The question of gender and its importance in language and society has recently been raised following the banning of the terms ‘he’ and ‘she’ at a Swedish pre-school. The school – named ‘Egalia’ – introduced the measure to allow children to develop regardless of their gender. Teachers at the school in Stockholm refer to the children by their names, as ‘friends’ or by using the term ‘hen’, a unisex pronoun borrowed from the Finnish language, rather than using gender-specific pronouns.
This news has sparked debate worldwide regarding the importance of gender stereotypes, typical roles of men and women, and benefits and disadvantages of the policy in terms of child development. From a language point of view, it also raises the topic of personal pronouns, gender, and whether the two are always necessary and how commonly they are used. (more…)