Gender PC: Just don’t call me a ¡Latinx!

Oct 17, 2016 | 8 comments

You may have seen the image on Facebook: a poster on a “Wholefoods” storefront window asking customers and employees to avoid “gendered” speech, such as “Hello Sir,” and “Thanks Brother.”

logo-fernando2It’s actually misleading. The Whole Foods Market in the United States does not have such a policy, but a restaurant in Australia with a similar name, Monash Wholefoods, does and that’s where the notice was posted in September. It duped a lot folks on Facebook, including me.

Like many, I was taken aback at first by this extreme form of political correctness on a friend’s Facebook page and posted the comment, “Glad to be living in Latin America!” Which garnered lots of likes, along with lots of crude suggestions for non-gendered forms of address, such as, “Hey, fathead.” I’m being nice: the actual suggestions were a lot more abusive.

Sign in the window of an Australian cafe.

Poster in the window of an Australian restaurant.

My Facebook friends include both all-English and mostly-Spanish speakers, so a few didn’t get the gist of it. I tried to explain the image and follow-up comments to my Ecuadorian friends, and it was tough — almost impossible to do. If you know any Spanish, or any Latin language, every pronoun has gender. So in the case of “fat-head,” which far from being an insult, is a real — and affectionate — nickname in Spanish, “cabezon,” you’d have to be gender-specific, either male, “cabezon,” or female, “cabezona.”

After struggling to find a good example of silly, non-gendered address in Spanish, beyond the stodgy, “hey person,” I could only come with, “usted, animal.” It got a big laugh.

But what followed, perplexed my Ecuadorian friends even more. I tried to explain the recent, U.S. crusade to promote non-gendered speech, to avoid the male, “Latino,” and female “Latina,” in addressing Spanish-speaking folks (although the words also refer to Portuguese, French, Italian, Catalan and Romanian speakers), by coining an awful-sounding, gender-neutral pronoun only a gringo could invent, the neoteric term” “Latinx,” (pronounced, “La-teen-ex), placing the unbiased “x” at the end of the word, instead of the gender-telling “o” or “a.”

From there, it’s all downhill. You’d have to change the whole Spanish language structure to eliminate the sex bias, since our semantic ascribes X and Y chromosomes to everything, including inanimate objects. Despite that, why should English speakers agonize with gendered words like “Latinos and Latinas” when you have the perfectly good, and totally gender-neutral term: “Latins.”

Don’t neuter the Romance languages.

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