Grammatical Neutrality & Strength…
Recent studies have revealed that gender-neutral pronouns are capable of reducing the Patriarchal Mentality…
Four years ago, the Swedes replaced the words ‘Hon’ (‘She’ in English) and ‘Han’ (‘He’ in English) with gender-neutral pronoun, ‘Hen’. The concerned Swedish authorities carried out a survey among 3,000 people, and found that the use of gender-neutral pronouns reduces the gender biasness. Such a move also helped the LGBT community earn the sympathy of the common people.
Political Scientists Margit Tavits of Washington University and Efrén Pérez of the University of California have welcomed Sweden’s decision to adopt the gender-neutral word ‘Hen’. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they wrote: “This shift is associated with people expressing less bias in favour of traditional roles and categories. This reduced level of prejudice is manifested in more positive attitudes toward women and LGBT individuals in public affairs.” Interestingly, the Britons have made more than 100 unsuccessful attempts to create gender-neutral singular pronouns in the English Language since the 19th Century!
Experts are of the opinion that the idea of gender binary has helped heterosexual men to play a dominant role in the society. This also, in a way, forms a part of the reason for the (gender) inequality; and the language nourishes this system, as well! The language we use to explain the identity of a person shows the pattern of social construction. The research has proved that what the Gender Rights and LGBT Rights activists have been repeatedly saying is ‘true’. Had the commonly used languages respected Women and the LGBT community, it would have been easier to change the concept of gender. At least the Swedes have realised that only gender-neutral language could give proper respect to everyone on this Earth. As per the Oxford Dictionary, the gender-neutral singular pronoun – ‘They’ – was introduced in 1375 mainly to meet the need of Medieval Literature. Although some Grammarians are not ready to accept this fact, no one can ignore the History.
It is also a fact that the use of gender-neutral words could trigger a new crisis! The use of newly-created gender-neutral pronouns should be grammatically correct; else, people cannot use them. That is why the Britons have seemingly failed to create gender-neutral singular pronouns even after making numerous efforts. The idea of binary-free gender identity has still not been recognised widely, as debates are still going on. The problem is if we adopt new pronouns, then we have to change their applications, too. In other words, we have to change the structure of a sentence in that case. It is easy to change a word, but changing the syntax is a difficult task. Some even tried to apply the gender-neutral singular pronoun ‘They’ in case of plural, but failed to find a suitable ‘verb’ after the pronoun. So, the attempt did not taste success and the newly-created pronouns were left alone. Those pronouns could not affect the syntax!
A language definitely has the strength to build a healthy society, but the construction work should not be bound to the periphery of grammar. The Swedes have rightly realised that using gender-neutral pronouns will reduce sexism, sexist attitudes and assumptions. So, they have started using the gender-neutral pronoun, ‘Hen’, to refer to a man or a woman. Now, they will have to show the way to the rest of the world!
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