A Swedish pre-school has decided to stop calling children ‘him’ or ‘her’ in a bid to avoid gender stereotypes.
But others have accused the school’s philosophy of “emasculating maleness”.
The Egalia pre-school in Stockholm made the decision as part of an equality drive.
The thinking behind the policy is that society gives boys an unfair edge, but the pre-school’s approach has been criticised by experts.
Professor Jay Belsky, a child psychologist at the University of California, Davis, is an internationally recognised expert in the field of child development and family studies.
He said he was not aware of any other school like Egalia and he questioned whether it was the right way to go.
“The kind of things that boys like to do — run around and turn sticks into swords — will soon be disapproved of,” he said. “So gender neutrality at its worst is emasculating maleness.”
The pre-school also pushes the agenda of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Egalia opened last year and is on a mission to break down ‘gender roles’.
The taxpayer-funded school carefully plans the colour and placement of toys and the choice of books to ensure they do not fall into stereotypes.
One of Egalia’s teachers, Jenny Johnsson, said: “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”, she continued.
Many of the children’s books deal with homosexual couples and single parents, while ‘Snow White,’ ‘Cinderella’ and other fairy tales are banned.
Staff at the school try to shed masculine and feminine references from their speech, including the pronouns him or her – ‘han’ or ‘hon’ in Swedish. Instead, they have adopted the genderless ‘hen’.
“We use the word ‘hen’ for example when a doctor, police, electrician or plumber or such is coming to the kindergarten,” the school’s Director says.
“Then the children can imagine both a man or a woman. This widens their view.”