When I learned about the new gender-neutral Swedish Christmas toy catalog, I wasn’t one bit surprised. In 2004, I gave a lecture at a Swedish research institute on my book The War Against Boys. I briefly summarized the literature on male/female differences and argued that we need to find ways to make our classrooms friendlier to boys. Mother Nature is not a feminist, I said. “Boys and girls are different.”
When I finished, there was a stunned silence in the room. Finally, a lanky, elderly gentleman stood up and said (with amusement): “Madame, you may not realize it, but you have been swearing in church. “ Acknowledging sex differences is apparently a national taboo. For the rest of the evening, my poor host sat in the corner with outraged journalists and tried to persuade them not to shame his institute by reporting on what I had said. There is a reason Sweden has been called “the Saudi Arabia of Feminism.”
Surely the United States is immune to the sort of ideological excess we find in Sweden. Don’t count on it. College students routinely learn from their professors that “gender is a social construction.” The ACLU is now waging war against single-sex schools and classrooms on the grounds that separating by sex is intrinsically sexist. Teachers visiting the website of the American Council for CoEducational Schooling ACCES are invited to take a quiz that measures their gender inclusiveness. The quiz asks how often they do the following:
A. I say “Good morning boys and girls”
B. I call students “boys” and “girls”;
C. I refer to my students as “ladies” and “gentlemen.”
Any teacher guilty of using such greetings gets low marks on “gender mixing.”The executive director of the ACCES, Rebecca Bigler, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, explained her organization’s logic in Education Week. “If you compare it to race, if you said to your 1st grade classrooms, ‘Good morning, whites and Latinos; let’s have the Latinos get your pencils,’ what would happen is you would go to federal prison … Labeling children routinely by race in your classroom is a violation of federal law, and, of course, you can do this routinely with gender.”[i]
For more on what is wrong with the ACLU’s logic, with ACCES and with Sweden’s gender-neutrality movement, read my analysis in The Atlantic:
Swedes can be remarkably thorough in their pursuit of gender parity. A few years ago, a feminist political party proposed a law requiring men to sit while urinating—less messy and more equal. In 2004, the leader of the Sweden's Left Party Feminist Council, Gudrun Schyman, proposed a "man tax"
—a special tariff tobe levied on men to pay for all the violence and mayhem wrought by their sex.
Egalia, a new state-sponsored pre-school in Stockholm, is dedicated to the total obliteration of the male and female distinction. There are no boys and girls at Egalia—just "friends" and "buddies." Classic fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White have been replaced by tales of two male giraffes who parent abandoned crocodile eggs. The Swedish Green Party would like Egalia to be the norm: It has suggested placing gender watchdogs in all of the nation's preschools. "Egalia gives [children] a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be," says one excited teacher. (It is probably necessary to add that this is not an Orwellian satire or a right-wing fantasy: This school actually exists.)