Public, private, and civil society organizations are introducing processes to communicate in an inclusive way that names diversity. Although expanding the language is one of many practices, it is a huge step forward. Below is a guide of recommendations taken from different authors.
With “e”? Or with “x”? No, it is better to use “@.” Inclusion solved. Inclusion solved? Now that the notion of diversity has barged into the agenda using inclusive language becomes, at times, challenging. Because it does not mean simply using “e,” “x,” or “@.” It is about raising awareness. Its use is part of the process to achieve the change intended: inclusion.
Putting this process in motion in organizations —both public and private— entails creating tension in patterns that have been ingrained in their culture for many years. Moving towards that transformation means that people, institutions, companies, and brands must become aware.
In Argentina, one of the references used by official bodies to move in that direction is the guide Re-nombrar Guía para una comunicación con perspectiva de género (Re-Naming: A Guide to Communication with a Gender Perspective). Mexico uses the guidelines in Manual de comunicación no sexista – Hacia un lenguaje incluyente (A Manual to Non-sexist Communication – Towards Inclusive Language) and the guide Guía de lenguaje inclusivo de género (A Guide of Gender-Inclusive Language) is the version developed by Chile for the same purpose. There are guidelines everywhere. They all include deep and valuable reasons to use inclusive language related to creating meaning.
The Spanish language validates the use of the masculine form as a generic that includes every person. But that is only the case in some languages. For instance, in the English language —for which recommendations on the use of inclusive language also exist—adjectives have no gender; this is different in Spanish. Thus, those who support the use of inclusive language struggle to create a new norm that is not based on the generic masculine.
For Cintia González Oviedo, founder and CEO of Bridge The Gap, “inclusive or reliable communication is not something that you choose or not; it means becoming aware that the way to communicate has an impact on the creation of culture. It is an important part of replicating a culture that normalizes and naturalizes elements that, for different reasons —whether social or because of the advent of new activism models—create a new tension today, which is a political tension for the creation of the meaning that is considered valid.”
The construction of communication that creates new meanings is time and patience-consuming. Nowadays, guides on inclusive language can be easily found in organizations, but if those guides are supported by specific actions, assessments, and reviews, they will be helpful.
Below are some recommendations found in different guides. Some emphasize pointing out patriarchy as the cultural framework that is imprinted on the language; others advise that that which is not named does not exist, and that is a reason to change the way we communicate and to start giving visibility to those with a self-perception that differs from that established by the social standard as the only possible until now. Other manuals remind us that language is not sexist by itself but in its use. All advice is aimed precisely at taking up inclusion so that diversity becomes a reality.
+ When meeting a person for the first time, the self-perceived gender identity, name, or nickname of the person should be asked. In other words, we should make these questions to avoid assuming an identity with which the person may feel uncomfortable.
+ It is clear that the world is not divided only into men and women but into a diversity of non-binary identities. It is necessary to respect that self-defined identity and to avoid calling out a person if they used to have one identity and now they have another. This is a bad habit that is common in the media and that, regretfully, people imitate.
+ In verbal or written communication, it is convenient to use linguistic resources that do not entail constant splitting as if it were the only path to solve sexism in language. Neutral words and expressions that go beyond masculine and feminine may be used, considering that it is always about people.
+ When referring to a woman in a position in a defined space, such as a female executive in a company, a feminine noun should be used upon mentioning the position, such as “presidenta” (female president), “gerenta” (female manager), “viceministra” (female vice-minister), etc.
+ This is different when using expressions that define an activity as exclusive of men or women because they perpetuate gender stereotypes. Everyday examples show us that other forms of expression must be found. For instance, in the context of the pandemic, we commonly hear the terms “los médicos” (male doctors) and “las enfermeras” (female nurses), as if there were no female doctors nor male nurses; or “los chicos” (boys) and “las maestras” (female teachers), as if there were no girls at school nor male teachers in the classroom.
+ “E” is only used for people, not for proper names or objects. If “e” is used when not referring to people, this trivializes a topic that requires awareness. With the use of “e,” it is possible to avoid binary language and prevent diversity from becoming invisible. “E” should be used to pluralize a diverse group of people with unknown self-perceived gender identities.
+ Redundancy should also be avoided, i.e., highlighting that a person is a woman above other characteristics related to the topic.
+ As regards communication in public or brand campaigns, generic, abstract, and collective nouns should be used: people/persons, citizenry, and childhood, among others.
These recommendations are only part of a comprehensive set of measures that an organization should drive if it wants to be inclusive, diverse, and rich.
So then what? Do we use “e,” “x,” or @? First, we must become aware and ask questions. “There is no easy solution for this; it takes a long time to assimilate these issues because, otherwise, the discussion on the topic is simplified,” González Oviedo.
Diversity and Inclusion are key to our business. Know more about Globant initiatives to promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
United Nations: https://www.un.org/es/gender-inclusive-language/guidelines.shtml
Guía de lenguaje inclusivo: https://www.cultura.gob.cl/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/guia-lenguaje-inclusivo-genero.pdf
Manual de comunicación no sexista: http://cedoc.inmujeres.gob.mx/documentos_download/101265.pdf