Is there anything inherently bad about gender?
No, of course not!
says the modern, well-educated thinker.1
And yet, one can’t help but shake the impression that gender, or at least the physiological aspects, have a negative tinge to them. If one is a foreign observer of German, that is.
How’s that? Because Geschlecht.
“Bad!” leaps out at you from the German word for “gender.” Or “sex,” in some contexts.2 Schlecht is one of those words you taught yourself to stumble through upon arrival ins Vaterland while explaining your lack of language prowess to the nice border control people at the airport.
Entschuldigung, mein Deutsch ist sehr schlecht.
But I digress. Let’s come back to gender: what can we conclude about it? Is it truly linked to bad, evil, sub-par-ness or other negativity, somewhere deep in the psyche of the typical native speaker?
“No, of course not — not anymore, at least.” We’d like to think that. But consider that the last bastion of defense of your Geschlechtsteile, unless you’ve taken measures to the contrary, are nearby, both physiologically and emotionally: your Schamhaare — “shame hairs.”
Reluctance to Drop Trou
Have you ever caught a German colleague in a mistake he’s made and was hoping no one would notice? If he acknowledges his misfortune at all, you may hear him dejectedly admit:
Mei, da muss ich wohl die Hose runterlassen…
This would imply that he’s not really looking forward to exposing his bits. It’s an expression about facing up to your shame, which is normally kept properly stowed in your pants.4
It means “traffic,” as a noun. But watch out — when it’s a past participle serving as an adverb or adjective, as in verkehrt, it means “backwards,” and usually denotes something did not go as planned. Kind of like how “backwards” as an adjective in English implies developmental difficulty.
Literally, “gender traffic,” it’s a cold, clinical way of describing…yeah, just what you thought. Though one of the translations for Verkehr I found was “communion,” which at first sounds kind of nice, until I was reminded of a certain sacrament from my Catholic upbringing.
- “Except perhaps that our widely-accepted Western notion of ‘Two Sizes Fit All’ seems increasingly outdated, disenfranchising, and less fun,” s/he pondered internally. [↩]
- Whether those are really the same thing is certainly not something I’m prepared to dive into in this blog, let alone this post. [↩]
- This is the real reason for the plexiglass divder at the passport booths. [↩]
- Here we mean the British kind. [↩]