Sweden Has a New Gender-Free Preschool. Is This the Way to Fight Bias?

One preschool in Sweden has banned the use of "him" and "her." Will this experiment bring us gender equality?

In keeping with Sweden's rep as the most evolved country ever, a preschool there is attempting to eliminate gender bias in the classroom by not using the words "him" or "her." At the taxpayer-funded Egalia preschool, teachers use the word "friend" and the recently invented Swedish gender-neutral pronoun "hen" instead. Lego bricks and building blocks are placed next to the toy kitchen, where all the kids play in harmony.

"Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing," the teacher told the AP. "Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be."

This news comes after the international freak-out over one Toronto couple who are raising their baby, Storm, without telling anyone the sex (naturally, the Swedes tried that first), not to mention the ludicrous hub-bub over Brad and Angie's genderbending daughter, Shiloh. So far, the world has not taken kindly to attempts to raise kids in a world free of gender expectations.

When I heard about the Toronto couple's gender-free child, I had mixed feelings about it. On one hand, the parents will theoretically give their baby a chance to choose its own gender based on how it feels, not on what's between its legs. On the other hand, raising a single genderless child amid a sea of pink and blue seems like a short-sighted way to fight gender bias. I could easily see the freedom to discover one's own gender identity being overshadowed by the kid being socially isolated or relentlessly teased. Also, the effort that goes into concealing a kid's gender from the rest of the world might, ironically, lead to an obsessive focus on gender in the kid's life.

This preschool, on the other hand, is making moves toward dissolving mandated gender roles in a community-based way, where the gender pressure is off en masse. It would make a child's process of gender identification seem normal and just another part of growing up. Given the hell that trans kids go through, that would be a huge improvement over our boys-against-girls mentality.

Still, I feel really torn about banning books like Cinderella and Snow White simply because they have deep gender stereotypes. My first impulse would be to read them alongside books with more progressive storylines, and then explain how the gender dynamics in Disney tales are fucked up. That way, the kids would be prepared to fight gender bias in the wider world after they leave the 33-kid utopia of Egalia preschool. Just like disingenuous "post-racial" rhetoric and wishful-thinking girl power, it's tough to fight against inequality when you pretend it doesn't exist.

Given the insane transphobia and enduring faith in gender roles in this country, it's doubtful that this experiment is coming our way any time soon. But if it's successful, maybe it'll turn the tide toward a less restrictive society, where we accept a spectrum of gender identities and the "battle of the sexes" isn't quite so ingrained in our daily lives.

photo (cc) by Flickr user kristin_a

via David Leavitt / Twitter

Anyone who has ever worked in retail knows that the worst thing about the job, right after the pay, are the unreasonable cheapskates who "want to talk to your manager" to get some money off an item.

They think that throwing a tantrum will save them a few bucks and don't care if they completely embarrass themselves in the process. Sometimes that involves belittling the poor employee who's just trying to get through their day with an ounce of dignity.

Twitter is rallying around a gal named Tori who works at a Target in Massachusetts after she was tweet-shamed by irate chapekate, journalist, and Twitter troll, David Leavitt.

Keep Reading

Childbirth is the number one reason American women visit the hospital, and it ain't cheap. In fact, it's getting more and more expensive. A new study published in Health Affairs found that the cost of having a baby with employer-sponsored health insurance increased by almost 50% in the past seven years.

The study evaluated "trends in cost-sharing for maternity care for women with employer-based health insurance plans, before and after the Affordable Care Act," which was signed into law in 2010. The study looked at over 657,061 women enrolled in large employer-sponsored health insurance plans who delivered babies between 2008 and 2015, as these plans tend to cover more than plans purchased by small businesses or individuals.

Keep Reading

A meteorite crashed into Earth nearly 800,000 years ago. The meteor was 1.2 miles wide, and the impact was so big, it covered 10% of the planet with debris. However, scientists haven't been able to find the impact site for over a century. That is, until now. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal believes the crash site has been located.

Tektites, which are essentially rocks that have been liquefied from the heat of the impact and then cooled to form glass, help scientists spot the original impact site of a meteor. Upon impact, melted material is thrown into the atmosphere, then falls back to the ground. Even if the original crater has disappeared due to erosion or is hidden by a shift in tectonic plates, tektites give the spot away. Tektites between 750,000 to 35.5 million years old have been found in every continent except Antarctica.

Keep Reading