In standard Swedish there has been no neutral, colloquial word for the female genitalia. This problem attracted considerable attention in the 1990s. Different words were proposed, with the word snippa soon emerging as the most popular alternative. The word now seems to be one of the most common words to denote girls’ genitals and is included in dictionaries and children’s books. This article uses various methodological approaches within the framework of language planning theory to make a critical analysis and evaluation of the reform.
Three primary explanations are given for the success of the reform: first, the time and place of the reform were favourable – Sweden at the end of the 20th century was one of the world’s most gender-equal countries; second, the strategies adopted by agents of the change gave the initiative momentum; and third, on a formal level, the word is in line with the cultural understanding of gender. This calls into questions whether the word snippa contributes to the struggle for gender equality.
The article ends with a discussion of what this language planning project can tell us about the function of feminist language planning in the ongoing work to end patriarchy inSwedenand around the world.