Gender Perception in Sweden

The issue of gender and sexuality have been discussed around the strict distinction between the gender norms in today’s world. Focusing on the Europe, such efforts including the revising the gender signs of bathrooms and traffic lights, gender neutral toilets, and gender neutral uniforms have been put in order to change the perception towards the gender roles.

Traditionally, gender equality has been considered as very strong in Scandinavia.  Sweden is known as one of the prominent countries in terms of enhancing gender equality. The country was ranked fourth in 2014 gender equality report of the World Economic Forum. In 1972, the Swedish government decided to work on equal opportunities between the sexes, which has made the gender equality a central political issue. Some of them are the improvements in the parental allowance systems, individual taxation, child care systems. Furthermore, the concept of gender neutral policy which insists on the rejection of the idea that different genders have different characteristics wants and needs began in 1998 by the amendment to Sweden’s Education Act that points to the idea that ‘all schools must work against gender stereotyping’.

In 2012, Egalia, a pre-school in Stockholm for the children aged between 1 to 6, opened and embraced the gender neutral policy. According to the news of Jenny Soffel from Independent, the school wants to make sure that the children are not exposed to sexual stereotypes. The toys on the shelves are not separated according to the gender norms, instead, they are deliberately put side-by-side. This operation in Sweden aims to make children feel free to choose any toys rather than forcing them to get toys according to gender norms.Their assigned books are also appropriately choosen in order to avoid traditional understanding of men and women and of the parenting roles. According to the BBC News, “the teachers avoid using the pronouns “him” (which is ‘han’ in the Swedish language) and “her” (which is ‘hon’ in the Swedish language) when talking to the children. Instead they refer to them as “friends”, by their first names, or as “hen” – a genderless pronoun borrowed from Finnish”.

Furthermore, in 2015, the country included this gender neutral pronoun -‘hen’- into their offical dictionary. This pronoun was recognized by the Swedish Academy and was incuded in the country’s esteemed dictionary SAOL. By these official acceptance, ‘the use of ‘hen’ has been used more in everyday life and challenged the ascribed gender norms’ were told by the  linguistic expert Sofia Malmgård in an interview with Washington Post.

The reactions towards these practices has divided into two groups in Sweden. Some people do not find these operations and new attempts by arguing that this kind of society is not the reality of the world and outside of the country would challenge their life. In addition, a group of people argue that ongoing supplementation of the practices of public discourse of gender equality is moving towards market based policy. Hence, Eva Olofsson, researcher at Umeå University, asserts that in 1990s the ‘meeting the needs of the learner’ discourse came to the forefront, meaning that the teachers should base their work on the students’ needs and interest, and examines whether teaching would become marked-led or not. However, the supporters of these policies believe that gender neutral education allows children to grow up without feeling the pressure of gender biases. Furthermore, they argue that the world is changing in the way that people become indulgent to gender equality, thus, thanks to these policies, these children will be ready to live in the world in which the gender question will have been already solved.


“Insight Report The Global Gender Gap Report 2014. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2916.

Soffel, Jenny. “Gender-Neutral’ Pre-School Accused of Mind Control.” Independent, 3 July 2011. Web. 18 Nov. 2016

Hebblethwaite, Cordelia. “Sweden’s ‘Gender-Neutral’ Pre-School.” BBC News, 8 July 2011. Web. 17 Nov. 2016

Noack, Rick. “Sweden is About to Add a Gender Neutral Pronoun to Its Official Dictionary.” 1 Ap 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2016

Olofsson, Eva. “The Discursive Construction of Gender in Physical Education in Sweden, 1945-2003: Is Meeting the Learner’s Needs Tantamount to Meeting the Market’s Needs?” European Physical Education Review. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.


Seden Gürlek


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