News and Commentary

‘Manholes’ Are Now ‘Maintenance Holes’: Berkeley To Remove ‘Gendered’ Language From All City Code

Berkeley, California is going full Berkeley and removing all “gendered” language from its city code in order to be more “inclusive.”

NBC News reported that on Tuesday, the city council adopted a first reading of a new ordinance which removes “gender preference language” from Berkeley’s municipal code. NBC also reported that city council member Rigel Robinson, the youngest member of the council, orchestrated the new ordinance.

“It is Berkeley being Berkeley, and what that means is it’s Berkeley being inclusive,” Robinson told the outlet’s bay-area affiliate. “A male-centric municipal code doesn’t reflect the reality of the city of Berkeley.”

The full list of changed words is reminiscent of the decades-old move to change words that typically end in “-man” to ending with “-person,” such as “salesperson” instead of “salesman.” But the Berkeley list goes further, changing words in a way that would make a Gender Studies professor proud.

Instead of “manhole,” city code must now say “maintenance hole.” Instead of “brother” or “sister,” city code must now say “sibling.” Instead of “manpower,” city code must now say either “human effort” or “workforce.”

City code will no longer say “manmade,” either. It must now be replaced with “human-made,” “artificial,” “manufactured” (wait a minute – MANufactured?), “machine made,” or “synthetic.”

Some of the word changes stretch into the odd. For example, the word “master” must be replaced with one of the following: “captain,” “skipper,” “pilot,” “safety officer,” or “central.” The word “ombudsman” must be replaced with “ombuds” or “investigative official.”

And some of the changes are ridiculously burdensome. “Male” and “female” becomes “people of different genders.” “Men or women” become “a single gender.” Those offering the defense, “The masculine pronoun includes the feminine,” must now say “words referring to a specific gender may be extended to any other gender.”

And in all instances where one may be tempted to use a masculine or feminine pronoun, they must use the person’s title relating to municipal documentation, such as “the attorney,” “the candidate” and — I kid you not — “the dancer.” “The Doctor” is not included on the list, but “The Felon” is. Any time a pronoun must be used, the words “they” or “them” should replace “she,” “he,” “him,” “her,” etc.

The explanation for the ordinance is included in a background section, which states:

In recent years, broadening societal awareness of transgender and gender-nonconforming identities has brought to light the importance of non-binary gender inclusivity. Therefore, it is both timely and necessary to make the environment of City Hall and the language of city legislation consistent with the principles of inclusion.

Changing the city code will cost $600, which Robinson told NBC is important because “language has power.”

One Berkeley resident, Sara, told NBC that she thinks “they should put their time into figuring out homelessness.”

Silly Sara, thinking homelessness is more important than referring to “manholes” as “maintenance holes.”

California already allows people to select a nonbinary option for birth certificates and their driver’s licenses.

The Berkeley ordinance is scheduled for changes next week and is set to take effect in late August, NBC reported.