Life Style

In higher education, the controversial breakthrough of inclusive writing

Inclusive writing? Yes, ” of cours “, Margot uses the midpoint on a daily basis to group together the masculine and feminine forms in the same word. In exchanges with his comrades as in his academic work. “Well, not with the most conservative of my teachers”, concedes this student in master of letters. In his Parisian university, some teachers disapprove of this practice. Others are in favor of it, without forcing their students to use it. “They leave us free to write as we please, to be in tune with our values. » Because, argues Margot, inclusive writing allows “make room for women and also for non-binaries. » In other words, to people who do not feel that they strictly belong to one gender or another. A part of identity increasingly present, even claimed, in the public space.

→ INVESTIGATION. When “non-binary” young people knock on the school door

At the end of her classes, Margot is with Manon, also in master of letters. Manon does not resort to inclusive writing. “I am not sure that I would be able to apply the rules correctly”, she justifies herself. Listening to her, we especially feel that it is not a priority, even if she sees it in a good light ” the evolution of mentalities “.

“A growing aspiration to make language egalitarian”

In a few years, inclusive writing has in fact found its place – without a tidal wave – in higher education. “We sense a growing aspiration to make language egalitarian,” assures Mélanie Luce, president of Unef, an organization that uses this practice “since at least 2015”. La Fage, a student union reputed to be more moderate, also began to use the personal pronoun “iels” in its press kits, a contraction of “they” and “they”.

The establishments are autonomous, therefore free to set their own line. Some wish to send a clear signal by using inclusive writing in their communication. Like the EPF, the former Women’s Polytechnic School, located in Sceaux (Hauts-de-Seine), which became mixed in 1994 and which still welcomes a record share of women (35%). For a while, its logo clarified “engineering school”. And we nevertheless find this usage in many documents. “A way to show that girls are destined to join us”, emphasizes communications officer Manon Hernandez.

Others have backtracked. For practical reasons – “avoid heaviness in writing and reading” – as the press secretary of a university in the Ile-de-France region puts it. Or for substantive reasons, like at the University of Limoges. Its president, linguist Isabelle Klock-Fontanille, urged her administration to ban the midpoint, “an aberration that leads to writing words that do not exist and that cannot be pronounced, which widens the gap between written and oral”.

The researcher denounces “an ideological diversion of linguistics”, with a confusion between the grammatical masculine, which can include both genders, and the gendered masculine. Be careful also not to let inclusive writing spread in course materials, a practice that is now marginal. “It would add difficulty of understanding”she argues.

Concerns about the level of written expression

In reality, many avoid positioning themselves. “It would be impossible to get everyone to agree”, thus anticipates the director of a Catholic superior school. Employees are free to use inclusive writing or not.The risk, he nevertheless points out, is“give more importance to form than to substance, with a technocratic writing that restricts thought”. It is even “to see inclusive writing distract from the real issues, women’s pay, their advancement, the harassment they sometimes continue to face”.

→ DEBATE. Should inclusive writing be banned?

In his school, students have ” without a doubt “ Partially used inclusive writing in graduation work or internship reports. But the alarming signals raised by teachers are of a different nature. “They focus more on the difficulties of written expression, syntax, structure of thought among young people, who nevertheless have two or three years of study behind them…”


A practice condemned by the government

A circular from the Ministry of National Education published on May 6, 2021 recalls that it “it is appropriate to proscribe the use of so-called “inclusive” writing” at school.

In a previous text of November 21, 2017, the then Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, already invited “not to use [des] editorial and typographical practices aimed at replacing the use of the masculine, when used in a generic sense, with a spelling highlighting the existence of a feminine form. in official texts.

This rule does not apply to autonomous higher education establishments.


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