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Sweden Has the Gender Neutral Pronoun Issue Figured Out, Why Can't We? Sweden Has the Gender Neutral Pronoun Issue Figured Out, Why Can't We?

Sweden Has the Gender Neutral Pronoun Issue Figured Out, Why Can't We?

by Yasha Wallin

April 17, 2013

Need more evidence that Sweden is a leader when it comes to just about anything progressive? Slate reports that the Scandanavian country has introduced the groundbreaking word "hen" into the national vocabulary which could have significant implications on gender relations, in a nation already known for an emphasis on equality. Hen, which was added to Sweden's National Encyclopedia is now the most gender neutral pronoun around, making it possible to refer to someone other than by saying he [han in Swedish] or she [hon].

The word was introduced by linguists as early as the mid-1960s, but was just recently brought back into popular culture when Sweden's first gender neutral children's book Kivi och Monsterhund (Kivi and Monsterdog), by Jesper Lundqvist, was released. In the publication, hen, along with a few other gender nonspecific words like mappor and pammor instead mammor and pappor (moms and dads), are introduced. But embracing this new term is just one of many ways Swedes are trying to redefine the roles of men, women, and everyone in between.

According to Slate:

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."

While I'm all for equal rights for all: men, women and hen, I wonder if it will get confusing to see it so mandated in places like schools. Does that then take away from what makes our gender characteristics unique? Or perhaps we need these kinds of measures in order for real progress? What are your thoughts?

Image via Top Toy Group

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