The article “The Fairy Tale of Gendersterntaler” by Ingo Meyer was published a year ago in the Berliner Zeitung over the weekend. He was first nominated for the Reporter Award and now also for the Theodore Wolff Award in the “Opinion” category. The winners will be announced tomorrow in Berlin.
Berlin newspaper: How long have you been working on your article?
Ingo Meyer: Gross, definitely half a year. Much of the material I collected during that time flowed into the text. Actual work on the script took several weeks.
You work in the proofreading department at the Berliner Zeitung. Did your job push you to deal with the language of sex?
In any case. I encounter it every day and notice the change in spelling very fast and clear. Above all, it immediately became clear to me a problematic side of this language. For example, if the text mentions “press office staff” as a source: is it examined whether the group of people in question consists of men, women, and nonbinary people? If I use asterisks or other symbols to focus on gender, how can I validate what I claim? The generic, non-gendered form relieves me of this research effort.
At www.gendersterntaler.de he collects articles on the topic of his article with XY.
What do you think of the claim that our language is unfair and paternalistic?
I find it very hard to believe that German of all things is unfair among many languages on earth. If language is associated with justice, then there must be gender justice unparalleled in Turkey or in Arab countries, because the languages in these regions are very “gender-fair”. So Icelandic would be a highly unfair language, but Iceland has a very high index when it comes to equality. This is what bothers me about the whole thought process. There is a kind of magical notion among advocates of sexual language that you are changing the language, and here is the society getting better. I think society improves when society changes. This cannot be evoked in the linguistic fast lane. You also have to keep in mind: if you overdo it with this language, you alienate a lot of people who are in favor of justice, but don’t want to get involved in the linguistic genre. I find it unfortunate how much energy we are putting into this discussion.
Do you think proponents of gender-sensitive language make ideological arguments?
Yes partially. It comes a lot from identity politics. Proponents argue mainly from a sense of injustice, rather than from linguistic reality.
Many representatives of the media support gender language, but many people on the street and in everyday life criticize it. How does this contradiction occur?
I think the discourse is shaped by an academic and media bubble. Many people outside this bubble feel that sex has nothing to do with their daily lives, and they understand Bernd Stegmann’s ironic suggestion to Capital: “Give in to the delicate demands of language until activists win, and they use it.” Excitement to Increase Returns When I walk into my neighborhood, or to my family doctor or baker, I don’t hear that language at all. I do not think that the language of gender will prevail among the population, it is too complex for that. Language has always tended towards simplicity towards efficiency. The language of sex is the opposite. You’ll fail, not because people are against content, but because it’s so hard to talk happily about a weekend when you have to make a clear distinction, I met three friends.
Is this your main argument? That this language is impractical?
This will be my second argument. My main argument is that gender German excludes people, which makes the space for thinking smaller. If I say “Africans” I can pack all the ideas I have. When I say Africans or Africans, I am focusing on the gender of these people. All other characteristics that these people have or could have are hidden by this focus on gender. Language is sexual.
And the second aspect that you criticize is the aesthetics of language?
exactly. The language seems bureaucratic and complicated. By the way, she is also not sensitive if she constantly emphasizes sexuality. For me, it’s sensitive to cover up things that shouldn’t come out without being asked. We don’t sit here in the room without underwear.
How was the reaction to your text?
The messages from readers, over a hundred, were unmistakable. Readers, including many women, agreed with me, and in some cases asked on their knees that we do not introduce gender language in the Berliner Zeitung.
There were hardly any objections?
One or two… May I say a word to our readers?
Dear readers! Imagine that you are inviting someone from your family or circle of friends who you trust, but who does not share your position on sex issues, to an interview. Understanding can grow from listening, tolerance from understanding, and acceptance from tolerance. Discuss with each other. Then see where you end up together.
When you are in a conversation with colleagues who want sex, what does the discussion look like? Can you find each other?
So far there have been no deep and long enough conversations. It rarely goes to the basics. I received an interesting email from a colleague. I quote: “Gender advocates are less concerned with including all genders in a logical way. It is more about creating linguistic sensitivity that draws attention, through discomfort in language, to the fact that we often do not think about the diversity of gender difference in speaking and writing.” I have been able to Understood that very well, and it all helped me understand it. But I got stuck in two places. Gender-friendly people seem to realize that their language often lags behind logically. And they accept that. As a journalist, especially as a final editor, I can’t agree with a little logical language. And the second point: they are concerned with the irritation of language, they want to draw attention to something. They should be happy to do so, but please not in the press. Journalism is all about providing good writing that is easy to understand and focuses on the issue, not gender diversity.
You have now been nominated for one of Germany’s most important journalistic awards as editor-in-chief of the Berliner Zeitung. How does that make you feel?
Of course I’m really happy, I wasn’t really expecting that. I thought to myself that there would definitely be people on the jury who championed gender language so fiercely. They obviously have the size to nominate a controversial script anyway. This gives me hope that our society will not devour itself and eventually overcome all challenges.
We’ll know more tomorrow night. Congratulations on the nomination and toi toi toi!
The Theodor Wolf Prize will be awarded on Wednesday 22 June 2022 in Berlin.