Marlies Krämer has sued her savings bank because she wants to be addressed as a “customer”. Despite the defeat in court, she does not want to give up.
In the afternoon Marlies Krämer switches off the phone for one hour. She needs a break: “My battery was completely empty, but now it is back.” Since 9.20 clock answers the 80-year-old non-stop press inquiries. Kramer has complained and demanded from her savings bank to address her in the future with “customer” and “saver”. On Tuesday morning, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe announced the verdict: its appeal request was rejected.
Thus, the pensioner has failed in the third instance. Sparkasse Sulzbach may continue to have its approximately 800 forms addressed to “customers”, “savers” and “account holders”. There is no claim to female forms, the BGH clarified. The court refers to the generic masculine, the form that should include both sexes.
The BGH recognizes that the decades-long feminist discourse has revealed the discriminatory effect of purely masculine forms of language. But the court points out that even in legal formulations, the speech is about the “borrower” and so the savings bank can not be forced to change their forms. Before the verdict of the Supreme Court, Krämer has written two sentences, which she herself calls her theses: “With the linguistic exclusion begins the patriarchal exploitation of women.”
BGH: Women have no right to female address
Marlies Krämer wanted to be addressed by her bank in forms as a customer, not as a customer. Now she failed with her revision.
She says that for years she has been a “docile housewife”. Her husband died early and she had to raise the four children alone. Only with her sociology studies, which she started at the age of 50 years, had the knot burst at her and she understood that women can not accept this disadvantage. “The feminine language is the key to equality,” is Kramer’s second thesis.
She deliberately does not speak of a “gender-equitable language”; but, like the University of Leipzig since 2013, only uses the generic feminine. So say, when she means everyone, “citizens”. And not only when she writes, but also when she speaks.
What resembles at first glance the reasoning of the advocates of the generic masculine Krämer has carefully considered: In the generic feminine masculine form is actually thought of, “even in the first place,” says Krämer. She is particularly annoyed that the Landgericht Saarbrücken has referred in second instance to the fact that the male form has been used as a collective form for both sexes since “2000 years”. For Krämer this is an “absolutely brain-tearing” reason.
She now wants to go to the next instance
But the 80-year-old feminist is not dogged even after her failure in the third instance. She is bad on foot. But her mental energy is enough. Kramer quotes Gandhi: “Strength does not grow from physical strength – but from an inflexible will.” If necessary, she would go to the European Court of Human Rights. She now wants to consult with her lawyer and then go to the next instance: the Federal Constitutional Court. There it wants to check whether the savings bank forms violate their fundamental right to equality under Article 3.
Encouraging letters confirmed Kramer in her protest. “This morning, even a woman from Stuttgart called together with her husband and thanked me.”
Kramer recalls the accusation that she should care about equal rights, such as the same level of pensions for women and men: “Language is our highest cultural asset, but we women do not appear in it.” Krämer lags behind the language of social development in matters of equal rights.
She herself is not “hostile to men.” On the contrary, they love men: “They are the salt in the soup of society, but it is just over-salted, and more female influence would make it more digestible for all.” Krämer refers to the greed for profit of modern society, but also makes use of a cliché ascribed to men.
Not everyone shares Kramer’s view and she is glad that she does not have Facebook, can not read what is written about her. The opponents probably know this too and therefore call her on the landline. “Two guys called today, one just said ‘asshole’, the other one just said something about ‘stupid women’.” Both would have hung up without giving their name. Krämer called back immediately. She has not scolded, but thanked; for the “Intellect”.
The BGH missed a chance for progress
The court claims that the male form “customer” is neutral. This is simply not true and corresponds neither to today’s language understanding nor the scientific knowledge.
Comment by Wolfgang Janisch