. Pronouns are expressions of gender, but not necessarily are indicated by the gender. To complement this, she did an analogy with the clothes: a man can wear a dress and it does not change his gender. The same is with pronouns: someone can try using another pronoun and see how comfortable feels by using it.
Daily contact with inclusive language
Fernanda Pacheco concluded the interventions pointing out that language, just as it belongs to the academy, it is also the way to communicate with friends, family, and our entire environment, so we must aspire to respect all people through it.
To speak in inclusive language is to leave prejudices behind and move towards a more empathetic society. In a situation as conjunctural as the one we currently live in; we cannot continue to have such narrow networks as not to allow people to be who they are.
In the question-and-answer session, one of the questions was whether it is correct to ask people what they like to be named. The speakers concluded that in a broad context with many people, such as the classroom, it can be invasive to ask someone for her pronouns, as the person may feel pressured to give information that they are not ready to share. One tip is to say your pronouns and make people feel safe to share theirs. The most important thing regarding pronouns is not to assume them. If it bothers you, use inclusive language and if the context is right, you can ask.