What if there were no boys and girls, only “hens”?
That’s one of the goals of a new movement in Sweden to create a “gender-neutral” society. It’s a new mindset where children are raised to not feel limited by certain gender stereotypes – like the idea that girls should always play with dolls, and boys should always play sports. Instead, in a gender-neutral society, girls and boys are treated as equals – and encouraged to compete based on their ability, not their gender.
The Swedish government is so serious about gender neutrality that they’re requiring teachers in some schools to stop referring to students as “boys” or “girls”. Instead, all children are referred to with gender-neutral pronouns – like “hens” or “buddies.” Experts say it’s an intriguing plan. But opinions are mixed on whether or not a gender-neutral society could really work. For example: Dr. Michael Gervais is a psychologist who says it’s possible to encourage neutrality in young children, before they’re really aware of the differences between boys and girls.
However, he says neutrality gets tricky in older kids, especially when it’s applied to sports. That’s because after about age 12, physical changes cause boys to become stronger than girls.
So, no matter how hard a girl works, she’s going to be at a disadvantage in sports that require physical skills, like football or wrestling, where the goal is to be stronger than your opponent.
In fact, Dr. Gervais says gender neutrality could only work long-term in sports that require mastering technical skills - like archery, where you only need to know how to handle a bow, or bowling, where you only need to know how to throw a ball.