No Fooling: Salon Hails Swedish Dictionary’s Inclusion of Gender-Neutral Pronoun ‘Hen’

Liberal media want to know why English can’t figure out pronouns, but just a few years ago Slate admitted Sweden’s move was ‘radical.’

Hen. Three little letters that make up a gender-neutral Swedish pronoun could become a new progressive rallying cry.

The Swedish Academy’s SAOL dictionary is adding “hen” as an official gender-neutral counterpart to the oh-so-restrictive “binary” options “han” (male) and “hon” (female), The Washington Post reported on April 1, 2015. But it was no April Fool’s joke.

Liberals hailed the addition as a sign that the oppressive, old-fashioned society where teachers can address a class as “boys and girls” was crumbling and wanted to know when English would catch up.

“If the Swedish can figure it out, why can’t we?” Salon asked on April 1, 2015. “And if we want to move toward expanding our culture, sometimes we have to expand our vocabulary. We don’t live in a world of just he or she. So why should we live in a language that does?”

Progressives may view the gender-neutral trend as freeing, but in practical application a world without gender means more restriction, not less.

Slate had a surprisingly conservative take back in 2012, when it wrote about the introduction of “hen” as a gender-neutral pronoun. At that time, Slate said Sweden was attempting to “banish gender” with some “radical” changes, including preschools where teachers were forbidden to reference gender at all.

“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,” Slate said. “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. 

Slate even recognized the end-game when it said, “What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.”

Erasing a “binary” mindset from language is nearly impossible. Distinctions of masculine and feminine are vital for the structure of languages like French, which designates each noun masculine or feminine to be matched with the proper corresponding adjective.

Linguistics aside, a gender-neutral landscape actually becomes a Brave New World-like place where children are closely monitored to make sure they are playing correctly.

“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,” Slate said.

The result, according to Slate, was that “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.”

One psychiatric expert has said that “hen” ignores the precious biological distinctions between the genders that make men and women unique.

“Whatever you choose to call people, the biological differences between men and women remain,” Swedish psychiatrist Dr. David Eberhard told Newsweek in September 2014. “We should treat each other with respect, but ignoring biological gender differences is crazy. Making us identical won’t create more equality.”

While boys and girls should feel free to play with dolls or cars based on preference, giving them a third gender pronoun would be “cruelty,” according to Eberhard.