The effort to achieve neutral writing, in which no gender is dominant over another, is causing heated debates in Switzerland that could solve the problem at the polls.
Comprehensive writing is progressing in institutions, the press, and schools in Switzerland, in the face of the reluctance of language advocacy organizations, which will try to gather enough signatures to promote a vote on the topic, a potential initiative under the country’s direct democracy system.
Living in different languages is something the Swiss know well and this is part of their national identity as German, French and Italian are spoken in the country as well as Romansh.
Since the 1990s, the Swiss government has tended, whenever possible, to use neutral terminology. But in French, Italian, and German grammar, the masculine form takes precedence over the feminine when referring to a combination of women and men.
The result has been that recently the trend has increased to fill words with dots and asterisks to embrace at the same time masculine and feminine and also directed at non-binary people.
For its critics, it is an exaggeration and a way to distort written language and create illegible chaos.
For example, in official French texts, the term “electors”, “l’électorat”, is used instead of “les électeurs et les életricas”, masculine and feminine, respectively.
But now there are forms used, for example “les electeur.rice.s”, which, according to critics, turn sentences into gibberish.
To address natives, “citoyen ne x s” has also been used to include masculine and feminine (with the ending “ne”) and non-dual persons (with the ending “x”).
– Controversial ‘Goodnight’ on TV –
The French Ministry of Education has recently banned such formulas, and in Switzerland, many politicians, especially from the right, are campaigning to eliminate them as well.
In Germany, the Swiss Federal Chancellery banned the use of asterisks and other print marks in June to include masculine, feminine, and non-binary characters in the same word.
For example, the word “natives” (“burger” in the masculine and “burgernin” in the feminine) “burger * enen” and “burger: enen”, have been used to include non-binary citizens. All this is eliminated with this new rule.
The battle reached Parliament. Benjamin Rodoet of the Christian Democratic Party (centre) put forward a proposal in March to require the Swiss federal administration to respect the rules of the French language “without abolishing them in favor of so-called ‘universal’ writing”.
In recent months, Swiss public broadcaster RTS, the French-speaking channel, has fueled the dispute by replacing “bonsoir à tous” (“good night to all”) with “bonsoir et welcome,” a neutral form that can be translated into Spanish as “good evening and.” welcome “.
This change infuriated the Swiss section of the Defense of the French Language (DLF), whose head, Aurel Chalet, wants to hold a national conference of the French language in Switzerland and collect signatures for a public vote on the issue. .
– ‘Patriarchal power’ –
Putting the dots between letters is “inconsistent, ineffective, and ugly, and will not report anything to this legitimate fight, which I support, over the role of women in society,” Shalit said.
The official denounced the use of this type of writing not only in official areas, but also in schools, as the Swiss authorities intend to introduce some elements of a neutral language when the textbooks are renewed in the French part in 2023.
Pascal Gijaks, a psycholinguist at the University of Freiburg and author of “Does the Brain Think About Masculinity?” , calls for a “rework” of writing, even in the classroom.
“We see a society beginning to realize patriarchal power […] It’s all about men: from the schoolyard to the way we dress or talk. The language issue is part of a movement that seeks more equality.”
For Janna Kraus, of Transgender Network Switzerland (TGNS), “the existence of people who are neither men nor women is not a matter of debate, it is a social and scientific fact and it makes no sense to hide it linguistically”.
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