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Macron opposes gender-neutral French writing

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Macron said 2024 is a year of determination, choices,

French President Emmanuel Macron waded into a culture war debate on Monday, saying France should “not give in to fashionable trends” as he appeared to back a bill to ban “inclusive language”.

French is tricky for those trying to be strictly gender neutral since most nouns come in masculine and feminine forms.

In the past, the masculine was used as the default, but increasingly people have started offering both versions, separated by dots or dashes, to be more inclusive — for example: “cher.e.s francais.e.s” (dear French).

The Senate was set to debate a proposed ban on this inclusive writing on Monday, put forward by right-wing lawmakers.

Macron, who happened to be opening a museum to the French language on the same day, appeared to agree with them.

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“We must allow our language to live, but also keep its foundations… and not give in to fashionable trends,” he said as he inaugurated the Cite Internationale de la Langue Francaise in northeastern France.

“In this language, the neutral form is provided by the masculine. We don’t need to add dots in the middle of words to make it better understood,” Macron added.

The proposed law, whose title claims it will protect French against “the abuses of inclusive language”, has been described as “retrograde” by left-wing politicians.

It aims to ban the use of such phrasing in education, and in all official texts ranging from work contracts to court documents to instruction manuals.

It takes particular aim at the use of “iel” — a combination of “il” and “elle” (he and she) which has become popular to refer to people who are non-binary or whose gender is unknown.

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Its backers argue a ban is actually more inclusive.

Cedric Vial, of the right-wing Republicans, told AFP that disabled, illiterate and dyslexic people faced “additional difficulties” from the complex new rules of inclusive language.

“To be inclusive, we actually need to simplify the language,” he said.

Socialist senator Yan Chantrel, by contrast, said it was “an unconstitutional, retrograde and reactionary bill, part of a long-standing conservative trend of fighting against the increased visibility of women.”

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AFP

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