France Bans 'Gender-Neutral' Spellings from Being Taught in Schools
Academie Francais slams words as 'a threat to the French language'
France has banned the use of "gender-neutral" spellings of words being taught in schools, declaring that it has become a "threat to the French language."
Last week, France's education ministry issued the ruling in response to a push to include punctuation marks in the middle of written words - dubbed "midpoints."
The use of midpoints in words allows both male and female forms to be represented simultaneously and, therefore, making gendered language "woke" and "more inclusive."
However, the body responsible for guarding the French language, the Academie Francaise, blasted the move as "harmful to the practice and understanding of [French.]"
In French grammar, nouns take on the gender of the subject to which they refer, with male preferred over female in mixed settings.
Therefore, a group of friends with four women and one man is referred to using the masculine "amis" - triggering outrage among gender equality advocates.
With midpoints included, the written world becomes "ami.e.s," including the feminine "e" ending - though it would still be pronounced the same when spoken.
Advocates say the midpoints make French "more inclusive" but critics say it creates differences between written and spoke French, which make the language harder to learn and threaten its entire existence.
Nathalie Elimas, the State Secretary for Priority Education, said the drive to make French "gender-neutral" will not increase its popularity, but will instead drive more people to learn English, which does not gender its nouns.
"With the spread of inclusive writing, the English language - already quasi-hegemonic across the world - would certainly and perhaps forever defeat the French language," she said as the ban was issued.
Jean-Michel Blanquer, France's education minister, told Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche the use of dots in the middle of words also "present a barrier" for people with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia.
In response, the left-wing SUD - one of France's largest teaching unions - issued its own statement calling on teachers to ignore the ruling.
Blanquer should "stop trying to impose his backwardness on the education community," the statement said.
But the Academie's decree did include some concessions to equality campaigners, recommending that certain job titles should change forms when the person holding the role is female.
For example, a female president would be referred to as "présidente."
Job application forms should also include both male and female titles to encourage more women to apply, the decree added.
Research has claimed that women sometimes feel put off from applying for roles when only male forms are used on the application.