We recently discussed how the leading Irish university has barred the use of “freshman” in favor of the gender neutral term “fresh.” The French government came to the opposite conclusion this month after French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe rejected the demand to make French more “female-friendly” by dropping masculine words. French, like English, often use the masculine forms as neutral terms. It will continue to do so.
An example of the change can be found with words like “readers” which is usually written as “lecteurs” rather than the feminine “lectrices”. Reformers were demanding the rather cumbersome “inclusive” term “lecteur.rice.s”.
Philippe issues an order that reaffirmed that “The masculine (form) is a neutral form which should be used for terms liable to apply to women”.
This debate has been ranging after an elementary school book began to use inclusive versions such as references to farmers as “agriculteur.rice.s” and shop owners as “commercant.e.s” The respected Academie Francaise denounced the changes as putting the French language “in mortal danger”.