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Talk about us : inclusive language and African Proverbs

Language shapes the world. It relates us to society and with those we share it with. Through language we name the things that we think that we see, our feelings. It creates, and at the same time, represents and teaches because also by using it, we learn what each thing is, how we live together, what we believe to be true. Language is a mirror of the world in which we live, but a magic mirror like the one in Alice in Wonderland, which also teaches us the infinite possibilities to rename reality and therefore redefine it.


It does not hurt, then, to admit that to the present, language has been a sample of the patriarchal, macho society in which we have lived. In which we still live. It does not hurt, then, to understand that it is necessary to modify behaviours and thoughts by doing some work focused on the awareness and the inclusion of the feminine in language. I am not just referring to the way we speak with close friends, or by including the female in a neutral word when we talk about any profession (doctors and doctors ...), we go further.


While opinions about women in many cultures are fortunately increasingly enlightened, there are historically several proverbs that refer to half the world in a negative or clearly misogynistic way.


I put some examples:


The objectification of women, which allows us to put them at the same level of "something useful to have" such as a horse:

"A home without a woman is like a barn without cattle."

Ethiopian proverb


The woman reduced to the private space, to the house, to the care, alienated and far from the public sphere:

"A well-furnished house makes women wise."

English proverb


“If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family".

Ghanaian proverb


The burden and weight of the image still accompanies us today, how many times we have heard that an adult or mature man is attractive while women directly age poorly.

"A man is as old as he feels, a woman as old as she seems."

English proverb



And of course, better silent, without the right to be a voice in any area (political, personal, labour ...)

"A silent woman is a gift from God"

French proverb


For this I have nothing to say:

"A woman and a melon are difficult to choose."

French proverb


Objectification, belonging, value judgments, sometimes, they treat us directly as decoration:

"A woman is like the moon, some nights she is silver, others gold."

Armenian proverb


“A woman is never old when it comes to the dance that she knows. "

African proverb


And when we are not decoration, we are only the oven to reproduce the species:

"The womb of a woman is a garden with many kinds of fruits."


Offensive, hurtful comments that have marked generations and generations of women and have modified their way of interacting with men, and with the world:

"Hell has no fury like a despised woman."

English proverb


And finally:

"It is easier to take care of a bushel of fleas than a woman."

German proverb


Working to promote and strengthen the use of inclusive language is to promote a more just, fair and a more equal world. In which to grow and relate believing and proving that men and women are equal, have the same rights and deserve the same opportunities. In short, a world with a feminist gaze is a better world for everyone.



Written by Irene Sánchez

Translated by Noèlia Ribó.

Pic by Random Institute @curator



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