In the “you’ve got to be kidding” department, one taxpayer-funded preschool in Sweden (“Egalia”) is attempting to oppose gender bias by intentionally avoiding specific personal pronouns such as “he,” “him,” “she” and “her.” The children are no longer “girls” and “boys” but are referred to as “friends.” This permits little “Johnny” to grow up in a gender-neutral environment, one that does not encourage “him” (or “it”) to pursue things that otherwise little boys like to do. Indeed, the school’s administration invented a gender-free term – “hen” – to use when referring to someone. According to Jenny Soffel of the The Associated Press, “every detail has been carefully planned to make sure the children don’t fall into gender stereotypes.” As one of Egalia’s teachers observes, “Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing. Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.”
The school’s agenda goes beyond the use of gender-specific pronouns. The report notes that “boys and girls play together with a toy kitchen, waving plastic utensils and pretending to cook… Lego bricks and other building blocks are intentionally placed next to the kitchen, to make sure the children draw no mental barriers between cooking and construction.” Furthermore, the children have access to reading material that encourages tolerance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The library includes “a story about two male giraffes who are sad to be childless — until they come across an abandoned crocodile egg.” Supposedly the favorable response to the crocodile egg demonstrates the giraffes’ willingness to accept other species. Of course, the story does not include the likelihood that the crocodile may one day have a hankering for some giraffe stew. However, there are no books that reinforce common stereotypes such as Snow White and Cinderella.
Then again, there is one activity in Sweden that allows for selection based on gender. Abortion! According to The Local (Sweden’s News in English), in 2009 one Swedish woman procured an abortion based on the embryo’s gender (it was a girl and she wanted a boy). The Local reported that Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare ruled on the matter and determined that “it is not possible to deny a woman an abortion up to the 18th week of pregnancy, even if the fetus’s gender is the basis for the request.” This is in a country where being an unborn child is risky at best. In 2009, there were 11,935 live births compared to 37,524 reported abortions.
Perhaps being a giraffe in Sweden is less dangerous after all!
Swedish Preschool Fights Gender Bias, Drops ‘Him’ and ‘Her’
“Sweden rules ‘gender-based’ abortion legal,” The Local, http://www.thelocal.se/19392/20090512/
“Abortion statistics in Sweden,” http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/ab-sweden.html