A recent article by Slate discusses how many people in Sweden are trying to banish gender in language to minimise gender stereotyping.
The idea is to replace the pronouns han and hon, “he” and “she”, with a single pronoun, hen.
However, The Economist disagrees; they suggest there is just a small movement striving towards language equality and the whole of Sweden are not on a combined quest to achieve this:
I’m afraid Slate, as is too often the case, overplayed the story in the subheadline “A country tries to banish gender.” “A few radicals try to banish gender while the rest of the country grapples with it in new ways” would have been the more boring, but accurate, headline.
Sweden’s first ever gender-neutral children’s book has now been published, telling the story of Kivi, who wants a dog for ‘‘hen’s’’ birthday; as well as featuring other gender-neutral words. The author sees the use of hen as an experiment that offers an alternative to using han and hon, another choice.
Hen was originally intended to act similarly like the singular they, when gender is unknown. But some want to replace han and hon entirely!
This would be a little bit like saying:
Steve left their jacket here. They’re going to really be cold outside without it
Mary is getting bored in their marriage and is considering leaving their husband
But this is not enough for some!
There are those that wish the country to be gender-neutral not just gender-equal.
However not everyone is so keen on the gender-neutral campaigns, with some claiming the activists are simply feminists insisting on destroying language.
Reducing the emphasis on gender within language is not unique to Sweden. In France and Spain there have been recent campaigns to create language which does not define people by their sex.
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