Sweden’s New Gender-Neutral Pronoun: “Hen”
Natalie Rothschild, writing in Slate, about not just a new pronoun but Sweden’s status at the forefront of gender-equality. This caught my eye though:
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.
Goes to show how tricky and dangerous changing a culture is. It’s really hard to lose sight of the overall goal of equality: to build a society where everyone feels comfortable being themselves. (Society’s already a pretty comfy place for middle-class straight white cisgender men like myself.)
Another thing: questions of equality and justice are hard enough to reason about when dealing with adults. Can’t imagine how tough this is to do with children.