Manholes in Berkeley will now be called 'maintenance holes'
At a Tuesday night city council meeting, Berkeley became the first city in America to ban the use of natural gas piping in new construction. But that was not the only utility-related issue they saw fit to attend to. No, there was another matter on deck: Eliminating the gendered connotations of words like "manhole" in the city municipal code.
No longer will the streets of fair Berkeley be dotted with manholes, nary a womanhole or nonbinaryhole in sight. With Tuesday night's vote, they have all been transmuted into "maintenance holes," that highest, hardest glass manhole-cover finally shattered.
The item, originally on the council agenda for March 12, was sponsored by councilmembers Rigel Robinson, Cheryl Davila, Ben Bartlett and Lori Droste, reports Berkeleyside. The ordinance eliminates all gendered pronouns from the city code, replacing "she" and "he" with "they."
"Manpower" will be referred to as "human effort," and "man-made" objects will be described with terms like "human-made," "artificial," "manufactured," "machine made" or "synthetic."
Gendered professional terms like "fireman," "firewoman" and "craftsman" will be swapped out for gender-neutral substitutes like "firefighter" and "craftspeople." "Heirs" will become "beneficiaries," a "sportsman" is now a "hunter," and an "ombudsman" is now just an "ombuds." The estimated cost of the revisions is a modest $600.
It was approved Tuesday night as a consent item without council discussion or public comment, Berkeleyside's Emilie Raguso reported.
When King County, Wash. enacted a similar measure last year, some on Twitter were left wistful for the halcyon days when manholes were manholes; Many others were indifferent.
"I gotta say as a female engineer in Seattle," one woman wrote, "I really don't give a crap what you call a utility access point."
Filipa Ioannou is an SFGATE staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org