Sweden’s gender-neutral pronoun goes official

It’s not every day that you see these words combined: “pronoun causes controversy”. And I’m honestly not a fan of politically manipulating language, especially since I know enough about language to know we know very little about it. But I was still delighted to read this piece on Slate.com:

Sweden’s New 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.[…]

This again connects to how everything’s political. Yes, trying to change a natural language might be taking it a bit too far. But this piece points out quite a few things that can conceivably be seen as fostering inequality; it’s really interesting to see how maintaining a supposedly neutral/natural status quo becomes explicitly political in this situation.

Ultimately, for all the liberating ideals behind these attempts, as soon as they become part of an oppressive mechanism, there’s nothing liberating about them. As the piece says:

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.

(Full piece here. H/t to whoever shared this on Facebook!)

 

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