hen Sweden gender education activism language children social justice feminism
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Sweden attempts to banish gender.
Promotes New Gender-Neutral Pronoun: Hen
Eliminating he, she, him her from their language in exchange for the gender neutral pronoun “hen”.
Earlier this month, the movement for gender neutrality reached a milestone: Just days after International Women’s Day a new pronoun, hen (pronounced like the bird in English), was added to the online version of the country’s National Encyclopedia. The entry defines hen as a “proposed gender-neutral personal pronoun instead of he [han in Swedish] and she [hon].”The National Encyclopedia announcement came amid a heated debate about gender neutrality that has been raging in Swedish newspaper columns and TV studios and on parenting blogs and feminist websites. It was sparked by the publication of Sweden’s first ever gender-neutral children’s book, Kivi och Monsterhund (Kivi and Monsterdog). It tells the story of Kivi, who wants a dog for “hen’s” birthday. The male author, Jesper Lundqvist, introduces several gender-neutral words in the book. For instance the words mammor and pappor (moms and dads) are replaced with mappor and pammor.
Some clothing stores are eliminating the male and female clothing sections.
Children’s clothing is no longer being designed for male or females but instead in a gender neutral style. For example, the picture above is from a children’s toy magazine that recently decided to switch things around, showing a boy in a Spider-Man costume pushing a pink pram, while a girl in denim rides a yellow tractor.
Activists are encouraging parents to give their children new unisex names, and official documents will not identify a gender for the child until it is old enough to select the one it wants.
Sports are required to merge all gender based leagues into one unisex league.
Gender neutral bathrooms (of course), starting with all public school facilities.
Several preschools have banished references to pupils’ genders, instead referring to children as “buddies.” So, a teacher would say “good morning, buddies,” rather than “boys and girls.”
They believe this fulfills the national curriculum’s guideline that preschools should “counteract traditional gender patterns and gender roles” and give girls and boys “the same opportunities to test and develop abilities and interests without being limited by stereotypical gender roles.”
But not everyone is keen on this political meddling with the Swedish language. In a recent interview for Vice magazine, Jan Guillou, one of Sweden’s most well-known authors, referred to proponents of hen as “feminist activists who want to destroy our language.” Other critics believe it can be psychologically and socially damaging, especially for children. Elise Claeson, a columnist and a former equality expert at the Swedish Confederation of Professions, has said that young children can become confused by the suggestion that there is a third, “in-between” gender at a time when their brains and bodies are developing. Adults should not interrupt children’s discovery of their gender and sexuality, argues Claeson. She told the Swedish daily, Dagens Nyheter, that “gender ideologues” have managed to change the curriculum to establish that schools should actively counter gender roles.
Ironically, in the effort to free Swedish children from so-called normative behavior, gender-neutral proponents are also subjecting them to a whole set of new rules and new norms as certain forms of play become taboo, language becomes regulated, and children’s interactions and attitudes are closely observed by teachers. One Swedish school got rid of its toy cars because boys “gender-coded” them and ascribed the cars higher status than other toys. Another preschool removed “free playtime” from its schedule because, as a pedagogue at the school put it, when children play freely “stereotypical gender patterns are born and cemented. In free play there is hierarchy, exclusion, and the seed to bullying.” And so every detail of children’s interactions gets micromanaged by concerned adults, who end up problematizing minute aspects of children’s lives, from how they form friendships to what games they play and what songs they sing.
Dat last paragraph sounds pretty ominous. Sucks to be a kid in Sweden.