This is what The Daily Telegraph had to say on this subject.
“Ladies, gentlemen and non-binary viewers, good evening.”
Newsnight has not yet succumbed to this type of “gender-sensitive” intro but the greeting – or words to that effect – is now included in the guidelines for TV news anchors on public broadcasters in Germany.
Inclusive perhaps but it is also fuelling the rise of the far-Right.
That, at least, is the view of Friedrich Merz, the German opposition leader, who argues that such woke warping of the language of Goethe is a key reason the far-Right AfD is now polling neck and neck with Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats.
“Every time a news anchor uses gender-sensitive language, a few hundred more votes go to the AfD,” claimed the head of the Christian Democrats.
Such outrage is by no means limited to Germany. Indeed, the seep of new gender devices in media, academia and public documents is sparking a rising backlash across the continent’s Romance language nations – notably Spain, Italy, and France.
In Germany, the debate has mainly focused on the use of the traditional “generic” masculine form to refer to mixed groups of people.
While feminists argue this excludes women from the conversation, attempts to create inclusive alternatives have been unwieldy, argue critics.
Including a feminine ending adds five letters to a word. Throw in the guttural stop that progressives deploy to refer to non-binary people (written as a *) and a word like Lehrer, meaning “teachers”, turns into Lehrer*innen.
News anchors are under increasing pressure to address their audience as Zuschauer*innen instead of the standard Zuschauer.
Language purists argue this destroys the flow of a sentence.
“The whole gender debate is a pomposity of people who have no idea about language,” thundered Wolf Schneider, the legendary news anchor, in a recent interview with Bild newspaper.
“There is not the slightest connection between natural and grammatical gender,” he pointed out, referring to words such as “das Weib”, meaning “woman”, which is neuter.
Over in Spain, inclusive language and in particular the emergence of gender-neutral pronouns has become a political battlefield in recent years.
Ministers from the hard-Left Podemos party in the ruling coalition have promoted the use of nouns and pronouns ending in “e” to avoid making assumptions about a person’s gender.
Irene Montero, the equality minister, is regularly mocked by conservative opponents for her insistence on using words such as “todes” instead of “todos” to refer to “everyone”.
Similarly, members of Spain’s government, which has introduced transgender legislation allowing for self-identification of gender, use the term “niñe” to refer to a boy (niño) or a girl (niña).
In 2021, the conservative Popular Party and the far-Right Vox asked parliament to ban inclusive language from government documents but the motion was defeated.
‘Politically correct folly’
In Italy, meanwhile, attempts to create a gender-neutral suffix were last year branded “politically correct folly” by the country’s leading linguists, with a petition launched to fight efforts to introduce it more broadly garnering more than 15,000 signatures.
Italian academics are appalled at the growing use of the suffix, known as a “schwa”, including in a government document sent to university professors. It resembles an upside down “e” and if used in the plural is written as a “3”.
Well-meaning attempts to foster inclusion were “abolishing centuries and centuries of linguistic and cultural evolution,” the intellectuals warned.
That debate echoes a similar controversy in France, where in 2021 a leading dictionary added the “iel” to its online edition. Le Robert dictionary said it had added the non-binary pronoun after noticing its growing usage among the French.
However, much of the debate in France has focused on “inclusive writing”, spelling that adds a hyphenated -e and -s to add feminine and a plural sense to grammatically masculine adjectives and nouns. Thus, “Cher lecteur” (dear reader) becomes the unpronounceable “Cher·e·s lecteur·rice·s”.
The Académie Française has dubbed it a “mortal danger” for the language while even Brigitte Macron, the first lady and a French teacher, recently spoke out against its use.
“Learning French is already difficult. Let’s not add complexity to complexity. It’s a cultural position,” she said. Claiming she spoke for “the silent majority”, she added that she was not against adults freely deciding to change gender but remains against mixing genders in grammar.
Her husband, however, has toed a more ambiguous line.
In his first term, President Macron’s conservative former prime minister, Edouard Philippe, banned inclusive writing in France’s Official Journal, which publishes new laws, while Jean-Michel Blanquer, his former education minister, insisted it was “not the future of the French language” and banned its use in schools.
‘It’s a godsend for populists’
However, Francois Jolivet, an MP – and a Macron ally who unsuccessfully tabled a draft bill to ban inclusive language from all state documents – has called on him to come clean on the issue, pointing out that “even the French president sends invitations to MPs with the word ‘député.e.s’.”
“You now have journalists on France Inter (France’s main public radio station) who say ‘iel’ rather than ‘il’ or ‘elle’ and others who say ‘toustes’ instead of “tous” (everyone).”
“I think it’s bull—t and agree that it is fuelling the far-Right,” he told the Telegraph. “It’s a godsend for populists.
“I’m all for gender parity but inclusive writing excludes all people who have reading problems such as dyslexia, which amounts to 15 per cent of the population.”
This month, Etienne Blanc, the conservative senator, called on the government to take a stance.
“(Albert) Camus said that all human sorrow comes from not keeping language clear,” he said.
“So is it yes or no to inclusive writing?”