News & Politics

France Rejects U.S.-Inspired 'Wokeism' on Race and Gender Issues

Sebastien Nogier, Pool via AP

The radical left in France has taken note of activists in the United States who are using race and gender issues to gain power and influence and have decided to see if they can duplicate their success in France.

The French elites — unlike many elites here in the U.S. — are not thrilled at the left’s efforts. They believe that wokeism weakens the republic, contradicting the creed of “liberty, equality, and fraternity” for all.

“We have to look at what’s weakening democracy, weakening the republic,” said Jean-Michel Blanquer, the French education minister in the Wall Street Journal. “Wokeism is clearly that.”

Controversy erupted last month after Le Robert, a dictionary publisher, included an entry for “iel”—a gender-neutral pronoun that fuses “il” and “elle,” the French words for “he” and “she.” The pronoun is intended to counteract a default for the masculine gender in French and to accommodate those who don’t want to specify a gender. The decision came amid a fierce debate over whether such writing should be permitted in official documents.

“I see the first step, or the stigma, of woke-isme,” said François Jolivet, a lawmaker from Mr. Macron’s party. “When we look at what’s happening in the United States, we can’t think that new freedoms have come with the arrival of inclusive writing.”

Other nations aren’t blind. They can see how the left and wokeism are tearing this country apart. And especially in a nation like France, which prides itself on its tolerant self-image, this battle over “gender-neutral” pronouns has ignited a conflict that is both ludicrous and unnecessary.

Related: Do the Words ‘Blacklist’ and ‘Whitelist’ Offend Racial Sensibilities?

The French have decided to deal with the issue of statues of not-woke historical figures far more intelligently than Americans.

During the 2020 protests, some activists called for France to remove the names of people linked to the slave trade from statues and public buildings. They targeted Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who in the 17th century helped draft the Black Code, which detailed brutal punishments that could be inflicted on people enslaved in French colonies. A statue of Colbert stands in front of France’s National Assembly. French leaders rejected the idea.

“We must do historical and memorial work that does not consist in erasing what we are but in completing our history, with new statues, new street names,” Mr. Macron said.

“Erasing history,” indeed.

It’s not surprising that the “inclusive writing” from woke French radicals would raise the hackles of the Académie Française, the guardians of all things French. The Académie nearly had a stroke when it was proposed that some computer terms like wi-fi, software, and e-mail be adopted into the “official” French language.

But neutralizing gender in French?

But the academy has previously taken a dim view of inclusive writing, arguing that it would undermine the fight for gender equality. Among other changes, inclusive writing allows the masculine and feminine versions of French words to be stuck together with a dot, for example, “Français·es” to refer to a group of French men and women. Traditional usage calls for the masculine form “Français.”

“By advocating an immediate and comprehensive reform of the spelling,” the academy said in May, “the promoters of inclusive writing violate the rhythms of language development according to a brutal, arbitrary and uncoordinated injunction.”

“Brutal, arbitrary, and uncoordinated” sounds a lot like the American language police who won’t be happy until there are 60 pronouns being used to describe all the genders.

Macron is fighting a losing battle against wokeism. The trajectory of change on the democratic left is making wokeism the preferred method of “reform” in western democracies. The problem is that any backlash against radicalism is only delaying the inevitable.

They are Borg-like in the single-minded pursuit of their goals. It’s what makes them effective. And it’s what should scare the crap out of the rest of us.