Tuesday, February 28, 2023
2:30–3:15 p.m. (Central Time)
Language is neither neutral nor impartial, especially when we consider gender. Inclusivity can be understood as the drive to extend rights and participation in a system or activity to as many subjects as possible. Communicating in an inclusive way, therefore, embraces different spheres of our social life, including gender and sexual orientation, ethnicity and race, age, ability status, religion, and socio-economic conditions. From a linguistic standpoint, the Romance languages present various grammatical obstacles that make them particularly rigid in the face of a more inclusive use of language, not declined nor defined by gender. Language textbooks, classroom practices, and activities often conflate binary grammatical gender (e.g., “masculine” or “feminine”) with the gender identity of speakers, thus excluding the place of non-binary and gender-diverse people, who should not be forced to adhere to the normative exclusionary logic of binary grammatical systems.
This presentation will highlight the work of the Gender Diversity Committee at the University of Michigan’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, which was founded in 2019 with the objective of breaking down linguistic and cultural barriers to more inclusive practices of language teaching. Responding to Kris Kinsey’s call for “gender-just language pedagogies,” for the Gender Diversity Committee it has been a matter of re-imagining research, materials, and pedagogies of language education with the goal of making the language classroom welcoming to non-binary students.
Michela Russo (PhD) is a Lecturer in the Italian and Spanish programs in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan. She is among the founding members of the department’s Gender Diversity Committee and spearheads the committee’s work with respect to Italian language materials and resources.