Preschool Pursues Gender Equality By Banning Terms 'Him' & 'Her'
I was so frustrated with my three-year-old running around with a stick pretending to shoot everyone that I asked his preschool teacher if it was normal that he turned everything into a gun.
She told me to relax, that at that age girls are into princesses and boys are superheroes. It is how they explore gender and power dynamics. I wondered then, as I wonder now - is that purely genetic or do we somehow teach our kids these stereotypes?
Eglia, a preschool in Sweden, is on a radical mission to explore this question. They are actively working to dismantle gender stereotypes by banning gender pronouns, encouraging play with all types of toys and stocking books with "alternative" families which means no fairy tales allowed. They even use a gender neutral term for each other and visiting guests.
The preschool is part of Sweden's push towards gender equality. A teacher at the school says: "Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing. Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be."
Like the family with the "genderless baby" (I use quotes because the baby is not genderless, the public just doesn't know which gender the baby is), I like the idea behind this preschool, but wonder about the execution.
Will boys with swords be discouraged? Will tiara-wearing girls be dethroned? Or is the pursuit of equality done in a way that accepts everyone's form of play?
I think that a lot of the things that we hold true about gender are taught to children through the media, family and, yes, school. So I have no problem with a preschool making an effort to break down some of the barriers, but how can they do it effectively? How can it be done so it doesn't feel forced?
I loved my oldest son's preschool, which accepted each child for who they are. Boys were allowed to dress-up and cook, girls were encouraged to build with the big blocks. There was never any stereotypical gender expectations laid on them. This was different than my daughter's preschool which gently steered girls towards the dolls and boys to the sand table. They didn't mean to do it, and they probably don't even realize that they did it - but to be gender neutral takes conscious pre-planning and some very special educators.
But if my son's preschool teacher had gone to the same lengths as the Swedish preschool and banned the the use of the word his. I wonder what I would have said?
Do you think the preschool is going too far? Do you think preschoolers naturally play along gender lines?
Want more chaos? Last year, I wrote about rewarding smarts in school instead of just athletics and wondered why we don't do that more often.