Sunday, 17 June 2018

My dad and the concept of gender.

I rang my dad the other day, just for a chat. Our chats are always long, spilling over excitedly into new topics as we go along: new books, articles, podcasts; interesting things we saw in the day, conversations we had with other people, new people we've met.

The other day I was surprised, although I shouldn't have been at all, that he brought up the topic of gender neutrality. An article about a Canadian academic explained and discussed their credibility, which brought up why their views about gender neutral pronouns, or gender in general, were problematic and dad had shared it on Facebook and was telling me about the response. It was coincidental because I had just watched a Youtube video 10 minutes before about bringing up children as gender neutral in Finland. We both said it was interesting.

Dad talked about the comments on his Facebook post expressing views and arguments against gender neutrality, to which his response was: it's all bollocks anyway. Here I was having a spontaneous chat with my dad on the phone and he's telling me, confidently, that gender is a construct.

He wondered what he would have been like earlier on in his life had he not been brought up in the dichotomously gendered society of 1960s Scotland. Despite never knowing my dad as fitting into any convention of restrictive masculinity, he was wondering how the development of his identity could have been better, less moulded, more fluid.

Our understanding of gender identity is slowly and labouriously untangling itself from the centuries of its limiting construction. It can't be that simple, but maybe it is. My dad is a no bullshit kind of a guy. I said to him that maybe people resist this shift in our perception of gender because they see it is as a threat to their own identity. He said that it was a good theory, but that seeing as there is no legitimate threat to identity people should probably just get over it. I paraphrase him, but there he is; a mountain of self-assurance with a constant river of evolving human compassion and understanding. My dad is a man with the greatest perception of "live and let live".

He doesn't get everything right, no one does. But I realise how privileged I am to have a dad who can call me up and tell me to check my feminism, who I can do the same back to. I have a dad who reinforced my belief in the performativity of gender, in the instability and fluidity of identity. In short, I lucked out, as far as dads are concerned.