Post-gender Europe

Europe has gone further than the United States in embracing the new ideologies about sex, gender, and political-correctness.  And it’s going even further:  to unisex bathrooms, laws mandating women on corporate boards, and regulations about how men and women may be portrayed.  For example, it will not be legal for billboards in Germany to show women “smiling for no reason.”

What interests me are the attempts to impose–even to create–gender neutral language.  In languages such as German and Swedish in which every noun has a gender!  (In a German language class, teachers drill it into their students’ heads that the gender of a word has nothing to do with its sex!  So that the word for young woman is neuter. A spoon is masculine, a fork is feminine, a knife is neuter.)  So now the effort is to change the very grammar of these languages.  Sweden has added an “inclusive” personal pronoun to its dictionaries by fiat.  (Though linguists will explain that language doesn’t work that way.)

Details of this brave new world, which may well show up on this side of the pond before too long, after the jump.

From Anthony Faiola, In Europe, creating a post-gender world one small rule at a time – The Washington Post:

Caitlyn Jenner may have given Americans a crash course in transgender acceptance. But progressive pockets of Europe are moving toward an even higher plane — embracing what advocates describe as a post-gender world that critics say is leaving no room for women to be women and men to be men.

In Berlin, for instance, fresh rules for billboard ads in a district of the liberal German capital read like a new constitution for a land without gender identity. Girls in pink “with dolls” are basically out, as are boys in blue playing “with technical toys.” In ads showing both adult women and men, females cannot be depicted as “hysterical,” “stupid” or “naive” alongside men presented as “technically skilled,” “strong” or “business savvy.”

Adult women — featured alone or otherwise — must not be shown “occupied in the household with pleasure.” And in one stipulation pounced upon by critics, the equal-opportunity board of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg — home to Checkpoint Charlie and remnants of the Berlin Wall — no longer wants to see images of women “smiling for no reason.”

“Women are always portrayed in a nice, easygoing way, and that is what we do not want,” complained Petra Koch-Knöbel, head of the committee that drafted the new rules that went into effect in April for 28 billboards leased out by the district. The board is now pushing to expand the policy to privately owned sites. . . .

Advocates in Europe are taking increasingly aggressive action regarding “gender mainstreaming,” or the erasing of lines between the sexes. They are pressing for policies and laws ensuring that everything from bathrooms to boardrooms to street signs are gender neutral.

In part, the push is about fuller equality for women and sexual minorities, in both the job market and the public sphere. But, proponents say, it is also about enforcing respect and breaking the male domination of European life.

In March, Germany — home of Chancellor Angela Merkel, arguably the most powerful woman in the world — became the largest nation in Europe to legislate that women must occupy at least 30 percent of the seats on corporate boards. That means that some of the globe’s largest multinational firms, including Siemens and Daimler, must by law also now be among the most inclusive. . . .

Sweden this year added the gender-neutral pronoun “hen” to official dictionaries. The word caught on several years ago when Egalia, a preschool in Stockholm, began using it as a substitute for “boys” or “girls” to avoid referencing gender roles in children.

In Germany and Austria, a push is also underway to alter the gender-based German language, in which nouns such as “police officers” or “teachers” take a masculine form even when referring to a mixed group of men and women.

Some German and Austrian university professors are demanding that students embrace new gender-neutral vocabulary in essays and thesis papers. In Austria, a special language committee recommended last year that gender-neutral language be made standard in official life — a proposal that so divided politicians and society that ultimately the board was dissolved.

“Language reflects power structures,” said Anne Wizorek, a self-described feminist author based in Berlin. “If we want an inclusive society, we need to reflect that in our language.” . . .

Some changes take more getting used to than others. Over the past two years, at least six unisex toilets — most with multiple stalls and some fitted with urinals — have opened in Berlin city administration buildings and theaters. The city is now conducting reviews of public buildings with the aim of establishing dozens more such bathrooms in coming years.

The hope is to create even more spaces where men, women and anyone else can heed the call of nature side by side, doing away with prudish notions of sexual differences.

Berlin — like Germany more generally — is already a city that is no stranger to intimate exposure between sexes. It is not unusual to see naked members of both sexes luxuriating in the summer sun in city parks or public pools. The sharing of bathrooms is merely the next step and, officials say, also offers a safe place for those with gender identity issues.

 

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