In an online-dominant world where people strive to uniquely define (and sometimes redefine) themselves, social media finds many creating their own image and brand based upon their personal interests, skills, and values. With this self-segmentation, no one wants to be put in a box by others who attempt at profiling them. This is especially true when it comes to labels based on race.
In a plea to marketers, author Diane Brooks’ published an essay in AdAge surrounding this very dilemma of defining someone’s identity for them as Latinx.
The term has grown in popularity in recent years as a means of being more inclusive when talking about the Hispanic demographic in advertising, marketing, media, colleges, universities, and even city governments. In turn, the controversy around its use has also made waves.
Spanish speakers will tell you the term Latinx does not make sense grammatically in the Spanish language, in which nearly all words are gendered. (Ex. Latino/Latina)
Brooks walks through this in her essay:
“Yes, for people, gender is a construct. But the Spanish language, like most romance languages, is entirely gender-based. The door—la puerta—is feminine. The car—el carro—is masculine. Am I fighting for the inclusive rights of a door?”
Meanwhile, AccessU Faculty Monica Gomez says the higher-ed field has become more cognizant of our modern gender-neutral friendly society, and their vocabulary has followed suit.
“One of the things I realized is that it’s very much a generational distinction,” says Gomez, who identifies herself as Latina. “If you just use the term Latinx, you’re still excluding people.”
Gomez explains how using the term Latinx very much depends on the setting and audience. Younger generations of Hispanic Americans born in the U.S., and those who are gender-neutral or discovering their identity, are often more comfortable using the term.
“[The Latinx term] is not accomplishing what it set out to accomplish. In higher ed, I use it comfortably because people who are in that sphere are used to that terminology. I would never say it talking to my parents or my family,” adds Gomez.
Latinx has officially been added to Webster’s dictionary, and it’s certainly not going away as marketers and institutions walk through the new age. However, the intent to be inclusive needs to be explained when using the term.
Some Spanish-speaking people in other fields feel it is the Americanized version of Latina/o, an all-encompassing cop-out, if you will, in place of asking someone about their heritage.
Gomez tells us Hispanics or Latinos tend to describe themselves by their country of origin. Many who were born in the United States will identify as Latina, including various geographical areas.
The Bottom Line: Everyone’s comfortable with different terms. Rather than defining someone for them, and lumping everyone of Hispanic origin together, it’s important for marketers to ask people how they want to be identified. A blanket term like Latinx cannot be used to identify a whole population of people from various countries where Spanish is spoken because you will inevitably leave out someone.
A personalized approach to acknowledging someone’s diverse preferences is much more desired than one-fits-all phrasing and advertising.