To say that “the gender that excludes is the feminine” is not scandalous
An opinion of Anne Dister and Marie-Louise Moreau, teachers, authors of the guide “include without excluding”.
Nadine Plateau saw fit to launch into a vitriolic critique of the brochure that we have devoted to so-called inclusive writing. However, it is not certain that she read all the pages of this book, which however only has 80.
Madame Plateau points out a few formulas here and there, and is scandalized by it, but she does not argue. We say indeed that “the gender which excludes, it is the feminine”, and Madame Plateau is moved by it. What do we mean by this? When the language has a feminine-masculine word pair (student – student), the masculine sometimes refers to male individuals only, sometimes to individuals of both sexes. It is the context of the utterance and our knowledge of the world that decides it. Feminine words are always reserved only for the designation of women. When a magazine promises “a freebie for all new subscribers”, both men and women will take advantage of the offer; but if this magazine offers “a freebie for all new subscribers”, men will be excluded from distribution. Even five-year-olds know that when we say “my neighbors”, we only refer to women… This is explained at length in the brochure, but did Madame Plateau read all the pages? Is she able to say that we are mistaken and to argue by presenting cases where the feminine would refer to mixed sets?
The author of the article accuses us of “deliberately ignoring the works in history which show that the French language has been masculinized since the 17th century”. This is because we refute this thesis, relying on studies by language specialists before the 17th century, and we speak of it at least three times in the brochure. Long before this time, attributes are mostly masculine with different gender names; Sick, I am coexists with Sick, I follow her ; my friend with my friend (but does Madame Plateau have all the pages?).
Madame Plateau considers that the grammarians, and in particular Vaugelas, have dictated the evolution of the language. It is a naive, uninformed conception of the way languages change, a conception that we denounce on several occasions (but Madame Plateau has obviously not read these pages).
Madame Plateau considers perverse to make users of short forms feel guilty when we mention the spelling difficulties that students will encounter when confronted with these new rules. And what ? When a medicine for children comes with serious side effects, is it wrong to talk about it? Should we be silent so as not to blame the parents who would use it?
Opinion is not demonstration
Before heavily criticizing a publication, shouldn’t detractors make sure their criticisms are well-founded? Ms. Plateau’s text is published in the “Opinions” section. And it admirably illustrates this current trend where opinion takes the place of demonstration. It is the opposite of the scientific approach which is based on the analysis of facts, far from ideological militancy.
We could still come back to other allegations put forward by the author, but we will instead suggest that she engage in a slightly less superficial rereading of our work. All the same, we will stop again on this: how can it advocate a simplification of the language while pleading for the increasing complexity of writing generated by the practice of so-called inclusive writing? There, we want her to explain to us … We have been engaged for many years in research which pleads for a profound reform of the spelling of French, for the abolition of the rule of agreement of the past participle with to have, we observe students’ practices and their learning difficulties, and yet we do not see how Ms. Plateau intends to reconcile these two extremes: so-called inclusive writing and simplification of writing.