Sweden’s Controversial Push for Gender-Neutral Preschools
In a world with clear-cut gender-defined rules, Sweden has decided to take drastic, grammatical measures.
To support gender equality, the country has recently added a new neutral pronoun “hen” to the Swedish Encyclopedia. The main purpose of the new word is to hopefully allow kids to grow up without being bogged down by rules or stereotypes defined by their gender.
“It’s a laudible goal,” Child psychologist Stuart Lustig, M.D. explains. “But the notion of gender is deeply ingrained.”
In order to support this cause, they’ve implemented this philosophy at an early age. Some Swedish preschools have stopped referring to the kids as “boys and girls”, and instead calling everyone “buddies”. In fact, one school has stopped allowing playtime altogether, as they believe it promotes gender-specific behavior and groupings.
Some psychologists are skeptical on this practice, citing aggressive sports as an example. “I can’t imagine boys and girls would fair well at a certain age,” explains sports psychologist Michael Gervais. “When kids are younger and hormones haven’t haven’t kicked in, gender may be a non issue but when they do, the power and strength of the male anatomy would create problems in a gender neutral environment.”
“Contact with the opposite gender could be fraught with complicated emotions,” he also adds.
While the intent is definitely noble, making gender into a non-issue can create complications in itself. Understandably, certain gender stereotypes and limitations need and should be broken. However, this requires a deeper-rooted education and awareness process that cannot be addressed by creating band-aids with semantics. So while education and rules need to be refreshed with more gender-neutral opportunities, we cannot simply choose to ignore something that is clearly part of someone’s identity.
For more on this, check out some parents who are choosing to raise their kids as gender-neutral.