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Introducing a gender-neutral pronoun in a natural gender language: the influence of time on attitudes and behavior

Gustafsson Sendén, Marie; Bäck, Emma LU and Lindqvist, Anna LU (2015) In Frontiers in Psychology 6.
Abstract
The implementation of gender fair language is often associated with negative reactions and hostile attacks on people who propose a change. This was also the case in Sweden in 2012 when a third gender-neutral pronoun hen was proposed as an addition to the already existing Swedish pronouns for she (hon) and he (han). The pronoun hen can be used both generically, when gender is unknown or irrelevant, and as a transgender pronoun for people who categorize themselves outside the gender dichotomy. In this article we review the process from 2012 to 2015. No other language has so far added a third gender-neutral pronoun, existing parallel with two gendered pronouns, that actually have reached the broader population of language users. This makes... (More)
The implementation of gender fair language is often associated with negative reactions and hostile attacks on people who propose a change. This was also the case in Sweden in 2012 when a third gender-neutral pronoun hen was proposed as an addition to the already existing Swedish pronouns for she (hon) and he (han). The pronoun hen can be used both generically, when gender is unknown or irrelevant, and as a transgender pronoun for people who categorize themselves outside the gender dichotomy. In this article we review the process from 2012 to 2015. No other language has so far added a third gender-neutral pronoun, existing parallel with two gendered pronouns, that actually have reached the broader population of language users. This makes the situation in Sweden unique. We present data on attitudes toward hen during the past 4 years and analyze how time is associated with the attitudes in the process of introducing hen to the Swedish language. In 2012 the majority of the Swedish population was negative to the word, but already in 2014 there was a significant shift to more positive attitudes. Time was one of the strongest predictors for attitudes also when other relevant factors were controlled for. The actual use of the word also increased, although to a lesser extent than the attitudes shifted. We conclude that new words challenging the binary gender system evoke hostile and negative reactions, but also that attitudes can normalize rather quickly. We see this finding very positive and hope it could motivate language amendments and initiatives for gender-fair language, although the first responses may be negative. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
gender-fair language, gender-neutral pronouns, attitude change, gender, hen
in
Frontiers in Psychology
volume
6
publisher
Frontiers
external identifiers
  • wos:000357605100001
  • pmid:26191016
ISSN
1664-1078
DOI
10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00893
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
3d6d879d-1d48-4894-91f6-a225ca76d77e (old id 7790830)
date added to LUP
2015-09-03 10:01:44
date last changed
2017-01-26 11:09:49
@article{3d6d879d-1d48-4894-91f6-a225ca76d77e,
  abstract     = {The implementation of gender fair language is often associated with negative reactions and hostile attacks on people who propose a change. This was also the case in Sweden in 2012 when a third gender-neutral pronoun hen was proposed as an addition to the already existing Swedish pronouns for she (hon) and he (han). The pronoun hen can be used both generically, when gender is unknown or irrelevant, and as a transgender pronoun for people who categorize themselves outside the gender dichotomy. In this article we review the process from 2012 to 2015. No other language has so far added a third gender-neutral pronoun, existing parallel with two gendered pronouns, that actually have reached the broader population of language users. This makes the situation in Sweden unique. We present data on attitudes toward hen during the past 4 years and analyze how time is associated with the attitudes in the process of introducing hen to the Swedish language. In 2012 the majority of the Swedish population was negative to the word, but already in 2014 there was a significant shift to more positive attitudes. Time was one of the strongest predictors for attitudes also when other relevant factors were controlled for. The actual use of the word also increased, although to a lesser extent than the attitudes shifted. We conclude that new words challenging the binary gender system evoke hostile and negative reactions, but also that attitudes can normalize rather quickly. We see this finding very positive and hope it could motivate language amendments and initiatives for gender-fair language, although the first responses may be negative.},
  articleno    = {893},
  author       = {Gustafsson Sendén, Marie and Bäck, Emma and Lindqvist, Anna},
  issn         = {1664-1078},
  keyword      = {gender-fair language,gender-neutral pronouns,attitude change,gender,hen},
  language     = {eng},
  publisher    = {Frontiers},
  series       = {Frontiers in Psychology},
  title        = {Introducing a gender-neutral pronoun in a natural gender language: the influence of time on attitudes and behavior},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00893},
  volume       = {6},
  year         = {2015},
}