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Unveiling Gender Neutrality: Exploring Sexism in the German Language

Updated: Mar 2

The question of whether the German language is sexist has sparked considerable debate and reflection in linguistic circles and beyond. As languages evolve, so do discussions surrounding inclusivity, and German, with its grammatical gender system, has been at the forefront of these conversations. In this blog post, we will delve into the nuances of gender neutrality in German, exploring how the language handles gender, the challenges it presents, and the ongoing efforts to promote inclusivity.

Understanding German Grammatical Gender

German is renowned for its grammatical gender system, where nouns are assigned one of three genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter. While this system contributes to the language's structure and clarity, it has raised concerns about reinforcing gender stereotypes and biases.

  1. Gendered Nouns: Many nouns in German are inherently gendered, aligning with societal perceptions of gender roles. For example, most professions use the masculine form as the default and then add an -in ending to indicate a female, e.g. "der Lehrer" (the teacher) is masculine, while "die Lehrerin" is feminine. Worse still, for a long time, some professions only existed either in the male or female form. To this day, „die Krankenschwester“ is only used for female nurses, whereas male nurses are „Krankenpfleger“. This inherent gendering has led to discussions about whether it perpetuates stereotypical views of certain professions.

  2. Inclusive Language Efforts: In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the need for more inclusive language. Efforts have been made to challenge traditional gendered terms and introduce alternatives that encompass all genders. This includes using gender-neutral job titles and avoiding gender-specific language when referring to mixed-gender groups. Nowadays, those in favour of using gender neutral language, often use an asterisk * (also known as gender star, or in German, “Gendersternchen”) or a colon : to combine the male and female form, e.g. Lehrer:innen. Others dismiss such attempts at making the language more inclusive by derogatively calling it “gendern”.

  3. The Role of Pronouns: Pronouns play a crucial role in linguistic discussions about gender inclusivity. While German traditionally uses "er" (he) and "sie" (she), there has been a push for more gender-neutral pronouns, such as "Xier/Xies/Dier” which are the most commonly used pronouns by the non-binary community. This reflects a broader societal shift towards recognising non-binary and gender-diverse identities, but they haven’t been picked up by the wider public.

Navigating Inclusive Language

As language evolves, so do the ways in which speakers navigate inclusivity. It remains to be seen how native speakers will deal with evolving language conventions that aim to make German more inclusive in the years to come. So the final word on the subject matter hasn’t been spoken yet.


The question of whether the German language is sexist is multifaceted, touching on linguistic structures, societal perceptions, and ongoing efforts for inclusivity. By examining these aspects, we hope to contribute to a nuanced understanding of gender neutrality in the German language and the dynamic conversations surrounding language, identity, and progress.



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