These are the basics: Spanish—just like Portuguese,
Italian, French and other Romance languages—is not an
inclusive, gender-neutral language. Adjectives, pronouns and nouns
are either masculine (words usually ending with "o") or feminine
(ending with "a"). You talk about a "niño" or a
"niña", and if you want to refer to them in plural, then the
masculine form "niños" takes over. That's it. Nothing in
For years, Spanish didn't provide a female word for witness,
judge, engineer, or president. Sometimes it reinforces stereotypes,
like assuming that a secretary or a cheerleader will always be a
woman. And even worse, some words have a big difference in meaning.
For example, an "aventurero" is an explorer while an "aventurera"
is a prostitute.
Since the 1990s, or maybe even before that, people started
noticing and complaining about this issue and several scholars even
came up with clever ideas to try and fix it.
Don't get me wrong: I love Spanish and am incredibly aware that
no language is perfect. But I also love and embrace diversity and
inclusiveness. Myself, as well as many other writers, are all for
it—now more than ever. We know there will be challenges, and
as always, we will work twice as hard to make it work for
Which brings me to what we can do as a community. Workarounds
should become our new normal. For instance, as creatives and
copywriters, we can balance the existing "sexismo" by using
feminine words that include both genders. Like saying
"la tele audiencia" (the TV audience) instead of
"los televidentes" (the viewers). Or "la comunidad empresarial"
(the business community) instead of "los empresarios" (the
businessmen). And one more: "las personas"
(people) instead of "los hombres" or "las mujeres."
It's not beautiful, but then again, it does address the issue.
Speaking of which, we should make a concerted effort to address
both genders whenever we can, or at the very least, when it's
necessary. We can actively say, "los directores y
las directoras" (the directors), "los artistas y las artistas
(artists)," "señoras y señores" or "damas y
caballeros" (ladies and gentlemen). It's in our power to emphasize
And lastly, when there's no other option but to use the
masculine form, we can take steps to make sure we use the most
inclusive wording available to us. Like "el ser humano" (the human
being) instead of "el hombre" (the man), or "el personal
médico" (the medical personnel) instead of "los doctores"
It may take some getting used to, but it's worthwhile. When we
take steps to make sure we're addressing the entirety of our target
audience—and not simply half—we're doing our job. And
that's something we can all get behind.
Juan José Quintana is executive creative director at