Now before anyone starts freaking out, thinking that their human rights have been breached, that the world has gone mad, that our freedom of speech has been ripped from our backs, and we've been left naked, slaves to the snowflake generation: listen up. Read what's actually happened; it actually makes sense.
Even I, a pretty centralist liberal had reservations when this story first hit the headlines - but, once I looked into what actually went down in Berkeley, California, I relaxed. Everything is fine guys, it's maybe even better than fine. It's all good.
I'd consider that, rather than taking words from us, the city is offering better alternatives, words that are fairer to everyone by and large. Rather than seeing these changes as a "PC brigade gone mad" situation, consider that we're a developing society, a society that is bridging the equality gap between men and women bit by bit. Along with the bigger shifts that happen over time, smaller shifts, things that might seem trivial to you, have to happen too.
Well, that's my opinion, anyway; you don't have to agree. Let's go through what happened in Berkley, CA, and you can decide for yourself.
The ordinance regarding gender-neutral language in Berkley's municipal code was approved at City Council on July 16th.
via: Getty Images.The city of Berkeley on the east coast of San Francisco bay is notoriously progressive. So the fact that Berkeley's city council is the first in the U.S. to even consider passing a legislation about a gender-neutral language in the municipal code is not surprising.
The vote to make these linguistic shifts was unanimous.
"There is power in language. This is a small move, but it matters."
via: EJZ.deRigel Robinson tweeted this in celebration of the amendment to the municipal code, explaining to his Twitter followers that, although it might seem small, language carries power.
Who is Rigel Robinson?
A previous student of UCA, Robinson was an ideal candidate for District 7, the heavily student-based area of Berkeley.
Thank you all so much for your support. For your hours knocking doors and making calls, but most fundamentally, for… https://t.co/9ahVpXZUPz— Rigel Robinson (@Rigel Robinson)1542050211.0
Who knows what the future holds for this progressive councilor?
would y’all be ok with us officially turning into the @RigelRobinson fan account— Cal Berkeley Democrats (@Cal Berkeley Democrats)1563502881.0
Not all of the recognition this week has been serious praise, though...
This is it. I’m never recovering from this. My middle name is Manhole now. The punchline here is that the closest… https://t.co/3fEsavU7Wf— Rigel Robinson (@Rigel Robinson)1563596055.0
Which words are actually being amended?
Berkeley is truly at the forefront of gender equality. https://t.co/nJUD7gpTOT— Ian Miles Cheong (@Ian Miles Cheong)1563471876.0
"Men" and "women" will be replaced by "people."Taking gender out of the equation takes a dismantling of established structures. Addressing an assembly of workers as "people" as opposed to "men and women" means that everyone is equal.
These changes support the trans and non-binary community.Gendered pronouns might not be here or there to a lot of people, but, for anyone that falls outside of static gender boundaries, having to conform to one or the other is oppressive and isolating.
It's a huge step forward.
via: Getty Images.It's all very well for liberal communities to use gender-neutral terms, but if no one outside of their communities uses them, the world as a whole will reach no progress. For trans and non-binary people to feel visible in the world as a whole, society as a whole needs to acknowledge them.
"Ladies and gentleman... and...."Rather than dividing and categorizing people into different groups and subsections of society, surely it's better that we unify and merge into a general whole - that's what equality is. Rather than addressing your team as "ladies and gentleman and anyone in-between," address them as "team" - it doesn't make it more confusing; if anything, it's more efficient.
via: Getty Images.Anyone slapping their hand to their head, proclaiming "what's the world coming to?" might need reminding that language is always in a state of flux and is constantly evolving. Linguist, Jean Aitchison, put it like this: “Language change is not a disease, any more than adolescence, or autumn are illnesses."
Why does language change?Many factors affect language and contribute to its change; things such as technological advancement, human advancement, development, migration, education, society shifts, etc. all contribute to the way that we speak and which words we use to express ourselves.
Texting revolutionized language.Would you have said "lol" before the invention of texting? Even saying "what're you up to?" wasn't really something that people said until we began texting each other "WUU2." Language is a multi-faceted well that is constantly churning and changing because of that which we are exposed to. On the topic of texting, another linguist, David Crystal stated, "it is merely the latest manifestation of the human ability to be linguistically creative [...] In texting what we are seeing, in a small way, is language in evolution."
Changing the language used in government is a massive step in making politics a more equal platform.
via: Getty Images.Women only gained the right to vote in 1920, and it's been a slippery journey ever since for women climbing on board the political train of running for office and entering council and congress. The U.S. still has never had a female president and male-centric language is rife in U.S. politics, making female candidates feel as though they're still outsiders in 2019.
Bring in the progressive U.S. political figures...
via: Getty Images.Young, ambitious, and with their minds on the future, Robinson isn't the only councilperson invested in making the country a more equal and inclusive place. We're looking at you, Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez...