The multiple meanings of the gender-inclusive pronoun hen: Predicting attitudes and use

Our latest article has recently been published in European Journal of Social Psychology:

The Swedish gender-inclusive pronoun hen can be used generically (referring to anyone), or specifically (referring to non-binary gender identities). Three studies tested evaluations and use of hen, and individual-level predictors. In Study 1 (N = 2145), specific hen was slightly favoured over generic hen. In Study 2 (N = 297), hen was more negatively evaluated than binary pronouns, and generic hen was more positively evaluated than specific hen. In Study 3 (N = 450), hen was less frequently used compared to binary pronouns overall but preferred in generic contexts. Traditionalism mainly predicted attitudes towards generic hen and beliefs about gender, as binary mainly predicted attitudes towards specific hen, although the pattern varied across studies. Because hen was preferred in generic contexts, but not in specific ones, this work has implications for understanding the non-acceptance of non-binary gender identities since the traditional binary notion of gender still is strong.

Normative Gender Bias in Linguistic Representation

Amanda Klysing recently presented our research at the Gender and Sexuality at Work conference (held online). She was also the winner of the Best Paper Reward at the conference. You can watch the presentation here.

Gender-fair language planning aims to increase linguistic inclusion of underrepresented groups, for example by using paired pronouns (he/she) instead of generic masculine forms (he). However, using paired binary forms might evoke a normative gender bias where words lead to stronger associations to individuals with normative gender expressions than to individuals with non-normative gender expressions. In two online experiments in a simulated recruitment context, we compared the extent that the paired pronouns he/she (Swedish and English), the neo-pronouns ‘hen’ (Swedish) and ‘ze’ (English), and singular they (English), evoked a normative gender bias for Swedish- (N = 227 and 268) and English- (N = 600) speaking participants. The results showed that the paired pronouns he/she evoked a normative gender bias, whereas Swedish hen did not. In contrast to ‘hen’, ‘ze’ and singular they did evoke a normative gender bias. However, among participants familiar with ‘ze’ as a non-binary pronoun, it seemed to reduce a normative gender bias, while familiarity had no effect regarding singular they. These results suggest that neo-pronouns, but not paired pronouns, have the potential to reduce a normative gender bias, but that they should be actively created new words, and well-known to the language users as non-binary pronouns.