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Think you know people who are militant about abolishing gender stereotypes? Suggest they move to Sweden. At “Egalia” preschool in Stockholm, the primary mission is to erase any notion that there’s even the slightest difference between boys and girls. There, even the words "him" and "her" are banished -- the pint-sized pupils are simply called "friends." If a guest speaker is coming to visit, the person is referred to as a "Hen," because, as Director Lotta Rajalin told the Associated Press, "then the children can imagine both a man or a woman. This widens their view." (Or possibly confuses them.)
In general, it seems the world has gone a bit gender-crazy. Last month, we told you about baby Storm, a Toronto infant who has the unfortunate distinction of being a genderless baby. It’s not that the infant is some kind of hermaphrodite, it’s just that, as, well hen’s parents explained, it’s “a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation.” (Or perhaps a serious catalyst for future therapy.) While Storm’s parents represent one extreme view on gender, there are plenty of folks on the other, who believe girls should stick to playing with dolls, while boys should never, ever, let their mom paint their fingernails pink, the way the young son of J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons did, as iVillage reported in April.
But both extreme ends of the gender debate are just that -- extreme. Of course I love that people are striving to create more equality between men and women. In some ways, I applaud Egalia for trying to help kids realize that little girls are just as capable as little boys — and vice versa. However, pretending gender does not exist seems as crazy as not acknowledging that there’s a nose on everyone’s face. Allowing boys to wear pink nail polish? I’m all for it. Ignoring the biological differences between boys and girls? That’s just ignorant. Educating our children that boys and girls can be who they want to be -- regardless of the pressures society might put on them - is a noble pursuit. But we can do it while keeping “he” and “she” in our vocabulary.