A BLOG POST BY STEPHENIE FOSTER
I must say, I love this story about a movement in Sweden to have a gender neutral pronoun, in addition to the pronouns “she” and “he.”
It's controversial, even in Sweden, but what strikes me as I read the story is the power of language to shape our views and our sense of possibility. We don’t always think about the impact of language. But, the power of what we say, and the messages that are sent with language are important. Think about the use of the term "girl" which used to be used to describe women even in their fifties and sixties. Using the terms businesswomen, police women, firefighters (not firemen) is sometimes made fun of, but these words help everyone see those jobs as options for both women and men.
My challenge to all of us is to think about the language we choose and its impact. For example, when we say there are women who don't work, we are essentially devaluing work that goes on outside the paid work force. When we say that women can't do jobs that require physical labor, we are airbrushing out the women who work at jobs across the globe that require heavy lifting, whether it's of firewood, water, or people they care for on a daily basis.
So, my hat is off to the Swedes who are searching for an inclusive pronoun, and for continuing to look for ways to emphasize the power of words. And, I do love the line in the story: "There's almost nothing left to do [here] in the field of gender equality.”