On International Women’s Day last month, Spain’s Instituto Cervantes and publisher Penguin Random House launched the Guide to Non-Sexist Communication (Guía de comunicación no sexista) in Spanish, designed to help prevent discrimination against women and promote equal treatment. It is a set of guidelines and practical suggestions to help achieve balance in the language and avoid sexism.
The publication, now on sale, is intended to bring together all the recommendations, options, information, and help that the reader needs to achieve an inclusive use of the language. It is an update of the first edition of the guide, published in 2011, which soon became a reference text with new chapters dealing with issues like online communication and social networks.
At the launch, Cervantes’ Luis García Montero affirmed that democratic values and the defense of equality “are at stake in speech” and pointed out that “la ley abstracta que defiende la Academia de que en la palabra ‘nosotros’ está incluido el género femenino, no se muestra la igualdad porque no es lo mismo decir ‘amigos y amigas’ que decir solo ‘amigos’ y que todo el mundo se sienta incluido.”
The head of Cervantes continued by saying that “we have the right to take seriously language policies that seek equality and democratic values.” Although at the institute “we are not prescribers, we can promote equality with books like this one.”
Pilar Reyes, director of the literary division of Penguin Random House, recalled that the first edition of 2011 “was a pioneer in the analysis of equal use.” Today, this issue “has grown in depth and nuances,” so “it was necessary to review and accommodate alternatives that have arisen in these years,” with a completely revised and updated practical guide. It is, he added, “an initiative of the greatest relevance” because “expressing ourselves more inclusively is equivalent to communicating better.”
Cervantes’ academic director Carmen Pastor stated that “language not only describes reality, but builds it, influences who we are and how we conceive the world,” while co-editor Mercedes Quilis asserted that “the generic masculine is correct from a grammatical point of view but addressing only them is clearly sexist and discursively inappropriate.” The guide offers options to avoid using the exclusive masculine (señorito/a), suggesting possibilities like the ampersand (amig@s), scripts (amigos-as), and new neutral resources (amigues), and addresses issues such as certain hitherto unusual feminine terms (el amo de casa o la arbitra).
The presentation was closed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who warned that the pandemic could set us back on the always difficult path of gender equality. “You have to shout more, do more, say more,” he encouraged, because advances in the balance between the sexes are slowing down.