More on "écriture inclusive"

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Following up on "Écriture inclusive" (10/9/2017), Eloy Romero Muñoz sent in a link to a June 2019 "Édition augmentée" of the Manuel d'Écriture Inclusive.

This manual, though inclusive, is not open, as explained on the copyright page:

Tout droit de reproduction, de traduction et d’adaptation réservés pour tous pays. Le Code de la propriété intellectuelle et artistique n’autorisant, aux termes des alinéas 2 et 3 de l’article L.122-5, d’une part, que les « copies ou reproductions strictement réservées à l’usage privé du copiste et non destinées à une utilisation collective » et, d’autre part, que les analyses et les courtes citations dans un but d’exemple et d’illustration, « toute représentation ou reproduction intégrale, ou partielle, faite sans le consentement de l’auteur ou de ses ayants droit ou ayants cause, est illicite » (alinéa 1er de l’article L. 122-4). Cette représentation ou reproduction, par quelque procédé que ce soit, constituerait donc une contrefaçon sanctionnée par les articles 425 et suivants du Code pénal.

The manual can be downloaded for free from, but only if you given them your email address and agree to receive their newsletter, which I guess is why they threaten punishments under "articles 425 and following of the penal code" for other methods of distribution. (Though there's no check on the address you give — works fine.)

I guess it's possible that no alternative to the copyright-page boilerplate ever occurred to them.

After that legal discourse on page 2, and the table of contents on page 3, the preamble on page 4 starts like this:

« Le discours n’est pas simplement ce qui traduit les luttes ou les systèmes de domination, mais ce pour quoi, ce par quoi on lutte, le pouvoir dont on cherche à s’emparer » : reprenant à notre tour cette idée formulée par Michel Foucault dans L’ordre du discours, nous considérons au sein de l’agence de communication d’influence Mots-Clés que le discours n’est pas simplement un instrument de l’influence, mais bien le lieu de l’influence. Que c’est par la capacité à imposer ses mots, ses expressions et ses narratifs, que l’on exerce pleinement son influence.

"Discourse is not only that which expresses the battles or the systems of domination, but that for which, that by which one fights, the power one tries to obtain" : taking up in our turn this idea formulated by Michel Foucault in L’ordre du discours, we believe in the heart of the influencing communications agency Mots-Clés that discourse is not only an instrument of influence, but really the locus of influence. That it's by the ability to impose our words, our expressions, and our narratives, that we fully exert our influence.

As the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains,

Foucault understands power in terms of “strategies” which are produced through the concatenation of the power relations that exist throughout society, wherever people interact. As he explains in a later text, “The Subject and Power,” which effectively completes the account of power given in The Will to Knowledge, these relations are a matter of people acting on one another to make other people act in turn. Whenever we try to influence others, this is power. However, our attempts to influence others rarely turn out the way we expect; moreover, even when they do, we have very little idea what effects our actions on others’ have more broadly. In this way, the social effects of our attempts to influence other people run quite outside of our control or ken. This effect is neatly encapsulated in a remark attributed to Foucault that we may know what we do, but we do not know what what we do does.

For more on Foucaultian approaches to IPR, see Wendyl Luna, "Emancipating Intellectual Property from Proprietarianism: Drahos, Foucault, and a Quasi-Genealogy of IP", Genealogy 2018.

I haven't been able to find anything by Foucault specifically on gendered language.




  1. Philip Taylor said,

    March 31, 2020 @ 10:38 am

    Although my French is not particularly good, I can understand most of it, but am puzzled by "Ne plus employer les antonomases du nom commun « Femme » et « Homme »". Could someone with a better grasp of the language offer a better translation than Google Translate can manage, please ?

  2. Frans said,

    March 31, 2020 @ 11:02 am

    @Philip Taylor
    In French, human rights are called "Droits de l’Homme." English also has a tendency to say "man" where my native Dutch would use a word like mens (human). Stuff like that.

  3. Philip Taylor said,

    March 31, 2020 @ 11:26 am

    Ah, thank you / dank je wel, Frans. Understood.

  4. Frédéric Grosshans said,

    March 31, 2020 @ 11:48 am

    @Philip Taylor
    I’m a native speaker myself, and the sentence is not clear to me. Reading a bit further in the text (and specially the footnote 3), I think it to avoid the use of two specific capitalized words. 1/ «la Femme» often supposed to represent the “ideal” woman or all women altogether, often in a supposed positive way but which is full of sexist clichés. 2/ «l’Homme» supposed to represent the idealized man or all men. It is not clear if the word itself represents all humanity (as in Déclaration des droits de l’Homme) or only its male half, and this ambiguity is clearly present in the French language, and (as specified in note 3) has been actively used to limit the right of women.

  5. Philip Taylor said,

    March 31, 2020 @ 12:07 pm

    And thank you, Frédéric (merci !). It is good to know that even to a native speaker the sentence was not entirely transparent.

  6. BillR said,

    March 31, 2020 @ 4:42 pm

    I don’t think philosophy is meant to be transparent. The current buzzword is “gatekeeping”.

  7. Andrew Usher said,

    March 31, 2020 @ 7:10 pm

    And the reason English follows Romance languages rather than other Germanic languages is possessing the ambiguity of 'man' is not any influence by the former but our lack of any cognate to Mensch (which I assume spread to all continental Germanic languages from one source). But of course we have other ways around it: we now generally say 'human rights' rather than 'the rights of man/men', though the two have different connotations for me even ignoring sex.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo dot com

  8. Michael Watts said,

    March 31, 2020 @ 10:28 pm

    the reason English follows Romance languages rather than other Germanic languages is possessing the ambiguity of 'man' is not any influence by the former but our lack of any cognate to Mensch (which I assume spread to all continental Germanic languages from one source).

    But we do have a cognate to Mensch. It's man.

  9. Michael Watts said,

    March 31, 2020 @ 10:29 pm

    (I meant to italicize man.)

  10. Noel Hunt said,

    March 31, 2020 @ 11:59 pm

    "It is good to know that even to a native speaker the sentence was not entirely transparent." I don't think lack of transparency is the cause, it is simply bullshit of the kind Mark Liberman discusses in his post of September 29, 2003 CAN DERRIDA BE "EVEN WRONG"?.

  11. Bob Ladd said,

    April 1, 2020 @ 1:38 am

    @Michael Watts: But the most direct cognate to English man in German is not Mensch but Mann, which definitely refers to adult males, not human beings in general. However, the earliest meaning of man and its Germanic cognates was 'human being', as can be seen from e.g. the fact that modern English woman goes back to an Old English form wifman, i.e. 'woman-person'. (Old English mostly used wer (as in werewolf) to refer to adult males – cognate with Latin vir.) The form Mensch (probably originally an adjectival form comparable to mannish) came to be used in German and Dutch for 'human being' and those languages then reserved Mann for adult males, while English preserved the Romance-style ambiguity.

    The etymology is complicated (I just checked) but that is a roughly accurate summary. It's definitely not as simple as "The English cognate of Mensch is man"

  12. Twill said,

    April 1, 2020 @ 2:35 am

    @Noel Hunt Not at all. The sentence in question is perfectly lucid, and the difficulty is only the obscurity of the word "antonomase" (antonomasia in English), which is explained in a footnote anyhow. "Continuer à employer…" manifestly could not stand in for "Ne plus employer…". The Foucauldian dribble is only peppered here and there, mostly when discussing the why of the novel usages rather than the how.

    If you wish to read the manual translated in English, it is available without entering your email (

  13. Peter Grubtal said,

    April 1, 2020 @ 2:59 am

    Bob Ladd –
    But "man" is the closest English equivalent, or most accurate translation of "der Mensch", even if not etymologically directly cognate.
    cf German version of "Man is born free, but….".
    Those who don't like the gendered associations have to come up with an alternative and equally punchy translation of Rousseau.
    In fact, the whole wordy piece about "Écriture inclusive" doesn't tackle such issues as dealing with : "L'homme est né libre…" Hence the obfuscation.

  14. Philip Taylor said,

    April 1, 2020 @ 4:07 am

    Peter, could one not translate German “Der Mensch wird frei getragen …„ into French « L'humanité est né libre … » if one were seeking to be gender-neutral ?

  15. Frans said,

    April 1, 2020 @ 4:16 am

    For the purposes of a tight translation surely one could or should, but strictly speaking humanity is mensheid/Menschheit. An être humain (human being) probably doesn't have quite the same ring to it. But maybe more informally, les humains/gens sont nés would do just fine? These philosophical high statements are often written in too aloof a manner regardless.

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