California city set to ban gendered words like 'manhole' and 'manpower'

The City Council in Berkeley, Calif., voted this week to ban gender-specific words in the liberal city’s municipal code, clearing the way for the changes to become official.

As a result of the vote on the proposed ordinance, the word “manhole” would be changed to “maintenance hole” in city documents, the news site Berkeleyside reported. “Human effort” would be substituted for the word “manpower,” and “sorority” or “fraternity” would be changed to “collegiate Greek system residence.”

When introduced, the authors of the new ordinance wrote that they were putting the measure forth so as to “promote equality.”

“Amending the municipal code to include gender-neutral pronouns by eliminating any gender preference language within the municipal code will promote equality,” according to text explaining the rationale.

The City Council in Berkeley, Calif., votes to remove gender-specific words from its municipal code. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The measure has been placed on the city’s consent calendar, which means it is expected to be approved without further debate. Berkeley would then ban printed references in its municipal code to “policemen” and “craftsmen,” substituting the words “police officer” and “craftspeople” instead.

The new ordinance would eliminate the use of masculine and feminine pronouns in the municipal code. Instead of “he” and “she,” the city will use “they” and “them.”

Under the heading "Gender," the amended code will read as follows:

“Whenever a personal pronoun is used in the neutral gender, it shall be deemed to include the feminine and masculine also. ‘They/them’ shall indicate a singular individual, unless the context indicates the contrary.”

The estimated cost for implementing the new ordinance is $600, the city said.

Council member Rigel Robinson, who proposed the new measure, celebrated the vote.


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