Italian Job Titles

Italian Job Titles and the Difficult Path to Equality

As you probably already know, the Italian language has two genders, maschile (masculin) and femminile (feminine), but is this rule always observed? If we look at Italian job titles, it is not always so.

A male doctor is a dottore, a female doctor is a dottoressa; but a female lawyer is an avvocato, like her male counterpart, and not an avvocatessa; the same holds for presidente, which is used for both female and male presidents. As you can see from these examples, not always is there in Italian a specific feminine noun to define some professions.

There is so much to a language in terms of the culture it represents. Language is, in fact, a mirror of society and to quote Rosa Luxembourg, the first revolutionary act is to call things with their real names.

The issue as to whether have a feminine version of all profession names or not has sparked a wide debate over the last decades, especially since the role of women in the Italian society started to change in the last decades, with the rise of feminist movements.

But let us now have a closer look at how the Italian language works in this regard. The rule has it that in order to convert a male profession noun into its feminine version, you will need to add suffix –essa: dottoressa (=doctor), poetessa (=poet), professoressa (=professor). Sometimes you will need to change the ending into –a: cameriere (=waiter) becomes cameriera(=waitress), ballerino (=dancer) becomes ballerina, for instance. Those names ending in –tore (e.g. attore) change into –trice (attrice). Other names, such as those whose endings are either –ente or –ista, remain unchanged – what changes is only the article: il presidente / la presidente, il giornalista / la giornalista (= journalist). One exception to this rule is given by the noun studentessa, which is the feminine version of studente (=student).

However, as we mentioned before, some nouns, like architetto (=architect), sindaco (=mayor), and avvocato (=lawyer), don’t have any feminine versions, which is what a number of feminist movements are increasingly claiming. The goal is that of bringing equality between men and women in a society who only recently has recognised the possibility for the latter to perform the tasks that were traditionally assigned to men. Changing the language would also mean having an impact on society, breaking down inequality between genders.