Many places in the United States and Europe are choosing to forego ancient gender norms by practicing what’s being called “gender mainstreaming.” This is a term established by the UN in 1995 as a global strategy to support gender equality. Though it has gained momentum over the last 20 years, we still have a long way to go, even in a place as influential as North America.
Europe is far more accepting of gender nonconformity than we are here. Many countries have adopted laws and policies to influence a more equal and accepting society, regardless of gender. In Canada, many people still have to fight for places like SFU to have gender-neutral washrooms, whereas places like Berlin now see this as a normal and expected establishment.
Language is an integral part of gender biases, and can be the deciding factor regarding whether or not people have equal access and rights in a country or area. Many languages have gendered words and tenses, associating certain things with femininity or masculinity. This often works to facilitate sexism and create a gender divide.
Sweden recently created a gender-neutral pronoun within their language, “hen.”
Many countries have recently been working to alter this. For example, Sweden recently created a gender-neutral pronoun within their language, “hen.” The German language is also being scrutinized, as it, along with other European languages, often uses pluralized words with masculine pronouns, regardless of whether or not females are within the group.
Cities in Germany and Austria have been going one step further, eliminating binary gender structures within their everyday society. Germany has converted many of its pedestrian stoplight signs from flashing images of men to those of women, and Austria has added some same-sex couples on theirs. Austria also adjusted its national anthem to celebrate both its “great daughters and sons,” rather than just sons.
Canada, however, is still far behind these progressive and inventive European countries. While for the most part, individuals here generally accept others, we still have a long way to go as a nation. We need policies to reflect our overarching mindsets of the time we are living in, rather than the mindsets of days far behind us. It’s great that we’ve come so far for women’s rights, but we still have a ways to go to make sure every citizen has equal rights, regardless of their gender.