The Generic Masculine in German

Ok. I've had enough.

There is quite a backlash in Germany at the moment with guys moaning about how difficult it is to write "genderized" German. German inflects all sorts of words (although not as much as Icelandic does) depending on the gender male/female/neuter. For many years the generic masculine was found to be proper -- the gals were, of course, also meant, even if the speaker was only using the masculine terms. Studies have shown that language determines how people think, so often people would not consider women for a job or as a competent person, or what ever. Only men actually did stuff.

Many years ago a push was started for an inclusive German, much like in English today people don't say "mailman" but "mail carrier". There are other, inclusive or generic terms that can be used that are not so blatantly male.

But now, just because men have made a hash of the whole mess and write sentences that are unreadable because they are too lazy to think about how to write inclusively, many are resorting to that ominous footnote on the first gendered word: "Even though this thesis uses male terminology, in the interest of making the thesis more readable, females are of course included in the terms." They laugh and think: that shows them up.

Wrong, gentlemen.

First: There has been a wonderful brochure around for ages, Mehr Frauen in die Sprache, by Friederike Braun (Disclaimer: I lived in a Wohngemeinschaft for some time with her and enjoyed every minute of our discussions). Get it, read it, use it.

Second: Duden has been suggesting losing the generic masculine since 1999. That has been 13 years, people.

Third: If you are writing a thesis and I am reading it, it is generally not a good idea to piss me off too early while reading the thesis. I tend to go into Extreme Bitch Mode when irritated. I mark grammar errors. I find non sequiturs. I find missing or wrong footnotes. Is this a threat? Yes it is. Learn to write inclusively. Learn to see woman as human beings, on equal footing. Work for equality -- it's everyone's job, not just the women, to see that people are treated equally.

No comments: