Banishing gender in Sweden

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Anaxagoras
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Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Anaxagoras »

Sweden’s New Gender-Neutral Pronoun: Hen
In 2010, the World Economic Forum designated Sweden as the most gender-equal country in the world.

But for many Swedes, gender equality is not enough. Many are pushing for the Nordic nation to be not simply gender-equal but gender-neutral. The idea is that the government and society should tolerate no distinctions at all between the sexes. This means on the narrow level that society should show sensitivity to people who don't identify themselves as either male or female, including allowing any type of couple to marry. But that’s the least radical part of the project. What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.
. . .
Earlier this month, the movement for gender neutrality reached a milestone: Just days after International Women's Day a new pronoun, hen (pronounced like the bird in English), was added to the online version of the country’s National Encyclopedia. The entry defines hen as a "proposed gender-neutral personal pronoun instead of he [han in Swedish] and she [hon]."The National Encyclopedia announcement came amid a heated debate about gender neutrality that has been raging in Swedish newspaper columns and TV studios and on parenting blogs and feminist websites. It was sparked by the publication of Sweden's first ever gender-neutral children's book, Kivi och Monsterhund (Kivi and Monsterdog). It tells the story of Kivi, who wants a dog for "hen's" birthday. The male author, Jesper Lundqvist, introduces several gender-neutral words in the book. For instance the words mammor and pappor (moms and dads) are replaced with mappor and pammor.

The free lifestyle magazine, Nöjesguiden, which is distributed in major Swedish cities and is similar to the Village Voice, recently released an issue using hen throughout. In his column, writer Kawa Zolfagari says, "It can be hard to handle the male ego sometimes. I myself tend to get a stinging feeling when a female friend has had it with sexism or has got hurt because of some guy and desperately blurts out some generalisation about men. Sometimes I think 'Hen knows me, hen knows I am not an idiot, why does hen speak that way of all men?' Nöjesguiden's editor, Margret Atladottir, said hen ought to be included in the dictionary of the Swedish Academy, the body that awards the Nobel Prize in literature.
. . .
Ironically, in the effort to free Swedish children from so-called normative behavior, gender-neutral proponents are also subjecting them to a whole set of new rules and new norms as certain forms of play become taboo, language becomes regulated, and children's interactions and attitudes are closely observed by teachers. One Swedish school got rid of its toy cars because boys "gender-coded" them and ascribed the cars higher status than other toys. Another preschool removed "free playtime" from its schedule because, as a pedagogue at the school put it, when children play freely "stereotypical gender patterns are born and cemented. In free play there is hierarchy, exclusion, and the seed to bullying." And so every detail of children's interactions gets micromanaged by concerned adults, who end up problematizing minute aspects of children's lives, from how they form friendships to what games they play and what songs they sing.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Abdul Alhazred »

Their Muslims will "straighten" them out soon enough.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by ed »

errr ... there actually is a difference you know.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

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ed wrote:errr ... there actually is a difference you know.
grammarians have proposed similar things here. I don't think is was so much a rights thing (maybe a hint of a rights thing) as a fix for our awkward gender pronouns. We need one that represents either when the actor is unknown. Using 'S/he' is ugly and distracting. Using 'He or She' is awkward.

Never gained traction here. I'm for it though.

Him/Her
He/She

at least.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by ed »

Rob Lister wrote:
ed wrote:errr ... there actually is a difference you know.
grammarians have proposed similar things here. I don't think is was so much a rights thing (maybe a hint of a rights thing) as a fix for our awkward gender pronouns. We need one that represents either when the actor is unknown. Using 'S/he' is ugly and distracting. Using 'He or She' is awkward.

Never gained traction here. I'm for it though.

Him/Her
He/She

at least.
Our language is awkward.

Someone/one use that you will feel better as the intenrwebs gets back on its feet.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Anaxagoras »

Rob Lister wrote:
ed wrote:errr ... there actually is a difference you know.
grammarians have proposed similar things here. I don't think is was so much a rights thing (maybe a hint of a rights thing) as a fix for our awkward gender pronouns. We need one that represents either when the actor is unknown. Using 'S/he' is ugly and distracting. Using 'He or She' is awkward.

Never gained traction here. I'm for it though.

Him/Her
He/She

at least.
I run into this problem in my work sometimes.

For example: Tanaka-san could be Mr. Tanaka but could also be Ms. Tanaka.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

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Anaxagoras wrote:
Rob Lister wrote:
ed wrote:errr ... there actually is a difference you know.
grammarians have proposed similar things here. I don't think is was so much a rights thing (maybe a hint of a rights thing) as a fix for our awkward gender pronouns. We need one that represents either when the actor is unknown. Using 'S/he' is ugly and distracting. Using 'He or She' is awkward.

Never gained traction here. I'm for it though.

Him/Her
He/She

at least.
I run into this problem in my work sometimes.

For example: Tanaka-san could be Mr. Tanaka but could also be Ms. Tanaka.
The san suffix isn't gender male sir? That's practically the only japanese grammar I ever learned and it appears I even got that wrong! Fuck.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Anaxagoras »

Nope. Completely gender neutral. As is the more polite variant sama.

And another difference with Japanese is that one doesn't usually address people in the second person. For example if I were to ask you how your day was, I would ask "How is Mr. Lister today?" Or I might ask you "Does Mr. Lister like sushi?"

The only people one addresses in the second person are very close friends and family members.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Rob Lister »

Anaxagoras wrote:
Rob Lister wrote:
ed wrote:errr ... there actually is a difference you know.
grammarians have proposed similar things here. I don't think is was so much a rights thing (maybe a hint of a rights thing) as a fix for our awkward gender pronouns. We need one that represents either when the actor is unknown. Using 'S/he' is ugly and distracting. Using 'He or She' is awkward.

Never gained traction here. I'm for it though.

Him/Her
He/She

at least.
I run into this problem in my work sometimes.

For example: Tanaka-san could be Mr. Tanaka but could also be Ms. Tanaka.
That's actually the opposite problem then; the grammar hides the actor.

How do you solve?
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Abdul Alhazred »

Anaxagoras wrote:For example: Tanaka-san could be Mr. Tanaka but could also be Ms. Tanaka.
It would be the same in imperial Japan of yore, right?

There doesn't seem to be any actual correlation between with gender neutral pronouns and level of sexism in a culture.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Abdul Alhazred »

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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Anaxagoras »

Rob Lister wrote:
Anaxagoras wrote:
Rob Lister wrote:
ed wrote:errr ... there actually is a difference you know.
grammarians have proposed similar things here. I don't think is was so much a rights thing (maybe a hint of a rights thing) as a fix for our awkward gender pronouns. We need one that represents either when the actor is unknown. Using 'S/he' is ugly and distracting. Using 'He or She' is awkward.

Never gained traction here. I'm for it though.

Him/Her
He/She

at least.
I run into this problem in my work sometimes.

For example: Tanaka-san could be Mr. Tanaka but could also be Ms. Tanaka.
That's actually the opposite problem then; the grammar hides the actor.

How do you solve?
Step 1: try to find out if Tanaka-san is a man or a woman.
Step 2: if step 1 fails go with Mr. Tanaka and write up a translator's note.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Rob Lister »

Anaxagoras wrote:
Rob Lister wrote:
Anaxagoras wrote:
Rob Lister wrote:
ed wrote:errr ... there actually is a difference you know.
grammarians have proposed similar things here. I don't think is was so much a rights thing (maybe a hint of a rights thing) as a fix for our awkward gender pronouns. We need one that represents either when the actor is unknown. Using 'S/he' is ugly and distracting. Using 'He or She' is awkward.

Never gained traction here. I'm for it though.

Him/Her
He/She

at least.
I run into this problem in my work sometimes.

For example: Tanaka-san could be Mr. Tanaka but could also be Ms. Tanaka.
That's actually the opposite problem then; the grammar hides the actor.

How do you solve?
Step 1: try to find out if Tanaka-san is a man or a woman.
Step 2: if step 1 fails go with Mr. Tanaka and write up a translator's note.
what is a translator's note?
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Anaxagoras »

Rob Lister wrote:what is a translator's note?
A comment about the translation.
Most translation jobs we do end up generating at least one translation comment, usually about errors in the original. Most documents contain at least a few minor errors. Many contain quite a few not-so-minor errors. Of course, it could be about an issue that isn't an error in the original, but presents a problem for the translator, like our gender-ambiguous Tanaka-san.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by DrMatt »

Rob Lister wrote:
ed wrote:errr ... there actually is a difference you know.
grammarians have proposed similar things here. I don't think is was so much a rights thing (maybe a hint of a rights thing) as a fix for our awkward gender pronouns. We need one that represents either when the actor is unknown. Using 'S/he' is ugly and distracting. Using 'He or She' is awkward.

Never gained traction here. I'm for it though.

Him/Her
He/She

at least.
I've been aggressively using "they" for decades now. I also put punctuation outside the quotes when it wasn't in the source text that I'm quoting. :P
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Anaxagoras »

DrMatt wrote: I've been aggressively using "they" for decades now. I also put punctuation outside the quotes when it wasn't in the source text that I'm quoting. :P
Agree on both points. Although I wouldn't use "they" in work for a client and I would follow the punctuation rules appropriate for the particular job in question.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by gnome »

I get slightly annoyed when an attempt to offer gender neutral terminology is portrayed as an attempt to banish gender itself from being recognized in language. Adding an option for ambiguous situations, not subtracting.
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Doctor X »

There is the pernicious attempt--been around for a few decades--to use feminine pronouns exclusively to show how "gender-aware" you are.

Generally, I advise to "pick one"--even have some fun with it--from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph.

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"Doctor X is just treating you the way he treats everyone--as subhuman crap too dumb to breathe in after you breathe out." – Don
DocX: FTW. – sparks
"Doctor X wins again." – Pyrrho
"Never sorry to make a racist Fucktard cry." – His Humble MagNIfIcence
"It was the criticisms of Doc X, actually, that let me see more clearly how far the hypocrisy had gone." – clarsct
"I'd leave it up to Doctor X who has been a benevolent tyrant so far." – Grammatron
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Shit. That's going to end up in your sig." – Pyrrho
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Re: Banishing gender in Sweden

Post by Abdul Alhazred »

gnome wrote:I get slightly annoyed when an attempt to offer gender neutral terminology is portrayed as an attempt to banish gender itself from being recognized in language. Adding an option for ambiguous situations, not subtracting.
Wanna bet?

We're talking about Sweden here.

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