Monday, June 27, 2011

Kindergarden Forbids 'Him' or 'Her" - Does That Make Them All 'It'?

Swedish school bans 'him' and 'her' in bid to stop children falling into gender stereotypes
A pre-school in Sweden has decided to stop calling children 'him' or 'her' in a bid to avoid gender stereotypes. The Egalia preschool, in the Sodermalm district of Stockholm, has made the decision as part of the country efforts to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood.

As well as the decision to stop using the words, the taxpayer-funded school also carefully plans the colour and placement of toys and the choice of books to assure they do not fall into stereotypes. The school opened last year and is on a mission to break down gender roles - a core mission in the national curriculum for Swedish pre-schools.

The option to implement the rules is underpinned by a theory that society gives boys an unfair edge. 'Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing,' says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher. 'Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.'

At the school, boys and girls play together with a toy kitchen, waving plastic utensils and pretending to cook. One boy hides inside the toy stove, his head popping out through a hole. 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.  Girls and boys alike are encouraged to play in the simulated battlefield with realistic replicas of AK-47s and mock hand grenades.
Pentax by Ikea
I may have inadvertently added that last line...

The good thing; it's Sweden.  We don't really care that they have stupid ideas, unless they import them to the US, like socialism, Ikea or lingonberries. The bad thing; a lot of stupid people in the US consider the Sweden a beacon of progressive thought and mindlessly adopt whatever they're pushing today.

I agree with the concept of gender equality; I like it it when young, cute women hold the door for me (it happened, once).  But I really do believe that the sexes are different in both body and mind as a consequence of evolution.

However, this program seems like it's aimed at suppressing 'excessively' masculine behavior by the boys, and encouraging more in the girls.  That has been noted by other critics:
Jay Belsky, a child psychologist at the University of California, Davis, said he's not aware of any other school like Egalia, and he questioned whether it was the right way to go.

'The kind of things that boys like to do - run around and turn sticks into swords - will soon be disapproved of,' he said.

'So gender neutrality at its worst is emasculating maleness.'
And as for the question posed in the title - what do you call them if you can't use him or her?
Staff at the school try to shed masculine and feminine references from their speech, including the pronouns him or her – 'han' or 'hon' in Swedish. Instead, they've have adopted the genderless 'hen'.
I guess that's probably funnier in English than it is in Swedish.

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