The rest of the world may worry about the economy, the Euro, immigration, terrorism, or the wars in Syria and Ukraine, but the Green Party in Germany, always on the cutting edge of politics, has bigger fish to fry.
This week the Party had its annual convention, and what was the key decision that made it into all the mass media?
Gender-neutral language means that whenever you do not speak of a specific and identifiable person, you use both the masculine and the feminine form so as to avoid any possible form of discrimination.
English is by nature more gender-neutral than German, so it is difficult to find good examples, – but here is one: instead of “Englishmen” you would make a point of speaking of “Englishmen and Englishwomen” so as to make sure the latter are included. How you speak is how you think, they say.
In German, this permanent duplication can be quite tedious; it makes texts longer and reduces their intelligibility. Instead of “Lehrer” (teachers) it will be “Lehrer und Lehrerinnen”, instead of “Studenten” (students) it is “Studenten und Studentinnen”, Instead of “Arbeitnehmer” (employees) it is “Arbeitnehmer und Arbeitnehmerinnen”, and so forth. No short-cuts allowed.
But some short-cuts are needed. Therefore gender-conscious writers have developed various techniques, such as using underscores (“Student_Innen”), an “upper-case I” (“StudentInnen”) or a so-called “Gender star) (“Student*innen”) to make their loyal commitment to gender neutrality known, while at least saving a little bit of time and ink. The only trouble is that they have not yet quite found out how to pronounce and intonat an underscore or asterisk.
This week’s Green party convention had to deal with the pressing question which of the three gender-neutral orthographies was the right one. It has come to a decision that will change the German language once and forever: Gender Star, and it alone, is to be considered orthodox. No more underscores, no more uppercase inside the word. Use the star if you don’t want to be a retrograde chauvinist.
And of course, as has been their practice for years by now, the Greens decided that their party needs a gender-neutral leadership, consisting of one man and one woman.
To be sure, this is the party that in Germany is most active in pushing for the legal recognition of “marriages” between persons of the same-sex. For marriage and parenthood, the equal representation of sexes apparantly plays no role, but for politics it does…