A preschool teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, recently gave an interview on the inner workings of her school under the guise of “Anna”. Varlden Idag (English translation) reports on Anna’s experience working at the school and all the attempts to deconstruct anything that may be gender oriented.
Shortly after starting at the school, Anna had a little girl come up to her and showed the shirt she was wearing which featured a butterfly. “Oh, how nice!” Anna commented. One of the more seasoned teachers immediately approached her and educated Anna on how children should not be told that something they are wearing is nice or that they are cute. A little girl wearing a butterfly shirt is not to be encouraged with compliments, for it may be construed that this is the way little girls are supposed to express themselves.
Still behind the learning curve, Anna received further education whenever she referred to her young students as “he” or “she” as if they were one or the other. “You must not sexize the children,” said one of her colleagues.
Anna learned that this norm is carried out in the accepted literature as well. “When Anna was going to read books for the children, the staff had...crossed [out] all [appearances of] ‘he’ and ‘she’ and instead wrote it a ‘hen,’” Varlden Idag reports. “Hen” is the accepted gender neutral term in Sweden.
However, some books were beyond saving by reconstructing pronouns. “One day when we cleaned the toys, my colleagues threw away all Emil and Pippi books,” says Anna. Asking why these books needed to be thrown out, her colleague informed her, “there were no gender neutral people in the books,” Varlden Idag reports. Anna notes,“The bookshelves at preschool have now been filled with children’s books with subjects such as transsexuality and homosexuality.”
Keeping theme with the effort to deconstruct gender and sexuality, toys have also been targeted for their traditional gender appeal. Legos remain one of the acceptable toys in Anna’s department. However, “Dolls have not been there for as long as she has worked there, and recently the cars and the trains went out, she says.”
Dressing clothes remain rather available, but teachers do their best to encourage children to experiment with what they wear. Anna recalls one day where a little boy put on a firefighting suit. Her colleague made sure to inform the boy, “You know you can wear your dress if you want?”
After school one day, Anna mistakenly said to a little boy, “Your mom is here.” The mother responded, “I’m not their mother, I’m a parent.” Anna thus learned that the staff is not to say “Mom and Dad,” but instead should say “Parent.”
Additional gender loaded worlds like “snowman” and “Santa Claus” are not to be used, and in their stead gender-neutral words. Thus, a popular Disney movie has basically been blacklisted as inappropriate.
Anna notes on how the extensive effort is indeed having a psychological impact on the children. One day a three-year-old girl approached Anna and said, “Today, I’m a boy.” That same girl almost a year later whispered to in Anna’s ear, “Am I a boy or a girl?”
Sweden is arguably the world’s leader in the liberalization of gender and sexuality. The effort in this preschool is a cultural phenomenon expressed throughout Swedish society.