The fight against casual sexism has been gathering force over the last couple of decades and has now brought under its purview, the inherently gendered nature of language. This struggle has also merged with the rights of the LGBTQ+ community to forge a more accommodative word for the masses.
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What is gendered language?
“Man is a social animal”. You must have heard this phrase before and guessed the ‘man’ here to be either humankind in general or just the male species. This simple sentence is enough to throw light on the bias of society and how minorities have been struggling to find representative terms in mainstream society.
For a long while, it seemed like you might as well be invisible if you weren’t an average white male in this world. The gender binary is a social construct as opposed to its natural counterpart,’sex’ which simply refers to anatomy and this vital fact must be highlighted in order to change the course of things. The superficial nature of this binary is challenged and dismissed by tons who identify as being gender fluid and thus, face problems in being referred to as a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’.
The common suffix of ‘o’ and ‘a’ is used in most languages to differentiate between men and women. The terms ‘latino’ and ‘latina’ have been popular for decades now for people hailing from Latin American countries and were seemingly sufficient for a long period of time. Changes started coming about from 2014 when the cases of accommodation of identity came about. The term ‘[email protected]’ started making rounds as a mixture of both suffixes.
However, the true revolution came about in 2016 at the club shooting in Orlando and since then, latinx has been recognized by academics as well as the media. ‘X’ usually denotes something radical in nature and is fitting for its purpose here as it ties together all those of Latin American origins. There are other terms such as filipinx and chicanx but none of them have caught on as such.
In this sense, it is both genders neutral and inclusive by exposing the binary for what it truly is i.e a social marker which must not be imposed on anyone who wishes to break free from the bounds placed by it.
While this term may seem like a universally satisfactory one, it has faced its fair share of critique by the community and the rest of the world.
Referring to people from their countries of origin came about only due to migration. Particularly in countries like the US, ‘hispanic’ became the identifier for people from countries south of America. This evolved into latino/a and eventually latinx. Some against this term argue that this idea of putting everyone under one blanket term as a matter of convenience is utterly disrespectful and they wish to be identified separately on the basis of their unique identifiers. The term POC (person of colour) is used globally for all those who aren’t white and it instantly brings to mind the history of racism and the bifurcation of races. Mixed races are still struggling to find a niche of their own as the term ‘latina/o’ often implies a separation from another colored minority, the black community.
Another argument is against the modernizing phenomenon and how language should not be a part of this. Latinx does not simply roll off the tongue for native speakers and they have a hard time incorporating it into their day to day language.
This is a prime determinant as the term was supposed to be for the people, by the people. Also, predictably enough, the conservatives are not happy with the revolutionary term as it would mean a formal acknowledgment of all those outside the ‘traditional’ system. Most countries are still struggling in the fight for equality and it won’t be incorrect to place the fight for a more encompassing identity within it.
While it would be safe to conclude that the jury is still out on the word, it has given a voice to the silenced. It has brought together oppressed groups with an intent to find their space within the system.
The adoption of the term isn’t as important as the realisation of what it represents and thankfully, a lot of people are beginning to understand that and helping to create a more neutral and inclusive environment for not just the latinx but all other communities as well.