In Sweden, a government-run pre-school is refusing all gender categories in their dealings with children, to the point of avoiding personal pronouns:
On the surface, the school in Sodermalm – a well-to-do district of the Swedish capital – seems like any other. But listen carefully and you’ll notice a big difference.
The teachers avoid using the pronouns “him” and “her” when talking to the children.
Instead they refer to them as “friends”, by their first names, or as “hen” – a genderless pronoun borrowed from Finnish.
It is not just the language that is different here, though.
The books have been carefully selected to avoid traditional presentations of gender and parenting roles.
So, out with the likes of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, and in with, for example, a book about two giraffes who find an abandoned baby crocodile and adopt it.Most of the usual toys and games that you would find in any nursery are there – dolls, tractors, sand pits, and so on – but they are placed deliberately side-by-side to encourage a child to play with whatever he or she chooses.
At Egalia boys are free to dress up and to play with dolls, if that is what they want to do.
For the director of the pre-school, Lotta Rajalin, it is all about giving children a wider choice, and not limiting them to social expectations based on gender.
“We want to give the whole spectrum of life, not just half – that’s why we are doing this. We want the children to get to know all the things in life, not to just see half of it,” she told BBC World Service.