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French Prime Mininister Edouard Philippe; A gender mystery

French PM prohibits ‘gender neutral’ government texts

French grammar and writing will not see gender equal words from official government texts anytime soon, French PM Edouard Philippe has announced.

Published: December 9, 2017, 11:39 am

    The French government has dismissed “inclusive writing”, an attempt to make French grammar more “gender equal” and less male-oriented by putting the feminine and masculine forms of nouns in the text.

    French Prime Mininister Edouard Philippe made the government’s stance clear on “inclusive writing” for the first time by telling ministers he refuses the usage of it in official texts, AFP reported.

    In an official circular to be published last month, Philippe issued a ban on such language.

    He justified his decision, by saying that their should be an adherence to grammar and syntactic rules. “State administrations must comply with grammatical and syntactic rules, especially for reasons of intelligibility and clarity,” said Philippe.

    “Chers lecteurs” means “Dear (male) readers”, but in the French version the phrase is traditionally taken to include female as well as male readers, under grammatical rules that give the masculine form of a noun precedence over the feminine.

    He echoed the Academie Francais which recently stated that the gender pronouns put the French language “in mortal danger for which our nation will be accountable to future generations”.

    A small but vocal section of the population have lobbied for “inclusive writing” while the Academie Francais – the guardians of the French language – issued a “solemn warning” stating that such moves to meddle with classic French were an “aberration”.

    Supporters say its aim to “make women more visible” in texts. They want to alter the grammar rule in French that says “masculine form must prevail over feminine form” to promote gender equality and reduce sexist stereotypes.

    In 2015, guidelines drawn up by the Haut Conseil à l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes (HCE) [High Council for equality between women and men] inclusive writing was encouraged to counter “sexism”.

    Since the guidelines have been issued, ungrammatical expressions have been creeping into written forms of the language, to curb “masculine dominance”.

    Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo notably preferred to be called Madame la Maire – Mrs mayoress – and not Madame le Maire – Mrs mayor.

    But a group of parliamentarians from Les Républicains party wrote to the education minister demanding the practice be banned, comparing it to a form of totalitarianism imagined by George Orwell in his novel “1984”.

    The prime minister has written to ministers demanding that ministries avoid inclusive writing, to boost “intelligibility and clarity”, and to make sure that traditional terminology be used in public services because the masculine form is a neutral term applicable to women too.

    Édouard Philippe’s office has said the aim is to “end the controversy”.

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