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Berkeley Going Gender-Neutral in its City Code

Will the term ‘man-cave’ survive?

By Katy Grimes, July 20, 2019 5:06 pm

The City of Berkeley, CA announced it is removing all gendered language from city code. “The City Council adopted the first reading of the new ordinance on Tuesday, which would replace all instances of ‘he’ and ‘she’ in the city code with the gender-neutral ‘they,'” NBC News reported.

Not only is gender-neutral language ungrammatical, it wasn’t previously allowed in AP Style. In 2017, the Associated Press changed its stylebook and began urging journalists to avoid making references in news stories that suggest there are only two sexes in the human race, the Washington Times reported.

While Berkeley is not the first to do this, doesn’t the Berkeley City Council have more pressing issues on the docket?

In 2013, I reported that Washington state was taking this gender-neutral form of speaking to a new level. “In Washington state, dairymen, freshmen and even penmanship could soon be things of the past,” Fox News reported.

The press releases from legislators at the California State Capitol are all gender-neutral. Lawmakers and staff refer to each other as “Assembly members,” and not “Assemblywoman” or “Assemblyman.” And even more ridiculously, the don’t refer to a Committee head as a “Chairwoman” or “Chairman;” they call each other “Chair.”

But this goes back several decades in Sacramento. In 1990, then-Sacramento Mayor Anne Rudin allowed the Sacramento Public Works Department to hold a contest to change the name of “manhole” covers to something more gender neutral and not offensive to women.

“Prompted by the sensitivity of the city council’s female majority to feminist issues, the Public Works Department called for suggestions to replace the familiar appellation. Responses – much to the astonishment of city officials – have come in from all over the world,” the Associated Press reported in May 1990.

Rudin lauded the Public Works Department for ″keeping up with contemporary standards.″

The winner in Sacramento was “personhole” covers. But surprisingly, the name did not stick. At least Berkeley is calling these “maintenance holes.”

Attempts to fix language are misguided to the point of absurdity. Remember “huperson” for “human,” “woperson” for “woman,” and “personslaughter” for “manslaughter”?

But what about the words FeMALE, MANager, MAN, ReaSON, PerSON, GovernMENt? What will we do when we have to use these offensive words? Perhaps “HIStory” will no longer be allowed; “HERstory” will likely replace it.

As for Berkeley’s naming changes, “Firemen” in Berkeley will become “firefighters,” “man-made” will be “artificial” and all instances of “men and women” will be replaced by “people.”

“The Berkeley effort is also about recognizing the city’s nonbinary residents, according to City Council member Rigel Robinson, who spearheaded the effort,” NBC News reported. “It is Berkeley being Berkeley, and what that means is it’s Berkeley being inclusive,” Robinson told NBC Bay Area. “A male-centric municipal code doesn’t reflect the reality of the city of Berkeley.”

Will the term ‘man-cave’ survive?

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