An innovative preschool in Stockholm’s Sodermalm district does not enroll boys or girls, reports the Associated Press, but “friends.” Fighting the good fight for gender equality in the nation that is perhaps its most radical proponent, the tax-funded preschool “Egalia” aims at eliminating gender stereotypes that often accompany early childhood education: “Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty, and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing,” claims Jenny Johnson, one of Egalia’s teachers. “Egalia gives them the fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.”
On the cutting edge of the gender equality effort, Egalia has taken the radical measure of doing away with gender-denoting pronouns. Substituting the genderless (and previously non-existent)“hen” for the male and female pronouns “han” and “hon,” the preschool can anticipate visits from doctors and plumbers, says director Lotta Rajalin, “imagining both a man or a woman. This widens their view.” I suppose the widened view is shattered, however, when an actual man or woman arrives.
Experiments like Egalia may be troubling or perhaps only ridiculous for those with more traditional sensibilities, but such an endeavor is not surprising from a nation whose own Science Council granted $80,000 for a postdoctoral fellowship aimed at analyzing “the trumpet as a symbol of gender.”