Feminists in Sweden are taking on the alphabet, specifically, the phonetic alphabet used in the military to spell out letters over the radio. Activists are calling to make the system more female inclusive and diverse.
Unlike the NATO phonetic alphabet which uses English words like ‘Alpha’ for ‘A’ and ‘Bravo’ for ‘B’, the Swedish phonetic alphabet has its own time-tested style. It’s made up of male first names that are intrinsically Swedish, such as ‘Johan’ for ‘J’ and ‘Ludvig’ for ‘L’.
In an op-ed for Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, women’s organization Fredrika Bremer Association and non-profit NGO Rättviseförmedlingen – which translates to ‘the Equalizers’ in English – called out the current alphabet for not being “equal” or “diverse”.
“It’s particularly strange for those of us with names that aren’t traditionally Swedish, who always have to spell out our names in different situations,” the piece argues.
“The fact that we only have access to male, Swedish names becomes a kind of symbolic elimination—we don’t even have access to a language that includes us.”
The authors of the op-ed claim that their new list of names is designed to include women and the cultural shifts experienced by Sweden since the original alphabet was introduced in 1891. They think names such as ‘Pippi’ and ‘Xena’ and even ‘Khaled’ work just as well as the old, testosterone-charged choices over a distorted or failing radio connection.
On social media, the suggestion has been called a “farce” and a “mess to implement.” Others mused that there is “no limit to raw stupidity.”
Author and politician Ann Heberlein slammed the idea, claiming that “the war on Swedish men continues”, adding that such a change will only cost “both money and time”. Heberlein suggested that if change is needed, Sweden should instead use the NATO alphabet to bring them into line with the rest of the world.