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No "boys" or "girls" at gender-neutral preschool in Sweden

At Egalia preschool in Stockholm, children are not called "him" and "her," or "boy" and "girl," in an attempt to fight gender stereotypes.
Sweden children gender roles 26 06 11Enlarge
Swedish children from a kindergarden wear their obligatory traffic safety vests as they play in a Stockholm park. At the "Egalia" preschool in Sweden, staff refer to the children as "friends" instead of "boys" and "girls," in an attempt to breakdown gender stereotypes for boys and girls. (SVEN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)

A preschool in Sweden wants to eliminate gender bias by referring to children as “friends,” instead of girls and boys, and avoiding gender-specific pronouns such as “him” or “her.”

At the taxpayer-funded “Egalia” preschool in Stockholm, which opened last year for children ages 1-6, boys and girls play together with a toy kitchen, which is located next to the Lego bricks, the Associated Press reports.

They read books featuring gay and lesbian couples, single parents and adopted children, instead of fairy tales such as “Cinderella” or “Snow White,” which are rife with gender stereotypes.

School staff try to avoid masculine and feminine references in their speech, for example by not using the Swedish pronouns “han” or “hon” for him or her, and instead using the genderless word “hen,” which doesn’t formally exist in the Swedish language.

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

A 2010 report by the World Economic Forum on the global gender gap found that Sweden and three other Nordic countries lead the world when it comes to gender equality. Sweden is also considered a pioneer in legalizing gay and lesbian partnerships.

A Canadian couple recently drew international attention for their decision to try and raise a genderless baby by not telling anyone whether their child is a boy or girl.

When Storm was born, the couple from Toronto told friends and family that they had decided not to share the baby’s sex.

“When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or a boy?’” mother Kathy Witterick explained to the Toronto Star. “If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs.”

Storm’s brothers Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2, choose their own clothes and hairstyles. Jazz prefers to wear his hair long and in three braids, and his favorite color is pink.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/sweden-preschool-children-boys-girls-gender-stereotypes

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