Germany's anti-discrimination chief condemns state bans on gender-neutral language

Ferda Ataman, known for her controversial 'potato' remarks about ethnic Germans, argues states blocking gender-neutral terms serves as a 'culture war on minorities.'

Germany's anti-discrimination chief condemns state bans on gender-neutral language
Wikimedia Commons
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Ferda Ataman, Germany's anti-discrimination commissioner, has voiced strong opposition to recent bans on gender-neutral language in some German states' schools. In comments to Der Spiegel, she labeled such prohibitions "constitutionally problematic and serving a culture war on the backs of minorities."

The German language incorporates grammatical gender for nouns, including gendered terms for professions like "Lehrer" (male teacher) and "Lehrerin" (female teacher). Left-wing activists have pushed for gender-neutral forms like "Lehrperson" or combining the masculine and feminine with an asterisk (Lehrer*innen), Remix News reports.

However, this drive toward gender-neutrality has sparked a backlash from conservatives. States including Bavaria and Hesse have enacted new rules prohibiting teachers from using such gender-neutral constructions in schools.

According to German newspaper Welt, Ataman argues these bans violate "the general personal rights of women, intersex and non-binary people." Her office plans to release a paper this week attacking the prohibitions as active discrimination against all genders. "Any other goal would be a step backwards into the last century," she stated.

Ataman herself has faced criticism for past remarks referring to ethnic Germans as "potatoes" and claiming they "mutate into thin-skinned Emo-Germans" if called by that term. In a previous Spiegel article before becoming commissioner, she expressed bafflement at outrage over the "potato German" phrasing.

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  • By David Menzies

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