Is Spanish more sexist than other languages such as English?
In Romance languages, such as French, Italian and Spanish, it is common for nouns to be masculine or feminine and, when we talk about a group of things, the masculine form is invariably adopted as the generic form. For example, traditionally the words ‘father’ ‘mother’ and ‘parents’ would be translated into Spanish as ‘padre’, ‘madre’ and ‘padres’ respectively.
However, in recent years there has been a tendency to translate ‘parents’ as ‘madres y padres’ in order to avoid accusations of sexism. Similarly, as many masculine words end in ‘o’ and most feminine words end in ‘a’, the @ symbol (which looks like an ‘a’ inside an ‘o’) has been adopted to indicate greater inclusion. So ‘estimados compañeros y estimadas compañeras’ (‘Dear colleagues’) might be reduced to ‘estimad@s compañer@s’.
Whereas a letter in English from a school principal might start with ‘Dear students’, in Spanish this could be translated in its most traditional form with the generic ‘Estimados alumnos’, or the more politically correct (but cumbersome) ‘Estimados alumnos y estimadas alumnas’ or the modern ‘Estimd@s alumn@s”. This lack of a generic form of many nouns has proven a nightmare for politically-correct politicians who have found themselves adding several seemingly redundant minutes to even the briefest of speeches in order not to offend.
Now the Real Academia Española, the body responsible for overseeing the correct use of the Spanish language, has come out against the practice, insisting that the generic (often masculine) form is the only correct form to be used when talking about a group of things, and that the use of both masculine and feminine forms instead of the generic form is “artificial” and “unnecessary”.