• Dossier

Or: what we can learn from authors and *their* colleagues

Gender-inclusive language (at last)

Gender-inclusive language. Do we really have to talk about this? Let alone write about it? We do indeed. Because for most of us who aren’t men, the question of gender-inclusive language is less a matter of “whether” than “Why the hell did we wait ‘till now?” 

I could call that a typically female hysterical statement. Why? Because it’s been written by me: a man. We’ll come back to that in a minute. In reality, gender-inclusive language isn’t purely a male vs. female topic. After all, it’s the intermediate tones that make life into a symphony well worth listening to. All the same, in this dossier I’m concentrating primarily on this special relationship where everything began. A relationship where only total wimps call a high-powered woman a high-powered woman. As if it was worthy of special mention that a human being without excess testosterone managed to achieve something amazing.

“So why gender language at all?” may come the caustic reply. After all, everyone knows that “author” means J.K. Rowling as well as Stephen King. And does it have to be a bad thing that mixed Spanish groups are addressed using the male form? Or should “Chancellor” Merkel demand a feminine ending (“Kanzlerin” instead of “Kanzler”)? But let’s be honest: Her tenure is the latest imaginable ending for gender exclusive language, too.

And today? Today we use gender-inclusive language. The reason is obvious: Because it’s about time. Because it’s just. Because taking the use of masculine-dominant forms for granted shouldn’t be a given – instead, it’s about time they landed in the pyre once and for all. As if that wouldn’t be an irony of history with all of its witch hunts. On the topic of torture: We still have the choice. Gender-inclusive language doesn’t have to be exclusive.

The proper use of gender-inclusive language needs to be learned – and ideally hotly debated

Macht man es beispielsweise mit dem _Unterstrich, läuft man bzw. frau Gefahr, in ohnehin unterstrichenen Textabschnitten übersehen zu werden. Gendert man hingegen mit *Sternchen, steigt einem Die Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (GfdS) aufs Dach bzw. lesen Screenreader es irritierenderweise mit. Und einfach nur ein „Innen“ zu ergänzen, wird auch nicht allen gerecht.

Tja, selbst Schuld. Jahrtausende haben wir Männer nicht nur bestimmt, was Frauen und anders Fühlende sagen dürfen, sondern – fast noch schlimmer – was sie sagen können. Indem wir ihnen Sprache in den Mund gelegt haben (siehe oben) und mehr noch, indem wir die Sprache, das Leben und schließlich die ganze (Berufs-)Welt nach unserem Ebenbild geformt und das Weibliche sowie alle anderen Formen einfach ausgeschlossen haben.

Some neutral forms (like “Chair” of the Board) can cause reader confusion. Excessive rewording or use of punctuation marks would cause a meltdown among the grammar experts – and could also cause a few technological headaches. And always adding feminine endings would shut people out as well.

Well...we’ve got ourselves to blame. For millennia, we men have not only dictated what women and those who feel differently can do, but also – and almost even worse – what they can say. We’ve done so by putting words in their mouths (see above) and even more so by creating language, life, and the entire (professional) world in our own image, and simply excluded what is feminine along with all other forms.

We have to do a lot more than simply use gender-inclusive language. We have to think about the effect language has on our behavior. On equal opportunities. On the way we treat each other in our daily lives. We have to keep talking about it. Including – and most of all – in the communications industry.

Because after all, we’re not only witnesses to language’s constant state of flux – we are also constantly busy actively shaping it. And that’s the good news. We all can change the way we speak – and therefore behave. Or to put it the other way around: We can finally behave properly and – please, by all means – express ourselves accordingly... if we reflect on ourselves and work consistently at it. Which sounds harder than it is. But in the end, language remains an everyday thing – and only as such can become more self-evident. Namely, to the point that it’s really not self-evident that words are prespecified in masculine language.

Gender-inclusive language at komm.passion

Here at komm.passion we’ve also thought a lot about gender. We discussed a lot, tried things out and have come to a clear decision. A decision that I can live particularly happily with as a passionate writer and thinker. Because like we’ve said, the topic of gender-inclusive language deserves our full attention and respect – when we speak about it as well as when we write about it. Because the most important things, dear readers – no matter whether you’re male, female, trans or otherwise – is how we treat the person behind the pronouns.