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Language and discriminationWhy we use gender-sensitive language

We look forward to your feedback on our work. However, we always receive a certain type of letter that leaves us at a loss. The senders complain that the spellings we use with gender asterisks, colon or naming both genders are unreasonable and ugly, that we are messing up the German language and generally doing us and the readers no favors.

These letters leave us confused every time. Because they show: What seems natural to us as editorial staff is obviously not yet for some of our readers.

We see it this way: when we write about politicians, scientists and activists, we are writing about men. In many cases this is not the case, because such plural mentions in our texts usually also refer to politicians, scientists and activists. And sometimes also about politicians, scientists and activists, i.e. people who do not want to be squeezed into the binary order of either man or woman. Gender has never come in just two variants, it is a spectrum of possibilities.

Always is not forever

The objection that this has always been the case and that the generic masculine is the norm does not really convince us. Much of what we advocate was “always like this” and we still don't accept it because it restricts people's basic rights. Language is a field of experimentation; it is constantly evolving.

The other popular argument of those who like this * or the : it is too strenuous: “We mean everyone.” Unfortunately, that's not true. When it comes to the male form, people actually have men in mind, this has been proven in many studies. Conversely, many women and people of the most varied of genders feel that they are not “included” when they are addressed as “customer”, “reader” or “copyright activist”.

Last but not least, it is a question of precision to make it clear that a certain program was not only written by computer scientists but also by computer scientists - if that is the case.

And on the question of aesthetics only this much: We have never received a critical letter complaining that we write from “texting officials”, “bounced e-mails” or the “General Data Protection Regulation” that this is an unreasonable requirement for readers be. We only hear this criticism when it comes to gender-equitable language.

That's not asking too much

How we speak and write doesn't simply reflect our reality. Language shapes how we think, what we see and what we think is possible. We want a society in which people of all genders are visible and at some point no one will whistle which drawer someone is in who is doing this or that.

At there are no rules as to how authors make this diversity visible in their contributions. The author is absolutely free to write however they want. And yet most of the texts are now written more or less gender-sensitive. This is because we and our authors consider gender-equitable language to be quite normal and important.

The reason for this is simple: We can hardly fight for freedom, democracy and human rights and then just ignore an elementary aspect of living together. In our eyes that would be a contradiction.

Are we asking too much of our readers when we use a * or: in our texts to make the diversity of the sexes visible? We think that's not asking too much. Because it's like this: Our readers are diverse, the people we write about are diverse and that's why you can see that in our texts. We don't think that's radical. Basically, that goes without saying.

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Published 01/13/2020 at 2:01 PM