New gender-inclusive spellings pose a “mortal danger” to the purity of French, according to France’s four-century-old language police, the Académie Française.
The august body of luminaries has infuriated feminists by condemning the politically correct, gender-neutral version of French now being adopted by President Emmanuel Macron’s government, the civil service and academics.
The new spellings include feminine forms rather than following the rule that masculine endings denote both women and men — a practice that the French ministry for gender equality has described as a form of sexual tyranny.
Under standard rules, “amis” (friends) covers both women and men. The feminine plural, “amies”, is used only when no men are included. Under the new “écriture inclusive”, a mid punctuation point is inserted, so “amis” becomes “ami·e·s” to refer to both genders.
The “immortels” — as the Académie’s 40 members are known as — would become “immortel·le·s” to include its handful of women members.
The new rules are an attempt to avoid offending or excluding women and transgender people. But the pre-eminent authority on the French language argues that the new forms are clumsy to read and write, although they are not intended to alter spoken pronunciation.
Gender inclusivity “leads to a fragmented language, disparate in its expression, creating confusion that borders on being unreadable… Faced with this ‘inclusive’ aberration, the French language is in mortal danger, for which our nation is accountable to future generations”, said the Académie, in a unanimous declaration. Caroline De Haas, a feminist activist, countered: “The Académie Francaise is supposed to reflect the evolution of language and new developments as its role is to codify them. This time, it is trying to go against progress and it is insulting to women.”