In Sweden the word “hen” has been used for many decades now. The use of the word began after the word “han,” meaning “he,” started to replace the construction of the word han/hon meaning he/she. When “han” became the dominant word used to generalize all people, “hen” began being used by feminist because the word “han” is the word for males in the society of Sweden and using the word “han” instead of han/hon seems to belittle women and views them as less important. Because of the popular use of the world “hen” to generalize all humans into one category, the society of Sweden adapted the word from its feminist-activist connation, and began using it in their everyday lives as a way to define someone who is transgendered, whose sex is unknown, or because some people in Sweden believe the association of someone to a specific sex in unnecessary. With the world “hen” being used so much in the Swedish community; it is being added to the Sweden Academy’s dictionary, which only is updated every 10 years, in April.
With so many countries that are viewed as a patriarchal society, where men are the dominant force compared to women, it has been a struggle for women to be noticed. Having a gender neutral term become recognized by a society is a huge achievement. The gender neutral word had roots in Swedish feminism, and though this connotation has been taken away, the word continues to strive in Sweden as not only an achievement in gender equality but also in the recognition of gender stereotypes affecting the transgendered community. The need for humans to categorize everything that we encounter has been detrimental for anything or anyone that does not fit perfectly into these categories. By Sweden developing the gender neutral word “hen,” they are allowing people who do not fit into these gendered categories to strive in their society. Developing a gendered neutral word is the first step for people to realize that there is no real meaning behind the words “male” and “female” when it comes to gender. We have different body parts, yes, but to say that a personality trait or a color belongs to only a male or only a female is foolish. There is a lot more overlap than most people realize.
March 27, 2015