Gender-sensitive language

Our language does not represent reality objectively, but co-constructs it: How we study, work, teach or research, what we find important and what we overlook, how we think - All this finds its expression in language and is simultaneously influenced by it. With language we learn the values and norms of society and reproduce them at the same time.

Language is a very fine instrument that fulfills needs for communication and understanding. However, language is also an instrument of power and exclusion. The language written and spoken at a university should be a language of democracy and equality.

On Jan. 24, 2017, the Academic Senate of ASH Berlin decided to use the so-called static gender gap (e.g., Mitarbeiter_innen) in all new statutes and regulations of ASH Berlin. It was also decided to add the so-called gender asterisk (*) to terms such as women, men, female, male, etc. (e.g. women*).

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An underscore indicates a gap between the masculine form and the feminine ending of a word. The space symbolizes room for people who do not find themselves in a system that only knows women and men, such as inter*, trans*, and non-binary people. Thus, it avoids two-gendered notations that exclude people who do not want to or cannot clearly categorize themselves as female and male.

The gender gap is communicated in spoken language with a micropause.

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Gender star

The gender asterisk (*) after "women" has so far served as a reference to the constructional character of gender. However, this process of visualization, which was intended to represent gender beyond a binary system, also has an exclusionary effect in the formulation chosen here. We continue to use the (*) as the self-designation of the Women's* Representative and as the Women's* Office in the title in order to make visible that we are approachable for more people than "just" women.

The full explanation of this can be found here: <a href=">The Crux with the Asterisk</a>.

As a rule, the gender asterisk (*) is not pronounced.

Note: the gender asterisk can also be used in a different way, and in the same way as the underscore ('students*innen')


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Gender-sensitive certificates and notifications

There have been previous resolutions supporting the embedding of gender-responsive language at ASH Berlin. For example:

-Gender-sensitive certificates and notices (resolution of the Academic Senate 16.07.2013). Previously, notices and certificates from the university were issued with the salutation "Ms." or "Mr.", for example. However, there are people who are neither or feel constrained by these gender ascriptions. Using a phrase like "Good afternoon Eren Schmidt" can make everyone feel addressed.

- Explicitly mention women*(Women's Promotion Guideline 1996 §6) Forms, documents, guidelines, ID cards, etc. of ASH Berlin must be formulated in such a way that they explicitly mention women*.

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Notes and recommendations for gender-inclusive language at ASH Berlin.

These recommendations provide guidance for all members of ASH Berlin, i.e. students, faculty, and staff. If you have any further suggestions or questions about fair wording, or if you would like to order the "Notes and Recommendations" for distribution in a seminar, please feel free to contact the ASH Berlin Women's* Representative.

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ASH Resolutions

On 24.01.2017, the Academic Senate of ASH Berlin decided to use the gender gap and the gender asterisk (*) in all new statutes and regulations.

*The gender asterisk (*) serves as a reference to the constructional nature of "gender". The asterisk after "women" is intended to clarify that it refers to all persons who define themselves, are defined, and/or see themselves made visible under the designation "woman." With regard to disadvantage and sexist discrimination against people who cannot or do not want to locate themselves in the norm of bisexuality, the team of women* representatives at ASH Berlin also sees their responsibility here towards trans*, inter* and non-binary people. In doing so, we are aware that already the classification of gender diversity under the term "women*" is a repetition of discriminatory violence and thus cannot be understood as a solution, but only as a process.

More resources

Language Guide of the AG Feministisch Sprachhandeln of the Humboldt University of Berlin

Language guide "What to do? Language action - but how? W_locations instead of inaction".

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