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I'm working on my bachelor's thesis to get my bachelor's degree at a German university. I am not sure about the situation in other countries, but German universities are very sensitive when it comes to gender-neutral language. Some professors mark it as a mistake if you use gender-specific terms instead of gender-neutral ones. For example, instead of Studenten (students) you are expected to write Studentinnen und Studenten (i.e. naming both female and male students specifically) or Studierende (the participle form of studieren (studying)).

While I don't want to be sexist, most variants of gender-neutral language in German are (in my opinion) verbose, disturb the text flow and make the text harder to read. This is why I want to put a disclaimer in the introduction of my thesis stating that I will not use gender-neutral language for the reasons mentioned above.

Here's what I want to put in that disclaimer:

  • Throughout the thesis, gender-specific terms may be used in order to ease the text flow.
  • Whenever a gender-specific term is used, it should be understood as referring to both genders, unless explicitly stated.
  • This is done solely for the purpose of making the text easier to read, and no offense or sexism is intended.

Is such a disclaimer generally acceptable in a bachelor's thesis (or any scientific text)? If so, are the three points stated above both adequate and thorough to state my intention, or what should I add/remove? If not, how can I go about not using gender-neutral language without having it possibly be regarded as sexism or influence my grade?

If you can give any examples of a disclaimer like that (either in German or in English), it would be helpful as well (but not required for a satisfactory answer). Thanks!

1 Answer 1

The preface to the book

Ludewig, J., Lichter, H.: Software Engineering - Grundlage, Menschen, Prozesse, Techniken. dpunkt Verlag, 2007.

can serve as an example. On pages vii and viii, it contains a section dealing with the issues, from which I'd like to cite the most important parts:

Rollenbezeichnungen

Auch in diesem Buch bleibt das Problem ungelöst, eine befriedigende Form der Rollenbezeichnungen zu finden, die nicht suggeriert, dass die Person in dieser Rolle ein männliches (oder weibliches) Wesen ist. (...) Wir gehen den üblichen Weg, alle Rollenbezeichnungen in ihrer Grundform zu verwenden, und das heißt, da wir nicht von Hebammen und Krankenschwestern reden, in ihrer männlichen Form. Es dürfte überflüssig sein, darauf hinzuweisen, dass es nach unserer Kenntnis keine einzige Rolle auf dem Gebiet des Software Engineerings gibt, die vorzugsweise oder ausschließlich mit Männern oder mit Frauen besetzt sein sollte. (...)

In English:

Role Designations

The issue of finding a satisfactory form of role designations, which do not suggest that a person occupying a role is a male (or a female) being, remains unsolved here, like in other books. (...) We take the conventional route of using the basic form for all role designations. As we are not talking about midwives and nurses1, this means, in their male form. It is probably unnecessary to point out that, to our knowledge, not a single role in the area of software engineering should preferably, or exclusively, be occupied by men or by women. (...)

1: Remark by translator: A common German word for nurse, Krankenschwester (literally: sister of/for the sick) suggests a female, comparably to the term midwife.