The old fairy tale of community (

Binarity is for computers – and some ministries

Photo: Delia Giandeini

A Justice Department bill caused a stir because it was mostly written in female form. After a backlash from the Ministry of the Interior and the Internet, the language of the document has now been changed.

Nobody saw that a ministerial draft on restructuring and insolvency law would make such waves. The main reason for the excitement were words such as: owner, insolvency administrator, creditor. A debate has flared up since Monday about the generic masculine and feminine, gender-equitable language and what exactly that is, common understanding.

The draft met with some violent outrage, but also great praise. Criticism came mainly from the house of Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU). He confirmed to the BILD newspaper that he had lodged an objection to the draft “in the form it was sent”. In the opinion of the Ministry of the Interior, the document must be adapted to the applicable regulations, i.e. use the generic masculine. Because women would be included in the generic masculine, justified a spokesman. In the version of the draft, however, it is not clear whether male and female persons are included. And the correctness of the language must be guaranteed, especially with legal texts, also with regard to the legal formality, it said.

Further doubts were also expressed at the federal press conference by a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior. It is questionable whether the draft is constitutional at all. The wording of the draft would suggest that the law may only apply to women. The generic feminine is “so far not linguistically recognized for use for female and male persons.” People who identify as neither women nor men, i.e. who have no binary gender identity, were not included in the debate at all.

The linguist Luise F. Pusch explained to the “nd” why the generic masculine is problematic. It will make all people who are not male disappear. This would systematically withdraw their attention and be projected onto the men. “This is harmful,” the scientist concluded.

There has also been hot debate on social media since Monday. Both “masculine” and “feminine” trended for hours on Twitter. One user summarized the situation as follows: “The Ministry of Justice is writing a draft bill for a law in the generic feminine and everyone is freaking out.” Many men complained that they did not feel included in the generic feminine. Nevertheless, the generic feminine can generally mean both female and male persons. For example, the word “reader” is part of “reader”; this is not visible in the generic masculine. Male users in particular emphasized that the debate mainly shows how badly men cope with a change of perspective. Anatol Stefanowitsch, linguist at the Free University of Berlin, explained in a thread on Twitter why the term “included” is so indicative of the problem: “Men are meant, women are only meant. So it’s not about “linguistic” recognition, but about social recognition. ”According to Stefanowitsch, the generic masculine implies that women are a kind of mental addendum to men. Many feminists were enthusiastic about the initiative, also because it is “the other way around”. Men now know what it feels like to be meant.

According to Luise Pusch, who has been campaigning for the generic feminine for more than three decades, the whole “excitement of men is nonsense”. You have studied the document of the Ministry of Justice and come to the conclusion that it is not written in the generic feminine. We are talking about legal persons such as a GmbH, companies or law firms that are grammatically female. In fact, other examples can also be found in the ministerial draft, such as employees and citizens. So men are not only meant symbolically.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Justice published the final version of the draft bill. In many cases, the generic feminine was removed and replaced by the pair form, for example »Richter and Richter«. In some cases, however, the generic feminine “debtor” was also exchanged for the generic masculine “debtor”. In the press release on the current legislative procedure, the linguistic change in the final version of the draft bill or a justification for this necessity by the Ministry of Justice were not mentioned at all.