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Manuel Casado Velarde, Full Professor of language Española

Gender or domestic violence?

Thu, 29 Dec 2011 08:00:00 +0000 Published in ABC

A new and painful case of murder of a woman at the hands of her partner, a 71-year-old man, with the corresponding statement of the Ministry of Health and Equality, has brought to the forefront the discussion about the name to be given to these crimes: male violence, sexist violence, gender violence, domestic violence or violence in the family environment, violence against women, etc. This proves once again that words are not something indifferent: words matter. And very much so.

In 2004, when what would later become Organic Law 1/2004, of December 28, 2004, on Comprehensive Protection Measures against Gender Violence (BOE 29.12.2004) was being discussed, the Royal Spanish Academy, so little inclined to get involved in controversies, pronounced itself, for strictly idiomatic reasons, against the expression gender violence, proposing to replace it with domestic violence or violence based on sex. In fact, the new employment of the word gender, borrowed from English, contravened the linguistic uses of Spanish. The Academy appealed to idiomatic correctness, to the common use that people make of language: the word género, as everyone knows, refers reference letter to the grammatical gender, that is, to the masculine and feminine. But then I came up against another subject of "correctness", apparently more powerful: political correctness, the new orthodoxy that dictates what is politically correct. And the anathemas of the guardians of the new orthodoxy have not been long in coming, starting with the former minister of the branch, Leyre Pajín, who has urged Ana Mato to stop saying "violence in the family environment" and use "gender violence", as required by law.
It can be seen that the discussion, which seemed to be concluded with the publication of the law, was not firmly closed. The term "gender" is indebted to a certain ideology. And it is in the framework of this ideological system that it acquires its meaning. It is well known that, in this system, the word gender has ceased to mean what it used to mean in Spanish (and before that also in English gender), that is, grammatical gender, and has come to designate a cultural construct detached from sex, that is, from the bio-psychological, a new field where the dialectical battles of oppressors and oppressed, of inequality and domination, are now being fought.

For the purposes intended by the aforementioned ideology, the choice of the word gender could not be more accurate, since it designates something that is intended to be only cultural, conventional, even arbitrary: we say, for example, that hand has a feminine gender, that foot is masculine, that frog (to refer to both sexes) is feminine and that toad (also for both sexes) is masculine, and so on. This is in line with the core of the ideological system, which affirms that the gender (read sexual) identity of people is something cultural, independent of biology or psychology. In the words of Simone de Beauvoir: "A woman is not born; she is made". One can be a man with a female body, and vice versa, according to Judi Butler, a representative of radical feminism. If being a man or a woman is considered something merely cultural, emancipated from biology, the term gender (which has, as I say, a cultural character) is preferable to sex.

The new concept has made a fortune in the politically correct language of broad intellectual circles in the West. It is believed that, with political correctness, attitudes that are considered harmful will be eradicated, simply by replacing words in common use with new-fangled neologisms. This current of political correctness presupposes the idea that, if we change the language that some minorities consider discriminatory, reality will change. Let's change the words, and things will change" would become the philosophical-political motto of many who, until not so long ago, followed the conviction that, by revolutionizing the economic structure, art, law, people's mentality, in short, the "superstructure", would be modified accordingly. From this new consciousness, or awareness, would follow the correction of reality" (J. A. Martínez).

On the other hand, the method of political correctness, as J. A. Martínez, Full Professor of the University of Oviedo, has acutely written, consists of substituting terms of the common language "for new, unpublished denominations, devised in the cabinets of politically correct language".
If the inquisition of political correctness continues at its current pace, there will come a time, which does not seem far off, when we will be forbidden to mention the word abortion, since the law regulates the voluntary interruption of pregnancy (Organic Law on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy) or euthanasia (Andalusia already has its Law 2/2010, called "of dignified death"), to give just two examples, relating to the beginning and end of human life.