At its weekly meeting Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council voted to revise its municipal code to remove all gender-specific pronouns, and to use more inclusive, non-patriarchal language for terms like "manhole" and "manpower."
The ordinance, which was originally proposed on the Council's agenda in March, takes a fresh look at standard language in the city code, and aims to make it less gendered. While many will see the move as another example of the progressive city being ahead of the curve in cultural and political change, some will no doubt see this as simply more fodder for late-night hosts to mock in their monologues.
Berkeleyside reports that the measure, which was sponsored by Council members Rigel Robinson, Cheryl Davila, Ben Bartlett and Lori Droste, passed on Tuesday, and will now be referred to city staff for further refining.
"According to Code Publishing Company, the Berkeley Municipal Code currently contains mostly masculine pronouns," the city clerk writes in a recommendation note. "In recent years, broadening societal awareness of transgender and gender nonconforming identities has brought to light the importance of non-binary gender inclusivity."
The complete list of terms to be changed is here, and it includes switching all gendered pronouns to "they" and "them," and instead of using pronouns where various roles are mentioned in the code, "he" or "he or she" will become "the architect" or "the respondent," etc. Also, terms like "fireman" and "watchman" will become "firefighter" and "guard," respectively. Manholes will heretofore be referred to as "maintenance holes," and the words "fraternity," "sorority," and "fraternal" will all be nixed with regards to the UC campus's Greek system — these will be replaced with "Collegiate Greek system residence."
"Manpower" will be replaced with "human effort" or "workforce," and the city will no longer refer to "maiden" names — these will be "family names."
Here's a curious one: The word "heirs" will become "beneficiaries," even though no one particularly thinks of "heir" as a gendered term.
Also, the word "master" will be replaced variously with "central," "Captain," "Skipper," "Pilot," and "Safety Officer."
Before the final changes get made and printed into the municipal code, they will be posted 15 days earlier in all Berkeley public libraries.