Earlier this year when I read that London’s most popular toy store, Hamleys, was undergoing a complete overhaul. In a monumental move that was full of symbolic significant, the shop did away with separate girls and boys sections. From then on, there would be no such thing as separate categories for “girls toys” and “boys toys.” In a Breakpoint column from earlier this year, Chuck Colson had some insightful comments to make about the larger issue at stake:
the issue of “expunging gender from playthings” is part of a larger political project. This project sees the blurring, if not eradication, of gender differences as the key to female equality.
Earlier generations of feminists sought to eradicate formal, legal barriers to female equality. Their goal was a world where if a woman wanted to be, for example, a United States senator or a Fortune 500 CEO, she was free to pursue her dreams.
While some obstacles still remain, that world has largely come to pass. Yet, in some areas like politics and business, the feminists are still not happy.
Why? They believe that women aren’t pursuing these opportunities because they still buy into traditional ideas about gender differences.
The push to achieve gender neutrality is now so pervasive in Sweden that in the nation’s capital, Stockholm, there is actually a “gender neutral” school. The school exists on the philosophy that girls and boys need to be liberated from social norms. Teachers at the school are taught to carefully avoid masculine and feminine pronouns. When it is not possible to use the child’s name, teachers use the genderless pronoun “hen”, which they had to borrow from the Finnish language.
One teacher at Stockholm’s gender-neutral school, Emelie Andersson, was quoted in a BBC report as saying, “I want to change society. When we are born people have different expectations on us depending if we are a boy or a girl. It limits children. In my world there is no girl’s world and there is no boy’s world.”
The UK government has also given funding to equality activists who have been “demanding that schools have a strategy for challenging gender stereotypes among the under-14s, complete with monitoring and enforcement mechanisms”, according to a Telegraph report. According to reporter Jill Kirby, the proposals involve stamping out “the unfortunate tendency of little girls to play at being nurses when their male counterparts want to be Bob the Builder…”