Is Rose-Möhring Nitpicking the German Anthem?


From now on you are not allowed to say “mother tongue”. Nor is the word “fraternize” allowed. After all, both words carry gender, implying that the mother tongue is only the language spoken by mothers and you can only “fraternize” with brothers. If you are not a woman, specifically a mother, you must feel excluded when you hear the word mother tongue. Similarly, only men can apparently form a close friendship with one another, or fraternize.

To most of us, this sounds ridiculous. Our gender does not define the words we choose to use nor do these words carry a gender. A man or a woman can both speak in their mother tongue without feeling as if that language discriminating against men.

Nevertheless, many argue that the German anthem is doing just that. By striving together “brotherly with heart and hand” for the “fatherland”, women were excluded. Kristin Rose-Möhring, an equality commissioner of the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, pointed out this sexist anthem and proposed changing the “Deutschlandlied”. “Vaterland” [fatherland] should be changed to “Heimatsland” [home country] and “brüderlich” [brothely] needs to be altered to “couragiert” [courageously].

Other countries such as Canada and Austria have already done just that. Both countries now have a gender-neutral anthem. Austria’s “Heimat bist du großer Söhne” [You are home to great sons] was changed to “Heimat großer Töchter und Söhne” [Home of great daughters and sons]. While I praise Austria’s step forward, I do not think that the German anthem needs a do-over. Contrasting to the Austrian anthem where women were explicitly excluded, the German anthem simply has words that have a male origin.

“Vaterland” is simply a German word and it is not supposed to mean that Germany is only home to men and fathers. Instead, for me personally, it represents the family of German people and the connection the German people have with each other. Hearing the word “brüderlich” fulfills a similar function for me. Additionally, the German language has always had some type of gender that actually did not exclude men or women. The German word for hate (der Hass) and war (der Krieg) are masculine, but that does not mean that all men are hate-filled brutes. Similarly, words such as discrimination (die Diskriminierung) and violence (die Gewalt) are feminine, but not all women discriminate and are violent.

Nevertheless, I do understand her concern. Perhaps the German anthem is a warning sign of how women are viewed as not important in Germany. Perhaps it justifies the belief of misogynists. Perhaps. However, those are speculations and I am completely confident that there are other areas that would benefit more from Rose-Möhring’s attention. Perhaps she should focus on the wage gap between men and women in Germany which is higher than the EU average at 21%. That seems like a more pressing issue.

There is more to concentrate on if she grows bored again. Over half of German employees have experienced sexual harassment at the workplace. When you find the time, perhaps look into that instead of verses.

Not only are you arguably wasting your time, but you are also undermining your own cause. Sexism is a real issue in Germany and by nitpicking such tiny problems, you are making it seem as if it isn’t. It appears as if you have run out of equality issues. As if there aren’t bigger and immensely more important obstacles women need to overcome in Germany.