French dictionary accused of ‘wokeism’ over gender-neutral pronoun ‘iel’

French dictionary Le Petit Robert has been accused of “wokeism”* after it decided to include the gender-neutral pronoun “iel” in its November digital edition.

A contraction of the pronouns “il” (he) and “elle” (she), the pronoun is used to refer to a person of any gender, according to its definition.

While the word is still relatively new, it is gaining traction among young people, but it also triggered strong reactions.

Some people were puzzled, and others were even disturbed by it.

France’s Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer has criticised the addition saying inclusive language is not the future of the French language.

Blanquer was joined by François Jolivet, a member of the French National Assembly, who said that the word’s addition to the dictionary was a “solitary campaign of Le Petit Robert”, and “a manifest ideological intrusion which undermines our common language and its influence”.

The controversy is the latest example of pushback in some French quarters against cultural theories on race and gender, as critics deem that American imports aiming to pit people with different identities against each other chip away at the French ideals of unity and equality.

The dictionary’s director has defended the move, highlighting the need for diversity and accountability in the French language.

The pronoun “iel” should be included in the dictionary’s 2022 print edition.

*”Wokeism” is a disparaging term for attentiveness to claims for equality and representation from minority groups.

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