Gender-neutral pronouns are socially beneficial

Jady Wei

On a new version of the Australian passport, an individual can check the box “indeterminate” instead of being affiliated with a particular gender. Gender neutrality has now become an option in several nations, including Australia and Sweden. Photo: public domain.

Gender disparity has long been a contentious issue our society has faced. From the Women’s Rights Movement to the modern transgender debate, our culture tends to be very sensitive when it comes to discussing gender roles.

As the world’s top ranking gender-egalitarian nation, Sweden remains active in enforcing equality in education, opportunities, rights and obligation for both women and men. Last year, Sweden officially adopted the usage of a gender-neutral pronoun: “hen”.

“Hen” is used to refer to all objects and people who do not wish to be identified as female or male. It has already been inserted into the encyclopedia, and is now widely-employed by the Swedish.

In a world that is constantly discussing the ways and possibilities of ameliorating gender disparity, gender-neutral terms could be the solution to this deeply-ingrained cultural issue. Society has, for too long, categorized the words “women” and “men”, and associated them with predefined, traditional meanings; subsequently, a myriad of prejudicial gender stereotypes appear.

For example, to tell someone to be brave or take responsibility for the consequences of actions, many people use the phrases “man up” or “be a man”. Seldom do we ever hear them say “woman up”. But why is that? Because traditionally, people view males to be stronger and more intrepid figures, while assuming that women are weaker and more passive. Too many people fall into this trap of assimilating with the conservative social customs. Eliminating gender terms would be one step away from this deep-rooted gender bias. It helps disestablish the existing system of stratification by breaking down the rigid boundaries between archetypal female and male roles.

In addition, it is also extremely inadequate to define every human being with a simple “she” or “he”. According to Gender Across Borders, a global voice for gender justice, many children are born genderless everyday, meaning they do not have complete biological aspects to be placed in the traditional categories of a girl or boy. However, in order to avoid condescension and derision, they often choose to falsely identify with the gender that society categorizes them as. Rather than keeping these children’s biological genders a secret, it would be better to create a gender-neutral category to make them feel that they belong somewhere after all. With gender-neutral terms like “hen”, our society can disseminate the idea that gender does not have to be such an identifying factor that takes away the power of individual expression.

[quote_right]Gender-neutral terms as such are revolutionary factors that can allow the world to recognize that gender stereotypes are erroneous.
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Fortunately, Sweden is not the only nation that has begun advocating for gender neutrality. Recently, the Australian Passport Office announced that gender diverse applicants no longer need to amend themselves in order to receive a passport or birth certificate. All new passports issued by the Australian government will now have three different categories: M (male), F (female) or X (indeterminate/unspecified/intersex). Gender-neutral terms as such are revolutionary factors that can allow the world to recognize that gender stereotypes are erroneous. There are too many people who are in between or outside the norms of our typical classification of genders.

[quote_left] There are too many people who are in between or outside the norms of our typical classification of genders.

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Gender disparity is also a prevalent topic discussed in MVHS. During the first few weeks of April, English teacher Mark Carpenter held a socratic seminar in all of his American Literature Honors periods centered on the topic of gender roles. The overarching question of the class discussion was: why does society perceive women and men with such drastic differences? With evidence drawn from books, stories and texts, the classes concluded that despite the progress of modern society, gender bias still prevails. The only way to dispel the age-old traditional gender stereotypes is to break down the rigid barriers that separate women and men with actions such as the utilization of gender-neutral terms.

Our society has been tainted by gender disparity for too long. Gender-neutral terms have been constructive in nations such as Sweden and Australia, and should continue to spread around the world. After all, it is a step toward solidifying equality and acceptance.