FIRST-PERSON: His, hers ... hens? The push to make kids gender neutral
EDMONTON, Alberta (BP) -- Forget "his" and "hers." Sweden has introduced a new, gender-neutral pronoun: "hen."
The word was added to the online version of the country's National Encyclopedia days after International Women's Day. (In Swedish, "he" is "han" and "she" is "hon.") It was sparked by Sweden's first ever gender-neutral children's book, "Kivi och Monsterhund" (Kivi and Monsterdog), Slate.com reported. The child, "Kivi," whose gender is non-specified, wants a dog for "hen's" birthday.
Newspaper columnists, TV announcers, feminist bloggers and Swedish gender-neutral educators could not be more pleased. The Nordic country has always promoted gender equality. It has the highest proportion of working women in the world, and females earn about two-thirds of all college degrees, Slate.com reported. But now, activists want to push the matter to its natural and logical conclusion. They want to abolish gender altogether, and construct a utopian, gender neutral society. They're intent on raising up a new generation of children who've been freed from the limitations of stereotyped gender roles.
Breaking down gender distinction is a core mission in the national curriculum for Sweden's preschools. Some have hired "gender pedagogues" (gender police) to help staff identify language and behaviors that risk reinforcing stereotypes. At the taxpayer-funded Egalia preschool in Stockholm, staff avoid using words such as "him" or "her" and address the children as "friends" or "hens" rather than girls and boys.
In these gender-neutral schools, language is regulated, certain forms of play are taboo, and children's interactions and attitudes are closely monitored by teachers. One Swedish school got rid of its toy cars because boys "gender-coded" them and preferred them over other toys, Slate.com reported. Another preschool removed "free playtime" from its schedule because, as a pedagogue at the school maintained, "when children play freely, stereotypical gender patterns are born and cemented." In order to keep things gender neutral, every detail of the children's interactions are micromanaged by politically correct adults, from how they form friendships, to what games they play and what songs they sing.
DOES LANGUAGE MATTER?
Swedes figure that the introduction of a gender-neutral pronoun will help matters along. After all, how can you raise a child in an environment free of gender distinction when the very language you speak distinguishes boys from girls?
They have a point. Language does make a difference. Obliterating gender-distinct pronouns will undoubtedly help obliterate gender distinctions. If you blur the words, you blur the meaning.
Yet, the language does matter: God created us in HIS own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. We were created to display His glory. Male and female. He and she. His and hers ... not hens. The pronouns matter. Gender matters.
Someday, the English language may change. As in Sweden, the politically correct gender pundits may force it on us. But I, for one, will resist the change. For in stripping our language and lives of gender distinction, we lose the depth and color of the image God has given us to display His glory. We turn off the lights, so to speak. All the rich, vibrant colors and textures fade into dull, monolithic grey. And it becomes hard to see.
And that, no doubt, is Satan's plan.
When we lose the image, we lose ourselves. God did not create gender-neutral beings. God did not speak in gender-neutral language. Therefore, stripping a language of its gender distinctions, and teaching children that they shouldn't think of themselves as him and her, but as hens, ought to offend our sensibilities and ruffle our collective feathers.
It's just a horribly bad idea.
Mary Kassian is an author, speaker and professor of women's studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column first appeared on her website, GirlsGoneWISE.com. Born and raised in Canada, she lives with her husband in Edmonton, Alberta.