Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures Publications and Other Works

StudentInnen, Student*innen, or Student_innen: How Six German Universities are Constructing Gender Equitable Language and Increasing Female Linguistic and Visual Representation

Julia Goncalves


The German language has traditionally utilized generic masculine forms to refer to groups with mixed genders; however, this creates a skewed perception of a group’s gender representation. Lann Hornscheidt and the AG Feminist Language Action published a brochure at Humboldt University that details a plethora of gender neutral and gender inclusive phrases to replace the generic masculine, and this publication sparked a backlash from conservative media, stating that the brochure and universities seek to undermine the grammar of the German language. This paper seeks to describe, evaluate, and establish criteria for adequate linguistic and visual representation for both females and males at six German universities by analyzing the online documents available for the public. The criteria—mission statement, motivation, cited academic research, linguistic resources, and visual resources, and target audience—serve as an assessment for combatting unequal gender representation, generate a basic understanding of how six major German universities are addressing gender equitable speech, and augment the discussion around gender equality as a whole in Germany.