A California city is under the spotlight on social media after voting to stop using “gender preference language,” with many Twitter critics mocking the decision.
The change comes after the city council, in Berkeley, Calif., unanimously voted to use gender-neutral pronouns within the Berkeley Municipal Code to “promote equality” on Tuesday. Rigel Robinson, the council member who authored the bill, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that having a male-centric code is “inaccurate and not reflective of our reality.”
“I’m a cisgender male, this doesn’t really affect me,” Robinson says. “But I’ve had interns and appointees on city commissions who use they/them pronouns, and to them this matters deeply. And they matter to me.”
According to the referral response document provided by Robinson, this change will have an effect on city documents and city forms. The words “they” and “them” will indicate a single individual, unless context indicates otherwise.
But there’s been backlash on Twitter, where people have expressed their frustrations — many singling out gendered words highlighted in the ordinance document to mock items like “manhole,” which will be replaced with the term “maintenance hole.”
“The manholes to be called maintenance holes because of gender equality literally makes me want to leave this planet,” one person wrote. “Send me to Area 51 and take me to your leader plz almighty god”
The manholes to be called maintenance holes because of gender equality literally makes me want to leave this planet. Send me to Area 51 and take me to your leader plz almighty god 🤦🏼♀️🤦🏼♀️🤦🏼♀️🤦🏼♀️🤦🏼♀️— Erin (@erin_goBark) July 18, 2019
Someone should tell #Berkeley to shove this PC gender stuff up their "maintenance hole"— Richard Viguerie (@RichardViguerie) July 19, 2019
calling it maintenance hole instead of man hole out of obedience to the virtue of chastity— Tommy Tighe (@theghissilent) July 18, 2019
Just going on record to say that I will never call a manhole a "maintenance hole". Because I'm not a lunatic. #berkely— Lisa (@WhoOlive) July 19, 2019
However, despite the jokes online, Robinson believes that this step can have a big impact.
“There’s power in language. This is a small move, but it matters,” he says. “The item passed with no discussion or comments on the consent calendar last night. It was not controversial.”
He added that three other council members joined him as co-sponsors, one of whom, Lori Droste, took to Twitter to counter the public’s “overarching focus and obsession” about manholes and explain that the changes have a larger impact.
“Yeah, ‘manhole’ clickbait is fun but language matters,” Droste Tweeted. “I’m proud to be on this item with Rigel Robinson.”
Ok, a few words about the people freaking out about altering our municipal code and the overarching focus and obsession about MANHOLES (gasp!).— Lori Droste (@loridroste) July 19, 2019
First of all, I have said “manhole” more times in the past two days than I have in 40 years.
However, I say she/he/they quite often.
Despite these attacks, our message will be the same.— Lori Droste (@loridroste) July 19, 2019
Your gender has no relevance in whether you can perform work or receive services.
Yeah, “manhole” clickbait is fun but language matters.
I’m proud to be on this item with @RigelRobinson @BenBartlettCA & CM Davila. 🌈👩🏽🦱
Some of the other changes include using “sibling” instead of brother or sister; “Collegiate Greek system residence” instead of sorority or fraternity, and hunters instead of “sportsmen.”
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