Brigitte Macron has declared that she is against inclusive writing, a system of spelling which has become popular in French universities keen to convey gender neutrality.
Macron, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron and a former teacher, said that adults should be free to choose their gender, but mixing genders in grammar should be off limits.
According to The Times:
Macron, 69, told L’Obs magazine that she was against the system because of her love of the language.
“Learning French is already difficult. Let’s not add complexity to complexity. It’s a cultural position,” she said. Speaking for “the silent majority”, she said she was not against adults freely deciding to change gender but she remains against mixing genders in grammar.
Inclusive spelling, which is used by the socialist-led Paris council and also by the Sorbonne, requires the attachment of a hyphenated -e and -s to add feminine and a plural senses to grammatically masculine adjectives and nouns.
For example, the address “Cher lecteur” [dear reader] becomes “Cher·e·s lecteur·rice·s”, an unpronounceable string of letters that is supposed to imply parity for male, female and non-binary readers.
Enraged traditionalists, including the Academie Française, the official guardian of the language, see the form as an ugly mouthful and a symptom of a damaging invasion by American “woke” culture.
Its defenders dismiss opponents as reactionary entitled white people who vote for righ-twing politicians and read Le Figaro, equivalent to the Daily Telegraph in the UK. The academy decreed in 2017 that the form was counterproductive to the anti-discrimination cause and was “harmful to the practice and comprehension of the French language”.
Mrs Macron normally stays clear of controversy but as a literature teacher she occasionally wades into the language row.
A year ago, she criticised the Robert dictionary, the liveliest of the country’s lexicons, for listing a freshly-minted pronoun “iel” that has been coined by progressives to replace il (he or it) and elle (she or it).
“There are two pronouns, il and elle,” she said then. “The language is beautiful. And two pronouns are fine,” she said.
While the unpronounceable “iel” has stirred conservative anger, like the inclusive suffixes, its use has not spread as widely.
Its more militant proponents have already moved on, demanding abandonment of any suggestion of gender and proposing “ol” or “ul” instead. In contrast some the -e-s suffixes have begun appearing in some corporate communications.