The confusions of identity language – the neutral gender

Would it be machismo to use the word “man” to designate the human species and also the male sex? The word “man” in Portuguese has at least these two meanings: (1) it means “man” as a species, whose meaning encompasses both men and women; (2) it also means the male sex of the human species, corresponding to the female sex by the words “female” or “woman”. From this point of view, the same word “man” would have two meanings, with one of them including women when the word “man” means humans, while the word “woman” would have only one sense. Thus, it would be possible to conclude, although erroneously, that when “man” is synonymous with human, there would be a sexist identification between patriarchy and the general designation of the species.

The word “man”, however, derives from the Latin word “homo”, whose meaning is only the general sense of the human species, since in Latin the word “to come” means man synonymous with male sex and the word “feminine ” means woman. The word “woman”, in turn, derives from the Latin “muliere”, preserving the same meaning in Portuguese. Now, from an etymological point of view, “man” synonymous with the human species would not configure machismo, as it would derive from a complex word in its origin, whose meaning encompasses men and women, not having, in Latin, an extension of its meaning to the male sex. , to which a proper word corresponds.

It can be argued, however, that only linguists know etymology, while in the speakers’ minds there are grammars and vocabularies whose memories would be erased, leaving the traces of their origins accessible only to specialists. Yes, this actually happens, however, languages ​​are not reduced to grammars and vocabularies, words, in reality, only make sense when they are put into speech; their ideological dimensions, that is, their social meanings, whether sexist or not, are not demarcated in the morphology of languages. Otherwise, both in the Roman Empire and in the medieval Catholic Church, historical moments whose dominant language is Latin, there would be no patriarchal systems – therefore sexist –, which would be absurd to conclude.

Identity confusions in the field of linguistics, such as these, are regrettable; it is enough to stop considering language only in its lexical and morphosyntactic dimensions, extending our considerations also to its discursive dimensions and its historical insertions, so that all this disturbance is resolved in reasonable terms, and not under excessively emotional and lacking information parameters , typical of identities. It is not by modifying the vocabulary that social interventions are made through language, it is rather about modifying the discourse; it is useless to use ridiculous words such as “companions”, “todes”, etc., most of the times incomprehensible, if the supposedly leftist militant is not ashamed to sign documents or form partnerships with capitalists and torturers, that is, the extreme right , thus inevitably adhering to the bourgeois ideology.

Finally, either identity is ignorant of all this and is not properly prepared for political discussions, or, even worse, it cynically deceives itself, seeking to cloud public opinion through its own weakness.

The opinion of the columnists does not necessarily reflect the position of this Journal.

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