1. What is the problem with "man" as a pronoun??
The main task of language is to describe and distinguish: A coat from a jacket, a stool from a chair, or a fountain pen from a pencil. In these examples, the distinction works wonderfully value-neutral. But what happens when things are described and differentiated with terms that combine additional semantic properties in their designation?
Then we often don’t even notice it, for example in the area of Maledicta – as rhetoric so beautifully calls invective:
Terms such as "wanker" or "faggot" are still considered common linguistic means of expressing one’s own anger or indignation, especially on private television. In doing so, however, the speaker rarely realizes that by using the terms as Maledicta implicitly expresses a value judgment about things or people that have nothing at all to do with the situation at hand. This would not be so bad in itself, if we in communication science did not also assume that language is capable of constituting reality – both for the sending and for the receiving instance. So, theoretically, it could be assumed that every time, for example, the term f*ck is used to refer to a woman, the reality of the sending and receiving instances is shaped to some extent to the effect that it is okay to reduce a woman to her private parts.
Some feminist linguists suspect a similar shift in the German indefinite pronoun "man": Even if "man" is supposed to function as an indefinite pronoun within a formulation, "man" is indirectly part of the sentence – so the idea goes. This would give it space not only within a statement or text, but also within our mental reality, which we give expression to in the form of speech acts and thus make it experienceable for recipients as well.
2. The short history of the little "man
To better understand the thinking behind not using "man" as a pronoun, let’s take a brief look at the history of the term:
Even in Old and Middle High German, "man" was considered a common vocabulary for persons of male gender. It is suspected, however, that this masculine level of meaning was established only in Old High German, so that the term "man" originally referred only to a thinking or upright walking being and could thus be used in a gender-neutral way for the time being.
The assumption of feminist linguists is therefore: "Man" originally referred in its function as an indefinite pronoun to man as the measure of things: "That will be remembered." therefore meant "Some people will remember that.", "You’ll probably be expected to wear a hat." meant "Some men will probably expect you to wear a hat.". So the use of "man" was definitely gendered. However, since "man" was introduced in Old High German as a term for exclusively male persons, it could be assumed that "man" indirectly refers to male persons as the measure of things: "This is what some men will remember.", "Some men will probably expect you to wear a hat."
The fact that little attention has been paid to this assumption in the field of rhetoric and linguistics can be justified, among other things, by the fact that the new occupation of the term "man" is so far back in time: Very few people consciously think of the connection between "man" and "man" when they formulate sentences like "Can be done, but one does not have to"."
Accordingly, it is also difficult to assess at the moment how social perception will develop in 2021. In any case, it is worth mentioning that in the year 2020 there was more counter-gendering in the media than ever before; first and foremost the presenters and speakers of "Funk", the constantly growing online media offering and content network of ARD and ZDF.
FYI: According to the Duden, Mannomann is still considered a casual but common interjection.
3. How to elegantly avoid "man" in web texts or press articles?
In most cases, there are numerous possibilities for web, advertising and press texts to avoid the term "man" by using alternative formulations. Take, for example, the sentence: "How can one replace ‘man’??"
Alternative gender-appropriate phrases would be:
- How to replace the term "man?
- How to replace "one" as an indefinite pronoun
- What are the alternative formulations for "man"??
- How to gender "man?
- How to avoid "man" in texts?
- What can I say instead of "man?
When "man" cannot be replaced?
A direct rephrasing or substitution of the little word "man" is not always possible. Because "man" in German often expresses much more than just the fact that the speech is now about someone or something:
"Man" is often linked in German usage with stylistic devices of irony: "One is allowed to say that!" This formulation can lose not only situational comedy, but also conciseness, if it is reformulated in a gender-appropriate way as "A person will still be allowed to say that!" / "I’ll probably still be allowed to say that!" / "That can be said!" etc.
However, feminist linguistic critics do not see a problem in this, but emphasize that it is only a question of time until we have become accustomed to the "man"-avoidance and our humorous understanding has also changed for the better in this respect.
By the way: "Man" is not an interjection!
If, for example, a salutation is added to an exclamation, in the sense of "Man, this can’t be true!"man" is also not an interjection, so that the exclamation – if a male person is addressed – is correctly "Man, that can’t be true"!" instead of "Man, that can’t be true!" would have to read.
4. Gendert as if by itself: Diversity Checks and Gender Lektorate
Gender rules are complex and constantly changing. At the same time, the demands on companies and their public relations are increasing enormously: depending on the target group, the use of gender-sensitive language within social media posts, web texts, advertising copy and press releases can make exactly the crucial difference that sets your brand apart from the competition.
But we know the situation of entrepreneurs in 2021 all too well: Corona is tugging at all our nerves and at the same time we have to keep the business going. If you want to review your social media accounts, corporate website, promotional materials and old blog articles for diversity and gender fairness on the side to save your brand from image damage, you usually have some work ahead of you. We are happy to support you with diversity checks and gender proofreading, in which we work directly within your CMS or your accounts, so that your new gender-appropriate texts are online immediately after project completion.
For all other types of diversity-focused editing or proofreading, feel free to send us your request.
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