Sweden Adopts a Gender-Neutral Pronoun

 

Swedes are shaking up their language with a new gender-neutral pronoun. The pronoun, hen, allows speakers and writers to refer to a person without including reference to a persons gender. This month, the pronoun made a big leap toward mainstream usage when it was added to the countrys National Encyclopedia.

The majority of world languages already have gender-neutral pronouns.However, similar to the English language, Swedish has had pronouns for he and she, but not one that refers to a person without suggesting the persons sex. Proponents of hen are eager to have a single word that describes a hypothetical person rather than the awkward he or she. The word is also useful when referring to someone who does not identify with a traditional gender role.

Hen (pronounced like the English word for chicken) is a modified version of the Swedish words han and hon, which mean he and she respectively. The pronoun first emerged as a suggestion from Swedish linguists back to the 1960s. Though it has taken a while for the word to catch on, some Swedish magazines and even a childrens book have now adopted it in their texts.

When it comes to gender neutrality, Sweden is one of the most progressive countries in the world. Sweden has the highest percentage of working women, the Swedish Bowling Association is moving toward having men and women compete in the same events, clothing stores do not always have separate sections for male and female attire, and there is even a preschool dedicated to eliminating gender.

Despite all of the ways Sweden deconstructs notions of gender, language has been slower to catch up, still readily identifying people as either male or female. As it stands, Sweden has regulations over what parents can name their children, with most of the choices being specifically for one gender. Only 170 unisex names are permitted. Recently, activists have been pushing the government to allow parents to choose a name for their kids regardless of gender.

Of course, there are plenty of Swedes opposed to these changes. Swedish author Jan Guillou attributes the popularity of hen to feminist activists who want to destroy our language.” Overall, many critics fail to see the reason for a gender-neutral pronoun when the country already takes so many steps to ensure both genders are equal.

However, fans of hen believe that true equality cannot be reached without gender neutrality. As long as the distinction is made, they argue, it reaffirms differences between male and female and perpetuates stereotypes. When speaking about a person, it is easy to avoid mentioning that persons age, ethnicity and sexuality, yet existing conventions of language often forces people to label the same person a he or a she throughout the course of a conversation.

The push to make hen mainstream could face challenges. Even for those sympathetic to the plight, after a lifetime of saying han and hon, switching to hen requires breaking a force of habit. Still, even if the majority do not adopt hen into their everyday speech, having an accepted alternative available is yet another step toward Swedish gender-neutrality.

Related Stories:

Ze, Hir, Hirs; He, She, They: Which Pronoun Are You?

Swedish Preschool Eliminates Gender

Sweden Listened: Reindeer Cruelty to End

Photo Credit: AnonMoos

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.

234 comments

نسيانك .
نسيانك .27 days ago

http://www.albeetalzhabi.com/

http://www.albeet-alamer.com/

http://www.eldallle.com/

http://www.daaleell.com/

http://daaleell.blogspot.com/

http://eldallle.blogspot.com/

نسيانك .
نسيانك .27 days ago

http://www.albeetalzhabi.com/

http://www.albeet-alamer.com/

http://www.eldallle.com/

http://www.daaleell.com/

http://daaleell.blogspot.com/

Roberto MARINI
Roberto MARINI5 months ago

I believe it is a good idea!

Ahmed Elmasry
Ahmed Elmasry7 months ago

nice
http://www.tanzeef-jeddah.com
http://www.tanzeef-jeddah.com/2015/07/nazafah-jiddah.html
http://www.naql3afsh.com
http://www.naql3afsh.com/2015/06/naql-3afsh5.html
http://services.ksadalleel.com/2015/05/jidah-makah.html
http://services.ksadalleel.com/2015/05/riyadh-dammam.html
http://services.ksadalleel.com/2015/05/jidah-makah2.html
http://services.ksadalleel.com/2015/05/jidah-makah2.html
http://services.ksadalleel.com/2015/05/riyadh-dammam2.html
http://services.ksadalleel.com/2015/05/riyadh-dammam2.html

Lamiss I.
Lamiss I.9 months ago

Hello! I just want to offer you a huge thumbs up for the excellent information you have got here on this post. I am coming back to your blog for more soon.
Cheers,

http://www.prokr.com/blog/
http://www.albyaan.com/
http://www.elbassma.net/
http://www.prokr.com/furniture-moving-company-riyadh/
http://www.prokr.com/cleaning-company-riyadh/

Leanne B.
Leanne B.11 months ago

Interesting thank you.

Lonny S.
Lonny S.about a year ago

Kevin Mathews -- can you contact me about the graphic used for this story? I'm a journalist, working on a film about people who are neither male nor female, and I'd love to use that graphic and will need to get permission. Any idea where it came from? lonny at photowords dot com , or through my web site www.photowords.com Thanks!!

Lonny S.
Lonny S.about a year ago

Kevin Mathews -- I'm a journalist and interested in where you got the graphic for this story. I'd like to use it for another story and need to track down the origin to get permission. Please contact me at lonny at photowords dot com or through my web site photowords dot com. Thanks!! Great article. Lonny

Ashraf Marwan
Ashraf Marwan1 years ago

خدمات شركة الشايع شركة رش مبيدات نقل اثاث كشف تسرب المياة شركة عزل مائي شركة مكافحة حشرات نقل اثاث شركة نظافة عامة غسيل خزانات المياة تنظيف خزانات المياة شركة عزل حمامات عزل خزانات المياة شركة تسربات الميا ة بالرياض غسيل سجاد موكيت نقل اثاث بالرياض ش&