The language. A tool for many beautiful and many horrible things in the world. In Sweden there is a debate going on right now about using a gender neutral pronoun when addressing children in preschools. In Swedish, “he” is “han”, and “she” is “hon”. Now, many preschools choose to say “hen” instead, used for both boys and girls.
I wrote an article about it a year ago for AP, read it here
To what extent should we modify our language to avoid stereotypes? Why is it a bad thing to say him or her? To me, that is going too far. Him or Her is and shouldn’t be bad, but by using a neutral pronoun instead, the children will eventually start to think that He/She, Him/Her are taboo-words and be right up there with Fuck, Pussy, Cunt and Dick. And what not.
I DO agree with the fact that language can enforce old-fashioned stereotypes. Take a look at this article for example, published in London’s Evening Standard on Tuesday the 13th of March 2012.
How do they describe the two women’s get-together? First of all, they are not independent women involved in politics. No. They are “WIVES”. And they are “QUIET”, having a “MEAL”, while the “BOYS” are at a “GAME”.
It fulfills ALL the stereotypes of women and boys, and the picture sits perfect on top of it. Hello, since when are we back in the 1950’s?
Another sentence that will make every conservative smile: “They are expected to discuss their FAMILIES, life in the media spotlight and the hectic programme during the Camerons’ three-day visit to Washington and New York.” … “Mrs Cameron and Mrs Obama, WHO BOTH REGULARLY JOG AND WORK OUT (what???), struck their friendship ….”
You get it? So if any budding journalists are reading this – don’t only be aware of grammatical errors, but also these – far more worse – gender stereotyping errors.