What Gender Owes to Grammar

Linguistic analysis and the study of language use is thus a necessary step in understanding how the social organisation of sex relations is perpetuated.

Separating chickens according to sex in a factory, March 7, 1956. Adolph B.

Separating chickens according to sex in a factory, March 7, 1956 | Adolph B, Wikipedia | Public Domain

Gender can be said to owe something to grammar in two senses. On one hand, our concept of masculine and feminine, of men and women, is largely determined by language, whether we are conscious of it or not. In this case, gender as the “social organization of the relationship between the sexes” (Joan W. Scott) is a legacy of grammar. On the other hand, the very term “gender” that is now used to describe and analyse this social organisation was, for a long time, mainly used in the field of grammar. We will start by considering this “loan” and its implications, before returning to the subject of how grammar acts upon gender relations and plays a crucial role in perpetuating them. Thanks to Icaria Antrazyt, we offer an exclusive preview of the chapter “What Gender Owes to Grammar” by Yannick Chevalier and Christine Plante from the book ¿Qué es el género? coordinated by Laurie Laufer y Florence Rochefort.

What the notion of gender owes to grammar

It appears that the term “gender” was borrowed from field of grammar, and that some remnants of this earlier meaning remain in the use of this word to refer to “social sex [1]”. The persistence of this grammatical sense enhances the term, and almost certainly contributes to its success. But it is also a source of misunderstanding.

A 1986 article by Joan W. Scott that played a crucial role in introducing the concept of gender to French scholarship (given that it was one of the earliest translated), begins with the definition of the term “gender” as per Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1940 edition):

Gender, n. a grammatical term only. To talk of persons or creatures of the masculine or feminine gender, meaning of the male or female sex, is either a jocularity (permissible or not according to context) or a blunder [2].

Scott goes on to say that the use of this word by English and American feminists “to refer to the social organization of the relationship between the sexes” was based on a connection to grammar that “is both explicit and full of unexamined possibilities [3].”

This statement remains true now that the concept of gender has become widely accepted, but also more complex. Given that detractors claim “gender” is untranslatable in sense, in order to justify their arguments against its use in French, we will take this opportunity to mention a few elements that allow us to compare the evolution of the word in English and French [4].

The concept of gender was constructed in several stages. From the 1950s onwards, inluential psychologist John Money, who specialised in sexual identity disorders in minors, used the term “gender” in the expression “gender role” and, later, “gender identity [5]” to refer to the part that can be attributed to educational and cultural factors when it comes to a child being assigned to a sex category and identifying as either a boy or a girl. Some time later, Robert Stoller used the word to refer to “intersex patients [6]” and theorised gender as a socially determined aspect of sexual identity, as distinct from biological sex [7]. Scholars have pointed out that the origin of these ideas can be traced back to earlier works, including those of Talcott Parsons [8] and Margaret Mead [9]. But what hasn’t been widely discussed is the choice of a grammatical term to refer to the part of identity-formation and sex behaviour that can be attributed culture and social mores. This is probably due to the fact that the use of the word “gender” seemed self-evident, given that a linguistic aspect is inherent to cultural formation. Money also used the analogy of language acquisition to explain how boys and girls learnt gender roles [10]. The choice seems particularly apt in English, given that the grammatical meanting is usually the first listed in dictionary definitions of the term “gender”, even if some dictionaries follow up with a definition along the lines of “sex”. For instance, Joan W. Scott borrowed an 18th century quote by Mary Wortley Montagu from the Oxford English Dictionary (“My only consolation for being of that gender has been the assurance of never being married to anyone among them [11]”), and David Haig quotes some words by George Eliot (“Public opinion, in these cases, is always of the feminine gender [12]”).

In short, the complexities that the notion of “gender” brings to light in the second half of the 20th century already seem to be clearly visible in some earlier uses of the English language. Can the same be said of France? There are also examples of uses of the term in French long before the concept was formalised, and English and French dictionaries suggest a common origin. In both languages, the earliest signs date from the 12th century [13]. The term “gender” stems from the Latin genus, and has conserved all its meanings: Around the start of the thirteenth century, it referred to “genus homo”, the group comprising all mankind (genre humaine), but it has also been used to refer to a specific group linked to a particular place or to a family, a people, or a particular sex: “Eternal death is born to him who loves the masculine gender more than the feminine, and God effaces him from his book [14].”

The earliest records of the use of the term in the grammatical sense date from around the same period, circa 1225, but they do not outnumber its uses as a synonym of “sex”. This latter use continued over time, and it can be found in 19th and 20th century literature. In a letter to a friend in the provinces, for example, Balzac’s sister Laure Surville wrote that she found the reputation of a “femme auteur” (woman writer) undesirable because “it isolates us from our sphere, from our affections, from our gender; we become neither men nor women [15].” Joan W. Scott quotes an example from Littré’s French dictionary: “Of a very reserved man it is said that his gender, whether male or female, is not known (…)”, and Marcel Proust used the term in the famous ending of Un amour de Swan: “Dire que j’ai gâché des années de ma vie, (…) pour une femme qui ne me plaisait pas, qui n’était pas de mon genre! [16] [*] These examples show that it is possible for “gender” (genre) to continue to be used in the sense of “sex” and to expand into the sense of “social sex”, as has been the case in English. Then, in 1973, in an issue on disexuality and the difference between the sexes, the French journal Nouvelle Revue de Psychanalyse published a translation of an article in which Robert J. Stoller used the words genre (gender) and identité de genre (gender identity)[17].

In the 1970s, feminist critique increasingly began using the term “gender”, particularly in the United States. Although ithe word was always used to refer to the socially constructed dimension of sex roles and identities, it did not necessarily refer explicitly to the work of Money and Stoller, although writers such as Kate Millett [18] and Ann Oakley [19] do mention them. At this time, “gender” gained ground in academic feminist research, particularly coupled to the term “sex”, and often in opposition to it. For example, in 1975, in the editorial of its first issue, the publication Signs. Journal of Women in Culture and Society – which made an important contribution to the recognition of this field of research – announced its intention to become “a means to the end of an accurate understanding of men and women, of sex and gender [20].” That same year, Gayle Rubin published a seminal article in which he talked about the “sex/gender system”. Paraphrasing Friedrich Engels in The Origin of the Family, he writes that “sex is sex, but what counts as sex is equally culturally determined and obtained [21].” As the concept became more widely used, it also diversified and tended to move away from its initial psychological and clinical meanings, although by drawing attention to the construction of gender, the “sex/gender” conceptual pair can also suggest that biological sex is something self-evident, given by nature.

F.U.S.I.A. board director Sebastian Berggren demonstrates the concept of dual gender as featured in Wild Side Story.

F.U.S.I.A. board director Sebastian Berggren demonstrates the concept of dual gender as featured in Wild Side Story, January 1, 1999 | Wikipedia | Public Domain

In the 1980s, when the use of “gender” – increasingly influenced by feminist thought – had become widespread in English-language academic production, French scholars began to express divergences and theorise a resistance to initial attempts to introduce the term in France. Although American theorists of the construction of social sex have sometimes drawn on the analysis of French materialist feminists (Nicole-Claude Mathieu, Colette Guillaumin, Christine Delphy), French research in this field – including feminist research – rarely used the word genre (“gender”). At the colloquium Femmes, féminismes et recherches held in Toulouse in 1982, which was a milestone in the emergence of this new field, the word “gender” was prudently presented as a “new and sensitive technique [22]”. The entry for “genre” in volume 9 of the Trésor de la langue française, published in 1981, “makes no reference to the use of the word ‘genre’ in the sense of ‘social sex’ [23]” as the linguist Michel Arrivé points out, concluding that gender in French is thus only a grammatical category. This entails ignoring earlier recorded linguistic uses such as those mentioned above, a widespread academic practice that accurately illustrates a frequent practice in this field.

Nonetheless, the use of the term “gender” to refer to the cultural, socially constructed aspect of sex relations increased in France from 1980 to 2000. There was still much resistance, particularly from detractors who argued that the French translation lacked the polysemy of the English word “gender” – which is not just used in grammar but also in art, literature, and biology – and that the resulting likelihood of confusion made the term untranslatable. Against the backdrop of attempts to reaffirm French as “a fundamental element of the personality and heritage of France [24],”, the use of the term “gender” in the sense of “social sex” was largely considered a calque of the English (“franglais»”). In the same rejectionist spirit, the French Committee for Terminology and Neologisms took a stance on what it described as a neologism insofar as the meaning: “Replacing ‘sex’ by ‘gender’ does not correspond to a linguistic need, nor is the extension of meaning of the word ‘gender’ justified in French [25].” This recommendation (which in theory is still valid) is based on insufficient knowledge of academic production, and it came into conflict with European Union policies for the European Community [26] as soon as it was published. So it appears that the sense of belonging to a cultural or national identity has had an effect that is far from negligible in the history of the term and the resistance to its use, not only in French but also in other French-speaking countries. In Canada, for example, in spite of the significant expansion of feminist movements, the resistance to the hegemony of English and of American culture breeds mistrust and suspicion, and a reluctance to accept the term.

There are also objections of a different kind that should be taken into account. The first two objections to the adoption of “gender” in this sense are also lexical in nature. Firstly, although the aim is to bring the question of sexuation into the social and cultural sphere, the French term “genre”  is commonly used in the field of biology to refer to levels of classification of living beings. This dampened the reception of the use of “gender” to refer to social sex, particularly in the first stages of its introduction. Also, the fact that its grammatical use is so deeply ingrained in linguistic consciousness could be seen as an invitation to use language to defend and justify the order of things, keeping older discourses alive. This can be seen in a text that Jean Larnac published in 1929, for example, which was supposedly favourable to women: “No female form of the word ‘historian’ exists in our vocabulary. There have been many women writers of memoirs and even court writers like Christine de Pizan. Today there are women history teachers and researchers who studied at the Ecole des Chartes and know many things and are capable of doing an erudite ‘job’. But we have no women historians comparable to Augustin Thierry or Michelet [27].” This example nonetheless shows that the evidence is fragile and its meaning can be reversed, because languages evolve alongside history.

Lastly, various schools of feminist research have also expressed their reservations. Either because they supported the idea of the sexes that the concept of “gender” tends to deconstruct, or because of the risk that the use of the term “gender” in this sense, which is seen as a neologism, could hide the earlier work of many French writers who developed the concept of “the social relationship between the sexes” and thus consign women to oblivion as the dominated part of the binary system that it attempts to describe. In this sense “gender” works as a euphemism that tends to conceal sex, a fact that could be partly responsible for its success in the academic world.

In spite of all of this, the term has gradually been incorporated into French, and most dictionaries now include the meaning of “social sex”, even though no consensus has been reached and the meaning is not yet absolutely clear in the eyes of the public. The usual idea that the term is based on an exclusively grammatical notion (reinforced by the fact that English dictionaries tend to position it as the first meaning of the term) does not do justice its uses in the sense of “social sex”, of which there are many examples as we have seen, in both English and in French, from the middle ages to the 20th century. Strangely enough, as Joan W. Scott already lamented in 1988, this insistence on the grammatical use has not gone hand in hand with the systematic use of a linguistic model of analysis, as might have been expected, in spite of it being a concept that emerged from the linguistic turn. On the other hand,  Judith Butler [28] made an important and far-reaching contribution to the definition and use of the term from the 1990s onwards, bringing it into the realm of the philosophy of language, based on influences including J.L. Austin [29]. Nonetheless, little progress has been made in studying the implications of the polysemy of the concept and the links to grammar, an investigation that could potentially take thre paths. Firstly, the fact that there is a wide variety in the way languages deal with grammatical gender (when it exists at all) is a reminder of the variations of the gender system in different human cultures and societies. Secondly, the evolution of languages over time, which includes changes in the way grammatical gender is treated in terms of vocabulary as well as grammar, proves that it is futile to expect the gender system to be intangible or based on nature, and that it is necessary to trace the history of the way it has been understood. Thirdly, by studying language and how grammatical gender becomes embedded in it, we improve our understanding of a factor that is crucial to the perpetuation of the gender hierarchies and of the obstacles to deconstructing it. This is particularly so in the case of French.

The relationship between grammar and gender (in French)

When we ask “how grammar influences gender” we do not by any means wish to suggest that the gender system predates the discourses, or that the social relations of gender – formed previously – have been embedded in the language. Rather, examining language use suggests a symmetrical causality: everyday language use produces and transmits the hierarchy and categorisation of gender. This dialectic between words (grammatical gender) and things (social practices) operates more forcefully insofar as the speaking subjects are not strongly aware of it [30].

The visualisation of the sex of speakers, or forced grammatical agreement

When English-speakers start learning French, they are often surprised to find that the language forces them to “disclose their sex [31] when they speak. In fact, a statement like “je suis prêt” or “je suis prête” [**] does not just inform the listener that the person speaking is ready, it also reveals their sexual identity. The alternation [32] “prêt/prête” expresses grammatical gender (in written and spoken language) and also the sex of the speaker. This phenomenon, which also applies when speaking to another person (“vou êtes prêt/prête”) is even stronger when speaking about a third person, given that the statement “él/il est préparé/préparée” expresses grammatical gender and sex twice, in the grammatical agreement of the adjective and in the choice of pronoun.

This “agreement” between grammatical gender and a person’s sex is not universal, however. It can either not exist (as in Finnish), exist partially (as in English), or be even more strongly present (as in Arabic). And in some other languages, speakers do not systematically disclose their sex, but their social status relative to the person they are addressing [33].


As such, the agreement between grammatical gender and sex cannot be taken for granted, even though it is the most frequent manifestation of the gender system in everyday interaction in French. Even so, the language forces speakers to assign themselves one category in a system that only consists of two, as surely as the civil register forces citizens to record their sex. Both of these impositions are systematic restrictions that generate anxiety in individuals who cannot or do not want to be assigned to just one of the two options. In his/her memoirs, written shortly before committing suicide, Herculine Barbin – who was called a hermaphrodite in the mid-19th century and would now be called an intersex person – mixed the masculine and feminine forms:

Un éloignement instinctif du monde, comme si j’avais pu comprendre déjà que je devais y vivre étranger (m).

Soucieux (m) et rêveur (m), mon front semblait s’affaisser sous le poids de sombres mélancolies. J’étais froide (f), timide, et, en quelque sorte, insensible à toutes ces joies bruyantes et ingénues qui font épanouir un visage d’enfant [34] [***].

It should be noted that grammatical gender in language does not just impose a binary polarity, but also a hierarchy.

The names of the jobs of invisible women

“A father and his son are seriously injured in a car accident. An ambulance takes them to the emergency room, where the surgeon says: ‘I can’t operate on him, he’s my son!’” To solve the riddle (which depends on the listener assuming that a surgeon is necessarily male), we need to take into account that the names of jobs and professions are usually masculine in French (as in English), even when they are carried out by women. In the story above, “the surgeon” is female, and she is the mother of the injured boy. This is clearly an example of the social use of language, because there is nothing stopping French speakers from using the female form: the word chirurgienne (female surgeon) has been approved since 1350. Accepted use hides the fact that women work and always have.

“Rosie the Riveter” was an iconic symbol of the American homefront in WWII and a departure from gender roles due to wartime necessity. October 1, 1942 | Howard R. Hollem, Library of Congress | Public Domain

Various arguments are used to justify the reluctance to use the feminine form of these words. Critics argue that some feminine terms refer to minor or subaltern positions, and suggest derogatory sexual values. For example, the use of “mistress of ceremonies” is rejected as the feminine of “master of ceremonies” because it suggests “school mistress”, a teacher at lower levels but not at university. Moreover, the French maîtresse, like the English “mistress” refers to the lover of a married man.

However, if the feminine forms were used systematically, the weight of the negative interpretations would decrease and eventually disappear. This happened in the case of les étudiantes (“female students”), for example, a term that was associated with a certain sexual frivolity in the 19th century [35] but no longer has those connotations. And also in the case of les romancières (female novelists). In a condescending article about George SandJules Barbey d’Aurevilly questioned her place among the romanciers: “(…) malgré la langue française qui ne prend pas toujours les ordres de l’intelligence pour faire ses mots, n’est qu’une ROMANCIÈRE, c’est-à-dire, en fin de compte: un basbleu [****] [36].” 

In view of the great novels that have been written by women over the past two hundred years, nobody would now dare to express such an opinion openly. Even so, our language use is still largely determined by non-egalitarian social representations and, in turn, contributes to reproducing it.

“The masculine prevails (over the feminine)”: really?

What adult did not hear this in grammar class at school? This statement, which supposedly describes how French (and many other languages) works, sounds more like an imposed social order – as, indeed, it is – that is at the intersection of two problems: grammatical agreement and the lack of a gender-generic form in French.

Until the 18th century, whenever two gender names were present in a group, normal use dictated agreement with the closest term. So, for example, one could say and write: “Le couteau (m) et la cuillère (f) ont été abandonnés (f) sur la table.” And “Il parle avec un bon goût (m) et une belle (f) noblesse (f).[*****] The grammatical rule that dictates agreement with the masculine in cases such as these – a rule that was formulated by grammarians from the 16th century onwards – was clearly an external intervention. The justifications for this preference for the masculine (Nicolas Beauzée cites “the superiority of the male over the female”, Dominique Bouhours argues that the male sex is “nobler”) are particularly inadequate in that they are not grammatical. Nobility is a social quality, while the supposed superiority of the male over the female is based on medical and biological models.

At the same time, French is a language with two genders, and the absence of generic forms prompts users to turn to the masculine gender to replace them. To say that George Sand is “the most outstanding novelist (romancier) of the 19th century” is not the same to say that she “is the most outstanding female novelist (romanciére) of the 19th century”. The use of the masculine form does create the same category as the use of the feminine form: to say that Sand “is the most outstanding novelist” puts her in relation to the set of all 19th century novelists, both male and female, without specifying that she belongs to the female sex. To say that Sand “is the most outstanding female novelist” puts her in relation only to the sub-set of women novelists. In this and many other examples, the masculine and feminine forms cannot be considered symmetrical categories. The masculine form creates a generic category, while the feminine form refers to a specific category.

We could argue that the so-called “masculine generic” solves the problem of the principle of gender agreement with the verb. But as a result of its use, generations of school children have, without explanations of any kind, unquestioningly grasped a principle of male dominance that is embodied in grammar.

There are two other drawbacks to this imposed norm. firstly, it again makes women’s presence invisible in the groups designated by masculine plural terms (voters, students, wage earners, the French…) Secondly, it brings referential ambiguity to the masculine forms: does the term refer to the specific category of the male sex, or to the generic set of all people, regardless of sex categories? This vagueness when it comes to the names of jobs, titles, and occupations also applies to the use of the word homme (“man”) in French [37], which can refer to the generic category of men and women (“man is a wolf to man”) or to the the specific category of men (“men’s dressing room”). This essential ambiguity, which is present in everything from the Declaration of the Rights of Man to French translations of the Book of Genesis [38], shapes our social, religious, and political imaginary and tends to exclude beings classified as women from representations of humanity, without our being aware of it.

Grammatical terminology and the sexuation  of our perceptions of the world

Lastly, there is a further problem in the assignment of the categories of “masculine” and “feminine”, which French grammar has inherited from Greek and Latin grammar. This assignment of linguistic gender, which could be justified in the case of names that refer to sexed living beings (tailor/seamstress, lion/lioness) is semantically groundless when it comes to the names of non-sexed subjects (“knife”, “feminism/virility”).

The problem does not lie in the linguistic classification of nouns into two genders, but in the choice of the nouns that grammarians have assigned to each of the categories, which tend to connect things that do not necessarily go together, and to confuse sex and grammatical gender. Jacques Damourette and Edouard Pichon have studied this confusion and suggest talking about “sexuisemblance” ) (sexual resemblance) instead of “grammatical gender”. Indeed, the idea is to see the linguistic phenomenon of gender as a simile for sex or as a “fictitious sex”, sexualising things that are not inherently sexualised. Claire Michard has clearly shown the extent to which this is strongly modulated by misogynistic and sexist conceptions. The terms “masculine” and “feminine”, as they appear in dictionaries and as we learn at school, convey a sexualisation of the way we see the world and perceive things through our understanding of the words that refer to them. Gaston Bachelard openly defends this sexualisation in La Poétique de la rêverie, where he writes: “I love knowing that the names of rivers are usually feminine in French. It seems so natural! L’Aube and la Seine, la Moselle and la Loire are my only rivers. Le Rhône and le Rhin are linguistic monstrosities to me. They carry water from glaciers. Aren’t feminine names necessary to respect the femininity of true water?

These kinds of “daydreams” about “the masculine or feminine gender of moral qualities like pride and vanity, courage and passion,” like Damourette and Pichon’s method of starting with words and moving towards thought, at least have the virtue of urging us to become conscious of linguistic determinations, by bringing to light their effect on the imagination.

Linguistic analysis and the study of language use is thus a necessary step in understanding how the social organisation of sex relations is perpetuated. If there really is any French singularity in this sense, as people often boast or lament, it certainly owes a great deal to the language, in that it forces speakers to define themselves and others in a particular sex category. French also tends to erase the presence women in work and social life, favouring the appropriation of the universal by masculine forms and excluding the use of feminine forms as generics. As such, French actively – and mostly inadvertently – contributes to the constant renewal of gender in everyday life.

Even so, all living languages are constantly changing, and French speakers can introduce new ideas and practices into this system that is restrictive but not immutable. Writers of all genres do this, and it also happens in other kinds of social uses of language. French is evolving in various fields, and the feminine forms of the names of jobs or professions are increasingly used, and not just in positions vacant ads. New innovative spellings are emerging, combining masculine and feminine forms as in the plural form “les étudiant-e-s”. Truly generic forms that avoid the need to use ambiguous masculines and implied feminines are thus being invented in written French. These changes, which are not ad hoc solutions but a response to changing social relations, are sketching out  future new uses of French. Even so, it is still necessary to pay attention to history and to the way gender is built into language, so that we can understand the inherited notions that it conveys and that interfere with our capacity to question the gender hierarchy.

* * *

Our research and analysis confirms the importance of the grammatical model in the construction of the concept of gender, and also the fact that it remains inadequately explored, as Joan W. Scott had already pointed out. It also leads us to qualify the idea that gender is principally, or even exclusively, a grammatical concept, a widely accepted notion that may, along with other factors, deter its use in the sense of “social sex”. Our study also shows that notwithstanding the greater polysemy of the word, there is nothing in the history of the French language to rule out using it in this sense. It was only when feminist thinkers directly defended this use in the context of a protest against the domination of women and against a restrictive system of the standard division of identities into two sex categories, that detractors invoked the singularity of the French language (and through it, French culture) in order to oppose it.

For cultural and linguistic reasons, there is certainly some possible confusion involved in the use of the word genre (gender), but the same can be said of other languages, and of other words in French. The question of whether genre is admissible has actually already been resolved in practice, given the extraordinary number of works that the concept has given rise to over the past few decades. It can only be ignored or rejected altogether through intellectual blindness or conservative exasperation. Nonetheless, the term should not be considered the magical tool of a new kind of “prêt-à-porter theory”. Given its success, including the fact that it has been taken up by many institutions, and given its myriad uses – which it would be impossible and absurd to try to reduce and confine to a single definition – its use as an analytical tool must always be critical and contextualised. And acknowledging the diversity and history of the language as part of this critical usage enhances the concept and allows us to understand how the gender hierarchy system has evolved and endured. In the case of French, the use of the term shows the weight of grammatical system that imposes an omnipresent, restrictive, asymmetrical classification onto living beings and onto our perception of the world. This system is easily mistaken for a “natural” law, particularly by those who would prefer to maintain the inequalities that originated this system and that the system continues to transmit.

[*] “To think that I had wasted years of my life, (…) for a woman who did not appeal to me, who was not of my type!”

[**] “I am ready” spoken by a female (prêt) or a male (prête)

[***]  I instinctively drew apart from the world, as if I had already come to understand that I was to live in it as a stranger. Anxious and brooding, my brow seemed to sink beneath the weight of dark, melancholy thoughts. I was cold, timid, and, in a way, indifferent to all those boisterous and ingenuous joys that light up the faces of children

[****] In spite of the French language, which does not always follow the rules of intelligence to create words, she is nothing but a romancière, in other words, a bas-bleu

[*****] “The knife and spoon have been left on the table” and “He talks with a taste and nobility that are charming”

[1] Throughout this chapter we use the equivalent “social sex” for the sake of convenience where it is necessary to avoid ambiguity. As we will see, the meanings of the word are numerous and more complex.

[2] Gender. n. a grammatical term only. To talk of persons or creatures of the masculine or feminine gender, meaning the male or female sex, is either a jocularity (permissible or not according to context) or a blunder. [author’s italics.]

[3] Joan W. Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis” in American Historical Review, 91,1986, pp. 1053-1075.

[4] There was a long initial period in which the concept gradually emerged, before the turning point and the repercussions that followed in the wake of Judith Butler’s work. Due to space constraints, we will only mention them briefly. For the same reason, we cannot explore the French language further so as to include the different possible uses.

[5] John Money, “Hermaphroditism, gender and precocity in hyperadrenocorticism. Psychologic findings”, Bulletin of the John Hopkins Hospital, 96, 1995.

[6] Robert J. Stoller, “Gender-role change in intersexed patients”, JAMA, no. 188, p. 684-685.

[7] Robert J. Stoller, Sex and Gender. The Development of Masculinity and Femininity, New York, Science House, 1968.

[8] Talcott Edger Parsons, “Age and sex in the social structure of the United States”, American Sociological Review, no. 7, 1942.

[9] Margaret Mead, Male and Female: A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World, New York, Willima Morrow, 1949.

[10] David Haig, “The inexorable rise of gender and the decline of sex: social change in academic titles, 1945-2001,” in Archives of Sexual Behaviour, vol. 33, no. 2, April 2004, p. 92.

[11] Joan W. Scott, op cit., p. 17.

[12] A. Jumeau translates it as: «L’opinion publique […] est toujours du sexe feminin» [Public opinion, in these cases, is always of the feminine gender], George EliotThe Mill on the Floss (1860), Edinburgh, Blackwood. Quoted by Haig in the abovementioned article, note 8.

[13] French texts use the form gendre, influenced by the verb gendrer (which has given rise to the verb engendrer in modern French). This same form, gendre, in Anglo-Norman, gave rise to “gender” in English.

[14] Gautier de Coincy, Miracles Notre Dame: La mort perpetuel engenre Cil qui aimme masculin genre Plus que le feminin ne face. Et Die de son livre l’esface [1236].

[15] Laure Surville de Balzac, Lettres à une amie de province (1831-1837), Paris, Plon, 1932, p. 141.

[16] Marcel Proust, Un amour de Swann [1913], Paris, Gallimard, Folio, 1998, p. 375. Anne-Emmanuelle Berger also mentions this use in Le Grand Théâtre du genre, Paris, Belin, 2013, p. 195.

[17] Robert J. Stoller: “Faits et Hypothèses. Un examen du concept freudien de bisexualité”, in Nouvelle Revue de Psychanalyse, no. 7 “Bisexualité et différence des sexes”, Spring 1973, p. 153. The English term was only used on a few occasions in the French version of this article to introduce the distinction that Stoller makes between “bisexuality” and “bigenderality” understood as the psychological quality associated with possessing attributes of both masculinity and femininity.

[18] Kate Millett, La politique du mâle, Paris, Stock, 1971.

[19] Ann Oakley, Sex, Gender and Society, New York, Harper Colophon, 1972.

[20] Catharine R. Stimpson, “Editorial”, Signs. Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 1, no. 1, Autumn 1975.

[21] Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex”, in R. Reiter, Toward an Anthropology of Women, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1975, p. 165 . . . . . .

[22] Femmes, feminisme et recherches. Actes du colloque national de Toulouse, décembre 1982, Toulouse, AFFER, 1984, p- 34.

[23] Michel Arrivé, Le Linguiste et l’Inconscient, Paris, PUF, 2008, p. 152.

[24] Law no. 94-665 of 3 August 1994, pertaining to the use of the French language, known as the Toubon Law.

[25] Official Gazette no. 34, of 22 September 2005, Commission générale de terminologie et de néologie, «Recommandation sur les équivalents français du mot gender».

[26] The European Committee published the Guía para la evaluación del impacto en función del género in 1998.

[27] Jean Larnac, Histoire de la littérature féminine en France, Paris, éditions Kra, 1929, p. 256.

[28] Judith Butler, Gender Trouble New York, Routledge, 1990.

[29] Anne-Emmanuelle Berger explains it very well in Le Grand Théâtre du genreop. cit., pp. 48-51, for example.

[30] Along these lines, Natacha Chetcuti and Lucas Greco called their book on the relationship between language and gender La Face cachée du genre [The Hidden Face of Gender], Paris, Presses de la Sorbonne nouvelle, 2012.

[31] Monique Wittig, La Pensée straight [2001], Paris, Éditions Amsterdam, 2007, p. 106. .

[32] We agree with Edwige Khaznadar when she argues that it is more appropriate to think about and analyse the masculine/feminine relationship in terms of alternation and not, as was the norm in the tradition of French grammar, in terms of derivation (according to which the feminine forms are based on the masculine forms). See, for example, Edwige Khaznadar, La Féminin à la française. Académisme et langue française, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2002.

[33] In Korean for example, the “ordinary” pronoun na or the “humble” pronoun ce are used to say “I” depending on whether the speaker considers the person being addressed to be their superior. (François Jacquesson, Les Personnes. Morphosyntaxe et sémantique, Paris, CNRS Éditions, 2008, p. 71.)

[34] Michel Foucault reedited this text in 1978, under the title Herculine Barbin dite Alexina B., Paris, Gallimard, 1978, p. 9.

[35] See for example, Guy de Maupassant, Bel-ami, 1885, part 1, ch.

[36] Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, “Deux romans scandaleux”, Les Romanciers, in Les Oeuvres et les hommes, series one, vol. 1, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2005, p. 1184.

[37] Derived from the Latin homo, “human being”, the French homme has the two senses of homo and vir (in Latin, “the male human”, which has given rise to the adjective viril).

[38] The Vulgate quotes verse 1-27 as follows: Et creavit Deus hominen ad imaginem suam ad imaginem Dei creavit illum masculum et feminam creavit eos. Which in French becomes: Dieu créa l’homme a son image, il le créa à l’image de Dieu, il créa l’homme et la femme [God created man in his image, He created him in the image of God, He created man and woman] (French translation by Louis Segond).

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  • Ainhoa | 02 March 2017

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What Gender Owes to Grammar