(K. Brent Tomer),
LANGUAGES often force awkward choices. In English, you can say “someone left his umbrella” and risk annoying some women, or “someone left their umbrella” and risk alienating some grammar sticklers. In French, son parapluie can mean either “his” or “her” umbrella.
But this hardly means there are no problems with gender, sex and politics in France. The French language requires a gender for every single noun and adjective: not only men and women, bulls and cows, but also tables and chairs, rocks and bricks. (The French for “gender” is genre, which also means “class” or “type”, as it does in English.) A noun’s gender rarely has anything to do with its real-world qualities: there’s not much feminine about la table, or anything macho about le chapeau (hat).
But it happens that titles of powerful people, unlike the genders of hats and tables, are not random: it’s le ministre, le général, le chef d’état (head of state), le sénateur, <em…Continue reading