A California based city council has voted to chuck gendered words from its municipal code, including the words ‘manhole’ and ‘manmade’.
Going forward, Berkeley City Council will introduce more gender neutral terms such as ‘maintenance hole’ and ‘human effort’. Furthermore, the third-person plural pronoun ‘they’ will replace the gendered pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’.
In the US, a municipal code refers to a collection of ordinances which have been passed by a local governing body. These linguistic changes were passed by a unanimous vote by city council members on Tuesday, July 16.
Berkeley is truly at the forefront of gender equality. pic.twitter.com/nJUD7gpTOT
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) July 18, 2019
As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, over two dozen commonly used words will be changed in the municipal code, with the full list set to be displayed at public libraries as well as the council chambers.
As reported by BBC News, city councillor Rigel Robinson has described gendered terms as being ‘inaccurate and not reflective of our reality’.
Robinson, 23, told BBC News how this was an important move forward because ‘there’s power in language’:
Women and non-binary individuals are just as entitled to accurate representation. Our laws are for everyone, and our municipal code should reflect that.
Robinson, the youngest person ever to serve on the Berkeley City Council, initially submitted a request to update Berkeley’s code to include gender-neutral language in March of this year.
"Language has power” California- Berkeley City Council has voted to eliminate gender-specific words from its municipal code. Read this list! pic.twitter.com/5IyDpI0IKN
— Maha Sweis- Dababneh Ph.D. (@MahaSweis) July 18, 2019
The latest update to the city’s municipal code will reportedly cost $600 (£480) to process.
These changes have sparked debate online. Some have applauded Berkeley for being so forward thinking with their considerate use of language, describing the city as being ‘at the forefront of gender equality’.
However, others have taken affront at such adjustments, and feel this has been an unnecessary use of council time. As one Twitter user said, ‘I’d be p*ssed if I lived in Berkeley and you spent your time on this’.
Gender equality? Or has #Berkeley gone too far? 'Manhole' is now 'maintenance hole'. Fraternity is now 'Greek system residence'. Bondsman is now bondsperson. @berkeley is changing language of city code to be gender-friendly.
— Raj Mathai (@rajmathai) July 18, 2019
Over the last few years, the state of California has demonstrated a strong commitment to working towards a more inclusive society for transgender individuals as well as those with gender nonconforming identities.
In 2014, former Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to replace ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ with the gender-neutral ‘spouse’, under state law, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
In 2017, California became the very first US state to provide a third gender option for documents such as state driver’s licenses, identification cards and birth certificates.
This latest measure comes after changes were made in February to permit Berkeley city employees to choose preferred pronouns on their name badges.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.