Graham Keeley in The Times (behind paywall) has recently highlighted how the Spanish have put sexism on the front page.

The country is currently occupied in a debate about the Spanish language. The storm has been covered on the front of the country’s most popular newspaper, spreading onto the internet and into political debate.

Macho language

The issue has evolved from a number of feminists viewing the Spanish language as being too male orientated.

The problem is that the language is dominated by masculine words and a growing number believe this to be inequitable.

Examples include a hombre de la vida which refers to a man of the world yet its female equivalent, mujer de la vida is a prostitute. Hombrezuelo is a short man compared to a mujerzuela who is a street walker and a perro is a man’s best friend but a perra is a prostitute!

Utilising non-sexist language

To help rectify the issue there has been a conscious effort to create politically correct versions of words.

Whereas Spanish speakers traditionally revert to the masculine plural form of a noun when referring to groups of men and women, it is now increasingly popular for Spaniards to recognise their female counterparts by incorporating the ‘@’ sign into colloquial terms.

A mixed group of friends can now be referred to as “[email protected]” or “[email protected]”, incorporating both the male “o” and the female “a” into the noun. Similarly, “[email protected]” can be affectionately used to complement a group of men and women.

Spanish Royal Academy – not a happy bunch

There are a few however who are not happy with the commotion, creating the heated debate.

The Spanish Royal Academy are not willing to change the language, believing that Spanish is being warped in the pursuit of linguistic equality. They deem that ‘‘there is no reason to call the majority of Spanish speakers sexist for simply speaking it’’.

To this the feminists have declared that it is important to change the language to prevent its influence on behaviour and perception.

The French have recently had similar disorder over language

Feminist groups have campaigned that where as men have the title Monsieur which doesn’t indicated whether they are married or not, women however have only the option of stating their marital status with the use of Madame or Mademoiselle.

The term Mademoiselle is now considered an unnecessary and unjustified reference to women’s marital status and the French government have declared the title will be removed from official forms.

Madame will now be used for all women, meaning there will be no reference to their marital status. Feminist groups have stated that they will be keeping a close watch on how well this is implemented by the government, if at all.