Swedish Military Resists Feminists’ Push for ‘Multicultural’ Spelling Alphabet

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While feminists push for adding names like Khaled, Doris and Laila into the phonetic alphabet to promote “inclusion,” the military suggests this step would endanger communication as the phonetic alphabet must “sit in the backbone.”

The official Swedish spelling alphabet used by the military and the police, is not sufficiently “equal” or “diverse” and must be enhanced with female and Arabic names, the Frederika Bremer Association and the Equalisters NGO demanded in an opinion piece published in Sweden’s leading daily Dagens Nyheter.

The spelling alphabet, also known as the radio alphabet and the telephone alphabet, is a set of words used to denote certain letters to avoid misunderstanding in oral communication. The Swedish spelling alphabet originated in 1891 and consists of traditional Swedish names like Adam, Bertil, Erik, Sigurd, Tore and Yngve.

The feminist groups want to replace the men’s names in the alphabet to become more “inclusive” and better reflect Sweden’s increasingly multicultural society. According to the feminists, there is “no excuse” for having names representing Swedish men exclusively.

“Including more than just men with traditional Swedish names is primary to visualize the diversity of society. We need to be able to speak with a language that is everybody’s. The government needs to be open and inclusive,” they wrote.

Therefore, names like Khaled, Doris and Laila should be included in the alphabet, they claimed.

“Time to include more than just Swedish men when we spell out,” the Frederika Bremer Association wrote.

“[The alphabet] has looked the same since the 19th century and it’s time to reflect today’s Sweden. Basically, it is a democracy issue about how we want the public conversation to observe like. We want the society to be open and inclusive. The alphabet used today by government institutions and in radio communication sends the improper signals,” Seher Yilmaz, the chairwoman of the Equalisters told Swedish Radio.

“With our unusual alphabet, we would like to provide the authorities and the general public with a concrete tool for increasing gender equality and improving representation,” the groups claimed.

The Armed Forces retorted that it would imply an excessive effort to change the spelling alphabet.

“This should sit in the backbone in times of combat, otherwise things can derive complicated,” Armed Forces press officer Jesper Tengroth explained. “[The spelling alphabet] should be used under difficult conditions, under stress. When abroad, we had to switch to the English alphabet, and noticed that it wasn’t easy,” he emphasized.

According to Tengroth, the Swedish Armed Forces concentrate on increasing their operational ability and prioritize gender-neutral draft and push for more women in commanding positions.

Dating back from 1884, the Frederika Bremer Association (FBF) is Sweden’s oldest women’s rights organization. It is a member of the International Alliance of Women, which has general consultative status with the United Nations.

The Equalisters is a non-profit association founded in 2010 to promote gender equality, diversity and unprejudiced representation.