Comment by the philosopher Richard Schröder: We have been gendering for thousands of years – but now it’s getting absurd

Gender as an instrument for more equality? We have used this for thousands of years, but at some point our language reaches its limits.

We have all been gendering for millennia and that’s a good thing. We do not call the father mother and the sister not brother. And if we answer a e-mail from Andrea L. with “Dear Mr. L.” because we have read Andreas briefly, we are very embarrassed and Andrea L. possibly offended. So we are by no means insensitive in this area – but possibly over-sensitive in the meantime.

With the kinship terms, the matter is particularly simple, because here the grammatical gender (gender) and the biological gender (sex) are always identical. The female forms are not derived from the male forms (as is the case with teachers), but have their own stem. It is the same with most domestic animals: the stallion, the mare, the foal and for all of them: the horse.

The German language lacks a fourth gender – this is where the gender Problem Otherwise, however, gender and sex are not always identical. German knows three genders, masculinum, feminine, neuter, “neither of the two”. Most masculine and feminine words have nothing to do with sex, because they do not denote living beings, even if they are formed like nouns Actionis, ie perpetrators, see “the stool”, “the sigh”, “the switch”, formed like “the teacher”. Likewise, the gathering, the demonstration, the majority, and virtue have nothing to do with female sexuality. And neither are all dogs male nor all cats female (Sexus). The grammatical genera are mainly used to assign adjectives and pronouns to nouns (“congruence”), compare the two sub-clauses: “The lid of the box, which is painted green …”

What determines the gender debate in German is the fact that we lack a fourth gender. It would be the genus Utrum or Commune: not “neither”, but “both” encompassing, namely male and female people. It is available in Scandinavian languages. And in English, the three articles have been ground down into one. Lucky ones. The student , that is a student of any gender and the students are several of them. If we had that too, our gender wars would be exhausted. But unfortunately we have failed to shrink “der, die, das” to “de”.

The generic masculinum as a substitute for the fourth sex But in German we have a substitute for the fourth gender, the so-called generic masculinum. The point of contention in the gender fight can now also be formulated as follows: whether there is a generic masculinum in German or not. The generic masculinum is grammatically masculine, but can mean both men and women. Some say: “’Africans’ is a generic masculinum and denotes all inhabitants of Africa regardless of gender.” Others say: “’Africans’ only refers to African men. You can tell by the article ‘the’. That is why it must now be: ‘Africans’. Otherwise women are made invisible. ”

It is indisputable that there is generic masculina in German. Example: “man”. Grammatically the word is masculine, but more than half of the people are women.

But what about words like “doctor” or “teacher”?

Announcement in the ICE: “For a medical emergency we ask a doctor among the passengers in car three”. It is clear that female doctors will also respond to this call. Because men and women complete exactly the same training in Germany. There is no specific training to become a doctor.

Another announcement on the ICE: “For a medical emergency we ask a doctor among the passengers in car three.” Every male doctor (sexus) understands immediately that he is not asked. He says to himself: It will probably be a strictly religious Muslim woman who does not want to be examined by a male doctor who is also an unbeliever “Ask your doctor or pharmacist for risks and side effects”. Does that mean that you are not allowed to interview female doctors and pharmacists? Of course not. We are further in actual gender equality than the gender fighters want to admit. Incidentally, the passenger is also a generic masculinum. “Dear guests” is not (yet?) Common. And occasionally there are also generic feminines: the person, the luminary, the hostage, the guard. All of this can be men too. Among the neutras there is the beast and the member. “Dear members” has also been read before.

The generic masculinum is still accepted for the word “human” and it is not required that it should read “human beings”, from which the “human rights” would result. The generic masculinum is also accepted by doctors, depending on the context, but probably only factually. On the other hand, the nouns Actionis on -er, like teachers, are denied that they can also be used generically, i.e. including women.

The term teacher is linguistically incorrect The teacher is no longer just a person who teaches, but is also of the male gender (sex). That is why it must now always be “teachers” when it comes to all teachers. This is not correct in terms of language logic. Because the word teacher is derived from teacher and contains the ending -er, which supposedly only means men. Then the teacher would be male and female at the same time, which is undoubtedly not meant. But there is no argument based on the logic of language against the custom. If the view prevails that the teacher is always a man, then it has prevailed. In Latin there is a masculine and a feminine form of the nomina actionis: vic-tor and vic-trix. If we imitate this in German, the teaching woman would have to be called Lehrin.

“The teacher” explains itself historically. The ending -in originally denotes belonging. “The beautiful miller” did not work in the mill, but in the house and yard, that is, the old division of labor of the patriarchal family. Master, Master, May God protect you ”- this Master did not have a master’s certificate, but was married to the master.

In Saxony a remnant of this old -in has been preserved, they say “de Müllern”. When this order dissolved in small steps, women also began to work, initially unmarried. The word formation on –in changed its function to a female job title, possibly first for a teacher or kindergarten teacher, because they were among the oldest female professions with training. At the same time, “teacher” was understood exclusively as a male teacher, and double naming became common. Since this is understood as a question of recognition, justice and the prohibition of discrimination, we should accept this in principle, but not exaggerate.

We cannot completely eradicate the patriarchal legacy of our language There is intentional, unintentional, and imaginary discrimination. And please allow the generic masculinum with compound words. Consumer protection , medical association, pioneering role, professional criminals we shouldn’t gender, that would result in illegible texts. It is also difficult to imagine that women feel discriminated against by the word “short-time work allowance” because women workers are not taken into account. We should give the assurance once and for all that in such cases the women are not forgotten, but included.

We should limit the double designations to highlighted cases, especially when addressing them before meetings, and not carry them out completely consistently. We cannot completely erase the fact that our language carries patriarchal inheritance. But we can prove here and now by the fact that these remains are meaningless to us and do not detract from our respect for women.

Efforts have now been underway for some time to introduce the fourth gender in German, namely through the gender asterisk, which is to be spoken as “glottic stroke”. It is the crackling sound in front of the A when we compare “evening” with “having” or “refreshing”. Although this crackling sound is not written in German, it is spoken according to fixed rules. The French consider it typically German and have problems pronouncing it. It is spoken before vowels at the beginning of the word or the word stem, if no consonant precedes – possibly also after prefixes (to contain, not to contain), but never before suffixes. In Semitic languages, on the other hand, crackling sounds also occur in the interior of the word, because there they are independent carriers of meaning (phonemes), cf.Kana an.

The gender asterisk: The majority want to break their tongues If you want to pronounce the gender asterisk with the crack of a teacher, you are violating this rule. If you say a cracking sound before the suffix “–innen”, it becomes the word “inside”, the opposite of “outside”. But because “teachers” does not make sense, we have to discard this rule-compliant interpretation of what we have heard and look for a different one. So a little frustrated. The majority of German speakers will avoid such a serious violation of the sound laws (or customs) of German as offensive, uncomfortable and stilted and will not break their tongue.

Incidentally, most of the languages ​​on our globe have no grammatical gender. Accordingly, women there cannot be linguistically discriminated against, one would think. In Europe , for example, Finnish and Turkish have no gender. However, the position of women is extremely different in both societies. Obviously, it is not directly related to language.

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