The Swedish Pronoun
Gender roles and stereotypes are obviously a part of today’s society, all around the world. However, some appreciate them more than others, and how these facts will develop in the future is something only time can tell. In Sweden, the debate of equal rights between sexes is a part of the political agenda and the politics of equality was provided with 1. 5 billion Swedish kronor between the years of 2007 and 2010.
Nevertheless, voices have been raised for the cause of accusing the government for not doing enough.  During the spring of 2012, a vivid debate took place in the Swedish media regarding the gender-neutral pronoun “hen” (which is structured as a combination between the Swedish words for she and he). The pronoun has been used for decades within Swedish feministic networks. For this reason, it is interesting examining why hen is as provoking as it seems to be and how it is illuminating the fact and question about mankind: are there humans or sexes? Background
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According to Goteborgs-Posten, the second largest daily newspaper in Sweden, the debate regarding “hen” snowballed when the children’s book Kivi and Monsterhund (Kivi and Monsterdog) was published in January 2012.  The genders of the characters in the book were intentionally chosen not being displayed and the author Jesper Lundquist has commented on the making of the book as both creative and enjoyable because of the decision to exclude stereotypes. Due to, the criticism and the discontent conveyed about hen, have numerous times referred to the improperness of the children’s book mentioned above.
For one thing, many critics are afraid the children can be confused by the message being sent. However, the pronoun was included in the online version of the Swedish National Encyclopedia in 2009 and was introduced by Swedish linguists during the 1960’s. The linguist Hans Karlgren reintroduced it in 1994.  The meaning of hen is described as a suggested gender-neutral personal pronoun, used instead of he or she in the National Encyclopedia. Furthermore, androgynous alternatives for third-person pronouns exist all over the world; Chinese, Armenian, Finnish and Persian are examples of languages, which contain gender-neutral pronouns.
Several pronouns have been introduced to the English language during the last decade. Among them are: thon, ip, sim, e, ey, eir, em and se (all created by Americans).  Also, there is one presented by Joel Weiss from Illinois, who combined the words he, she and it and the word h’orsh’it was introduced. In spite of these examples, the English language has hardly something corresponding to hen. Thesis statement • Why is there a need for the Swedish gender-neutral pronoun “hen”? Method
Because of the fact that the debate, which the thesis statement is about, has primarily occurred in the media my main choice of sources are old articles. To find the widest spectra of ideas and opinions possible, the collection of sources was found on blogs and in media with a wide political diversity. Regarding texts in English, the varieties of political positions were difficult finding. Mainly, the texts were politically far right and published on, consistent with me personally, strongly conservative webpages. At the same time, the articles and entries were in general without any constructive criticism.
Instead, the texts were explaining facts in a condemnatory tone with a predefined idea of Socialism and Sweden. By analysing and comparing several different texts, the facts and ideas were able to complement each other very well in the result. Obviously, the most important facts to be presented are those which, can answer the thesis statement. For this reason, it was prioritized to find several kinds of needs for the pronoun. Additionally, an episode of the television show Debatt, a Swedish debate program, was used as source material.
Naturally, it contained a short debate about both the children’s book written by Jesper Lundquist and the usage of hen. This was indeed an important source because several kinds of opinions were displayed and together they created a dynamic and constructive discussion. Results During a discussion in the Swedish television program Debatt (Debate) about hen and the book Kivi och Monsterhund, a transsexual person described her view on genders by saying “There are not enough genders. Instead, there are two islands, one called women and one called men but we are many who are swimming in the ocean between.
In addition, Dominika Peczynski, who is critical to the gender-neutral pronoun, is then responding with a rhetorical question: “But then, could it not be sufficient if only ‘the people swimming in the middle of it all’ would be called hen? ” The Social Democrat Ylva Johansson is the spokesperson for gender equality questions.  Johansson has commented on the debate about hen by criticising the views of the minister of equality questions, Nyamko Sabuni. Sabuni has stated her hopes about hen being “a new fresh concept to accomplish equality”.
In contrast, Ylva Johansson emphasises the importance of political initiatives and legislation. Furthermore, Johansson clarifies that she does not object to the pronoun itself but she would be cautious against putting a too great value in a word. “It is worrying if we have a minister who believes that only a word can change women’s wages, employment conditions, /… /and the withdrawal of the parental insurance”. Besides reviews in the newspapers, interviews have been published, including parents who have decided not to reveal the sex of their baby, connected to the pronoun debate.
To sum up the most discussed one, published by Dagens Nyheter, the parents are explaining how they are raising their children gender-neutrally to avoid the restrainments that the children otherwise jeopardise to be faced with in the society, based on their gender. Regarding the foreign media interest, there is mostly sharp criticism directed to “this far-left attempt to reduce gender”.  For example, an article written by the journalist Nathalie Rotschild firstly criticises the Swedish idea of the society and government are tolerating the fact that there are no social differences between men and women.
Owing to this idea, the writer both concludes and criticises it, by explaining how radical it is for a society to accept people who do not identify themselves as a certain gender and to allow them to marry each other. Consequently, Rothschild writes: “But that’s the least radical part of the project. What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels. ” Concerning hen, the journalist mentions Hans Karlgrens idea of the pronoun being appropriate for practical reasons.
Overall, a word that according to Karlgren enables dialogues to proceed without the need to specify genders of the people concerned. Consequently, Rothschild contrasts this fact with the impression of the proponents of hen having a “typical political agenda”. The author of the blog Forskarfeministen (The Scientistfeminist) has written an entry in which gender-neutral language was discussed and a statement of hers or his was explained. In order to avoid the risk of moving focus from the actual message, to the stylistics, the writer of the blog do not use hen, among other examples. 10] In an article published in Dagens Nyheter, Kia, a transgender person, is being interviewed.
Kia neither wants to be he or she, “hen wants to be hen”. Furthermore, Kia explains about the difficulties being “a hen” and how there everyday is a battle for the right to exist. “I have always told people at my workplaces about myself. I say that ‘if you like me and want to respect me then call me hen’. It feels extremely strenuous when people more or less unconsciously chooses not to use the word. It sends out a sort of signals that what I am feelin, the way I am dentifying myself is not valid. It is a way of rejecting my existence. ” The publication of the children’s book Kivi och Monsterhund was commented on by the publisher Olikas: “We consider hen as a complement to he or she, and as a another possibility to allow us being individuals, rather than gender. Analysis Firstly, it is interesting analysing the function of hen according to different view. Judging by the comments made by people whom themselves are considering hen suitable for their own identity; the establishment of hen is necessary.
It is enough if a few people are feeling the need of a third personal pronoun, which they can identify with, to implement it in the language. Clearly, there is a linguistic need for expressing a human being without mentioning its gender. Not only for transsexuals, intersexuals and intergender as Kia finds herself being, but also for people who feel more comfortable being appreciated for their personality rather than their gender. However, for the sake of gender equality in the society, language and expressions do not solve the challenges regarding that development, as was mentioned by Ylva Johansson.
Instead, maybe the attention that the practise of hen was given this spring can enlighten citizens of Sweden about the influence of gender in the society. Consequently, understand how the identity of other people is getting affected by the, partly, unconscious collective intolerance of sexual deviations. Introducing a word with the intention of removing focus from the word it is replacing is a long-term project. The stylistic purpose can easily be lost when conveying a story for a person who is not familiar with the alternative pronoun.
In order to persuade a person to disregard sex and gender, the interest itself has to be eliminated. Offering a linguistic alternative could perhaps enable a less stereotypical conception, at least in the public space. It is simply not the case that hen is a pronoun which will erase or compete with the already established personal pronouns she and he. On the contrary, hen could improve the conception of sexual identity as well as gender stereotypes by giving the speaker or writer that option.
In the reality, women and men are naturally more than their physical appearance and the generalistic social norms often casted in. Personally, “swimmers in between the two islands of gender” are regarded as the norm since being a gender, strangely enough, is involuntary. Thus, the gender of someone is socially forced upon and difficult questioning. Conclusion The Swedish gender neutral pronoun hen was discussed in the Swedish media during the spring of 2012. Mainly, a children’s book named “Kivi and Monsterdog” figurated as the most important factor for the start of the debate.
For example, hen is a linguistic alternative linguistic alernative to illustrate a person without mentioning her or his gender. Additonally, there are people who do not identify with either men or women and are prefering to be called hen. Hence, the debate about hen is a question about their right to identify, not to intrude on someone elses integrity. The debate would be futile if the spectra of topics within the subject was not embraced, such as the tolerance for the transgender identity for instance.