Sweden To Use New Gender Neutral Pronoun, ‘Hen’

A70-13940If the language and words we use determine the frameworks within which we think, the newest edition to Swedish may have an enlightening effect. Slate explains:

For many Swedes, gender equality is not enough. Many are pushing for the Nordic nation to be not simply gender-equal, but gender-neutral. What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.

Earlier this month, the movement reached a milestone: Just days after International Women’s Day, a new pronoun, ‘hen’ (pronounced like the bird in English), was added to the country’s National Encyclopedia. The entry defines hen as a “proposed gender-neutral personal pronoun instead of he [han in Swedish] and she [hon].” The announcement came amid heated debate that has been raging in Swedish newspaper columns and TV studios and on parenting blogs and feminist websites. It was sparked by the publication of Sweden’s first ever gender-neutral children’s book, Kivi och Monsterhund.

Hen was first mentioned by Swedish linguists in the mid-1960s, and then in 1994 the late linguist Hans Karlgren suggested adding hen as a new personal pronoun, mostly for practical reasons.

  • http://www.jaycob.co.nf/ Scruffy

    It’s a good thing we have the word “They”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Iaminnocenttheblood-Ofthisjustmanyouseetoit/100002857705077 Iaminnocenttheblood Ofthisjust

    I’ve heard this country was a New World Order experiment ground.  Small easily controlled population and if it backfired it could be easily isolated or exterminated.

    • Jin The Ninja

      and what causes you to believe this?

    • Mason Free

      This seems like an odd claim, given that Sweden’s free-market capitalist economy is one of the strongest in Europe.

      • Monkey See Monkey Do

        It’s actually a social democracy. With ‘dare I say’ HEAVY regulation on the capitalist market.

    • JaceD

      LOL! I’ve heard people who believe in the NWO conspiracy say the same about my country.

  • Jesus Borg

    What a bunch of fags…

    • Jin The Ninja

      pretty sure most swedes align with a hetero-normative sexuality.

      • Mason Free

        >a hetero-normative sexuality.

        I smell a humanities grad student.

        • Jin The Ninja


  • Bob

    Admirable, but society is based on division. This is not gonna work. This is a fail and I mean this respectfully. Admirable, but impossible.

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    Many languages have neutral pronouns; spoken Mandarin Chinese for example.
    The problem with neutral pronouns is that it can get confusing,
    but I don’t think it necessarily engenders gender equity.

    What it does do though
    is make it almost impossible for Chinese people to get gender specific pronouns correct
    when they speak English. 

  • Redacted

    Maybe we should just refer to the genders by “penis”, “vagina” or “other”.

  • DeepCough

    Last I checked, “Hen” is not gender neutral–that’s a female chicken, dammit!

    • Redacted

      You misunderstand. Under gender neutrality everyone is a woman. If you dislike it, you are male and must be re-educated.

      Male thought is wrong. Male thought is inferior. Male thought must be purged.

      • Calhoun1589

        gender neutrality certainly does not mean everyone is a woman. gender neutrality means the non-specification of a gender. “woman” signifies female, which is of course a gender. “hen” is a pronoun to be used in order to not show a preference for a certain gender. it’s about our language biases, not re-making us genderless or everyone into women. however it will be interesting to see how this shapes peoples’ conceptions of gender, especially those who grow up completely familiar with gender neutral pronouns.

  • Coryjames25

    Oh, great… now we have to find a way to neutralize testosterone and oxytocin.  Then hopefully our genitals will shrivel up leaving nothing more than a patch of tender skin… Next we’ll have to figure out a way to get rid of the asshole…and eventually we’ll just be synthetic super computers all with the same information and virtually indistinguishable from each other… 

  • Leogang89

    It seems like it’ll help to eliminate gender biases. In the vast majority of Western writing, even by women, the pronoun “he” is used to demonstrate some human doing something or other. That kind of constant gender preference conditioning gets picked up implicitly if not explicitly. It’s why many scholars have started using “she” as often as possible to try to correct the imbalance, or at least cause the reader to be aware of the preference. I’n ambiguous cases and examples where showing gender preference isn’t necessary, a neutral pronoun doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but this is not to say that it should always be used or the cultural distinction between male and female should be dissolved.

  • tooCents

    People hate difference. Humanity wills itself towards either attacking groups within or towards a global homogeneous wanker race. 

  • Roawynne

    I’m glad they decided to officially recognize a gender-neutral pronoun over there, but… Hen?