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Life without male and female, boys and girls, men and women. Just people....

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Sweden’s New Gender-Neutral Pronoun: Hen

A country tries to banish gender.

Leklust catalog, Sweden
Leklust catalog, Sweden

By most people’s standards, Sweden is a paradise for liberated women. It has the highest proportion of working women in the world, and women earn about two-thirds of all degrees. Standard parental leave runs at 480 days, and 60 of those days are reserved exclusively for dads, causing some to credit the country with forging the way for a new kind of nurturing masculinity. In 2010, the World Economic Forum designated Sweden as the most gender-equal country in the world.

But for many Swedes, gender equality is not enough. Many are pushing for the Nordic nation to be not simply gender-equal but gender-neutral. The idea is that the government and society should tolerate no distinctions at all between the sexes. This means on the narrow level that society should show sensitivity to people who don't identify themselves as either male or female, including allowing any type of couple to marry. But that’s the least radical part of the project. What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.

Activists are lobbying for parents to be able to choose any name for their children (there are currently just 170 legally recognized unisex names in Sweden). The idea is that names should not be at all tied to gender, so it would be acceptable for parents to, say, name a girl Jack or a boy Lisa. A Swedish children's clothes company has removed the "boys" and "girls" sections in its stores, and the idea of dressing children in a gender-neutral manner has been widely discussed on parenting blogs. This Swedish toy catalog 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.

The Swedish Bowling Association has announced plans to merge male and female bowling tournaments in order to make the sport gender-neutral. Social Democrat politicians have proposed installing gender-neutral restrooms so that members of the public will not be compelled to categorize themselves as either ladies or gents. Several preschools have banished references to pupils' genders, instead referring to children by their first names or as "buddies." So, a teacher would say "good morning, buddies" or "good morning, Lisa, Tom, and Jack" rather than, "good morning, 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."

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.

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by on May. 3, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Replies (81-87):
by Bronze Member on May. 4, 2012 at 10:51 PM

 Allowing and respecting peoples choices regarding gender is one thing. Forcing gender ambiguity is something else entirely.

by on May. 4, 2012 at 10:54 PM

No I agree with  you.  

Quoting 1Giovanni:

Am I the only one thinks this is a bad idea. I mean there is a reason why there is men and women. I like being a women, have no issues with my gender.

"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again."

Maya Angelou

by Obama licker on May. 4, 2012 at 11:54 PM
1 mom liked this

Gender equity is great.

Gender neutrality isn't really all that appealing to me.

by Silver Member on May. 5, 2012 at 7:07 PM

Not a country I plan on visiting!  Yuck!

by on May. 6, 2012 at 9:48 AM
1 mom liked this

WHat a load of crap.  Socialism at its finest.  PC to the point of being utterly ridiculous.  There are two genders for a reason..... THANK GOD.  We are very different.... THANK GOD!  Rejoice in those differences, honor and respect them.  Equality in the work force is one thing.... trying to totally do away with gender is insane.

by Bronze Member on May. 6, 2012 at 9:53 AM
I love it
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by on May. 6, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Thank you. I did not know about that social experiment. That was very intereating.

One point that jumped at me in comparison to the Swedes is the starting off pt. The Swedes have been moving towards sexual and gender equality for several generations. The kibbutz experiment was a sudden shift in cultural norms. The Sweden test in another step in a multi generational progression. Will it work? Idk,only time will tell. But there are stark difference in the kibbutz trial and the current Swedish attempt.

Quoting meriana:

The idea of gender neutrality being taken to the extreme as it is in Sweden seems to ignore the fact that physically men and women (boys and girls) are different. Their biology is different, that difference can and does affect the way they view and react to things. It reminds me of the old premise concerning adoptions...that the child adopted at birth would "graft" completely to the adoptive family and never know they were not a biological member of said family, which completely ignored that little thing called heredity. Many adopted adults tell of feeling a bit like a square peg in a round hole while growing up. Those who were not told they were adopted will often say they always knew. They talk of likeing things, such as styles of furnishings, that no one else in their family likes, having views on things that are very different from their families, disliking something that everyone they've grown up with since birth has an affinity for, even processing information and reaching a conclusion in different ways than their family. Usually it's little everyday things but the differences are there. and the only real explanation is heredity. Those who have met their biological families as adults often say they have far more in common with and are far more like their bio family members than their adoptive family members.

So if heredity can affect people in ways that are not yet fully understood...I don't really think it wise to ignore the biological factors that make men and women different in an effort to form a genderless society. Since biological factors cannot be erased, it's probably not realistically possible to have a fully genderless society even as a social construct.

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