+

Gender madness starts when you let skeletons do the dishes.

Dolls ride dinosaurs into battle, dump trucks haul colorful bracelets, and fire-breathing dragons loom over wooden train stations.

This is what an average day looks like on the playroom floor at Egalia, a kindergarten in Stockholm, Sweden.


Kids play at Egalia in 2011. Photo by Fredrik Sandberg/AP/Scanpix Sweden.

Egalia is a place where gender neutrality is worked into every level of learning. Including, yes, the toys.

Sweden is often held up as an example of gender equality; the World Economic Forum rated them as having the fourth smallest gender gap in the world, after all.

In 1998, the government passed an amendment pushing for more gender-neutral practices in schools. Lotta Rajalin — a preschool administrator — took the idea and ran with it. In 2011, she and a group of colleagues opened up Egalia.

Walking in the door, you might notice some simple changes. Toys are de-segregated, for instance; dinosaurs, dolls, and motorcycles all end up in the same bin. The books lining the walls are more modern tales rather than old-fashioned stories of knights and princesses.

The biggest change is probably in the teachers themselves.

Egalia has made a point to hire more male teachers. They're careful not to tell boys to "suck it up" after a fall or tell girls it's not appropriate to be rambunctious — expectations they themselves admit to harboring in the past.

Even the language they use is different. In the Swedish language, there are two typically used pronouns: "han" for "him" and "hon" for "her." But when it comes to jobs and roles, Egalia has also embraced the somewhat more obscure gender-neutral "hen."

They also make sure this linguistic care extends to group activities as well.

"We don’t say, 'Come on, boys, let’s go and play football,' because there might be girls who want to play football," school coordinator Frida Wikström told The Guardian. "We say 'friends' instead because it puts yourself on an equal level."

The school isn't trying to get rid of gender. It's gender-neutral, not gender-blind.

[rebelmouse-image 19528613 dam="1" original_size="332x500" caption="A pair of "emotion dolls" at Egalia. Photo by Fredrik Sandberg/AP/Scanpix Sweden." expand=1]A pair of "emotion dolls" at Egalia. Photo by Fredrik Sandberg/AP/Scanpix Sweden.

Critics have labelled the project as "gender-madness," accusing the school of trying to brainwash the kids into a genderless homogeneity. Egalia's not trying to do that. Gender is an important part of people's identities, and the kids are free to embrace those differences.

But it's also true genders can come with a lot of baggage. Science shows that pretty much as soon as kids understand that different genders exist, expectations and stereotypes start to creep in. When teachers and other adults talk, kids listen.

When teachers change the way they talk, kids change too. A small study from Sweden's Uppsala University hints that while Egalia's kids were just as able to categorize different genders compared with other kids their age, they were also more likely to play with kids of different genders and less likely to assign stereotypes.

Gender is a complex subject. We still have a long way to go socially and even more to study. But when it comes to just letting kids play the way they want, without stereotypes bearing down on them, that seems pretty sane.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Democracy

Appalachian mom's speech on Kentucky's proposed abortion ban is a must-hear for everyone

Danielle Kirk is speaking up for those often overlooked in our cultural debates.

Canva, courtesy of Danielle Kirk

Appalachian mom gives passionate speech.

Many people felt a gut punch when the Supreme Court issued its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the decades-old Roe v. Wade decision that protected a woman's right to an abortion. However, for some this was a call to action.

Danielle Kirk, 27, a mom of two and an activist on TikTok, used her voice in an attempt to educate the people that make decisions in her small town. Kirk lives in Kentucky where a trigger law came into effect immediately after Roe v. Wade was overturned. Being a former foster child, she knew she had to say something. Kirk spoke exclusively with Upworthy about why she decided to speak up.

Keep ReadingShow less

Memories of childhood get lodged in the brain, emerging when you least expect.

There are certain pleasurable sights, smells, sounds and tastes that fade into the rear-view mirror as we grow from being children to adults. But on a rare occasion, we’ll come across them again and it's like a portion of our brain that’s been hidden for years expresses itself, creating a huge jolt of joy.

It’s wonderful to experience this type of nostalgia but it often leaves a bittersweet feeling because we know there are countless more sensations that may never come into our consciousness again.

Nostalgia is fleeting and that's a good thing because it’s best not to live in the past. But it does remind us that the wonderful feeling of freedom, creativity and fun from our childhood can still be experienced as we age.

A Reddit user by the name of agentMICHAELscarnTLM posed a question to the online forum that dredged up countless memories and experiences that many had long forgotten. He asked a simple question, “What’s something you can bring up right now to unlock some childhood nostalgia for the rest of us?”

Keep ReadingShow less