#NiUnaMenos or #NiUnxMenos? Non-binary language as a human right
Let’s begin with a bit of history: between 1947 and 1962, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) focused on setting forth regulations and drafting international conventions to change discriminatory laws and raise world awareness on women’s affairs.
The Commission made great contributions to the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also advocated for an inclusive use of language, successfully pledging for the need to suppress generic masculine use, for example, in all references to “men” as a synonym for humankind.
When we work on a text, we carefully think about how we use language to shape our translations. Gender mainstreaming is not a small concern. The different expressions to break the generic masculine rule of the political status quo are meant to disrupt, to represent gender fluidity, to express gender is not always rigid or tight.
A few days ago, on the 8th anniversary of the #NiUnaMenos campaign, once again people convened near the Argentine Congress of the City of Buenos Aires to demand justice for women victims of femicide —with transfeminist voices also claiming for the life of Tehuel, a trans boy who didn’t come back home after going out to attend a job interview—; for the urge to incorporate an intersectional view on informal care work and racism; for historic redress for travesti and trans communities who suffered structural violence since adolescents. All these demands make us think about the causes we support and the need for a thorough, diverse and plural ways of being feminist.
Of course, these reflections are also present when we work. At Tradoctas, when we communicate a message, we believe direct or indirect forms of inclusive or non-binary language must be used “at the request of the text” and after considering our context, but not necessarily in an uniform fashion. Some translators may think this is a signal of a poor translation lacking the always-cherished uniformity and invisibility of the translator, but our work is not unconscious or reckless. Let me explain why.
If a complete text uses generic masculine, there’s a message, an intention, we will not convey if we decide to omit it. If, for example, we choose to mention boys and girls, specifically, in a Spanish text by using "los niños y las niñas" and then generic masculine or "los niños y las niñas podrán trabajar como voluntarios y voluntarias según ellos y ellas lo decidan" —mentioning we’re expressly referring to boys and girls at each instance the Spanish language needs for a gender mark— the result would be a much more extense and “heavy” Spanish text. We can mention boys and girls from time to time, and then go on with neutral or masculine generic text and generate the desired effect while also creating a natural, idiomatic Spanish flow.
That’s why we always open our toolbox and take a look at all our equipment to be able to advice and discuss with our team, generate precise alternatives and make the best choice, aimed at prioritizing diversity over the application of a one-size-fits-all strategy.