ON THE TERM [VULÉFTRIA] (I.E. FEMALE MEMBER OF THE PARLIAMENT)
March 25, 2021
Translated by: Maria Galanopoulou
The historical course of the word [vuléftria] began in 1953, when the Greek Parliament greeted the first female representative of the nation, Eleni Skoura.
An article by M. Triantafillidis, initially published in the magazine Nea Estia (English: New Focus) in 1959, summarizes the discussion of 1953 on the feminine form of [vuleftis] (English: male MP) and the first alternatives that were then suggested are listed below: [vuleftís], [vúleftis], [vuleftú], [vuléftria], [vuléftra], [vuleftína]. Triantafillidis convincingly argues against the form [i vuleftís] (i.e. the masculine term for MP would be accompanied by the feminine Greek definite article [i] (=the=)). He also rejects the rest of the forms and instead promotes the term [i vuleftína], using certain considerable arguments.
[Vuleftína] seemed to be gaining ground during the first decades after the change of the regime. Even conservative female candidates of the time did not hesitate to adopt it in their electoral pamphlets, but soon there was a twist. The word [vuleftína] was steadily gaining its derogatory connotations, since the feminine [vuleftis], despite its linguistic deformity, was promising to grant all women involved in politics their missing prestige. Under the new circumstances, the form [o/i vuleftis] (i.e. the term used for both male and female MPs, distinguished solely on the basis of the gendered definite articles, the masculine “o”, and the feminine “i”) offered to the women interested an illusion of equality. More broadly, there is a confusion when it comes to the gendered forms for female professionals, but [vuléftria] is a regular Greek form of this category (such as, [poiitis](i.e. male poet)- [poiitria] (i.e. female poet), [nosileftis] (i.e. male nurse)- [nosiléftria] (i.e. female nurse), etc.).
In more recent news, Wiktionary was the first online dictionary to use the term. In its turn, the Great Electronic Dictionary of Modern Greek (GEDMG) created a lemma for the gendered term [vuléftria], thus placing new, more inclusive, linguistic terms on the table. It is worth mentioning that the dictionary by G. Babiniotis* in its latest edition of 2019 did not include the term.
Even though many oppose the use of the word, it is only appropriate to consider that their opp
osition may not be related to [vuléftria] as a grammatical form, but rather to [vuléftria] as a status.
*Georgios Babiniotis is a Greek linguist, philologist, and author of the Dictionary of Modern Greek, originally published in 1998.