Thursday, August 09, 2012

Daughter Father

I come from a long line of strong women.  Pioneers, one and all, in their own way.  So it is that I feel it easier to communicate with women, easy to speak from a place without screens.

The birth of my daughter last year has effectively challenged my ideas of how I view women.  In thinking of her future, I find myself rubbing against my own misogyny, discovering a chauvinism that I didn't know I had.

I think of those things that she cannot do.  American-born, she'd be able to become president of that country, yet unable to be the Empress of the land that makes up the other half of her cultural identity.

Last autumn, on a visit to the Philmont Ranch, I walked through the small museum dedicated to the history of the place, and the history of the boy scouts in general.  I felt a slight sadness that my daughter will never be able to take part in many of those activities, (My friend dc was appointed the first woman Camp Director of Philmont, so she may have a different opinion.  I hope that she'll chime in if I'm wrong.)  In Japan, my daughter can never join me in my Shugendo training, never stand with me atop the weathered peak of Omine-san. 

I find myself worrying about her safety, in a world of perverts and abusive partners.  I don't think I ever thought this way about my son.  And I worry about her being relegated to her role as a second-class citizen.  Here in Japan, this discrimination is more overt, though I find that women here seem to find that place empowering and are comfortable in that identity.  I personally feel that Japanese women appear to be much freer than their American counterparts, who believe they are free yet are often stuck in the mire of gender politics.  I'm getting muddled here myself, but I'm trying to say that most non-American women, being of older, long established cultures, seem much more grounded in who they are.  Their identity is rooted in culture, not gender.  American women by contrast constantly seem to be seeking something.  My mother would of course rebut that these non-American women are operating from a position of default.  They may appear more free, but they lack the freedom to choose otherwise.  And again, this sexism on my part stems from my own position atop the social ladder as a reasonably young, reasonably secure white male.  My world view is shaped by, though by no means limited to, this position.

But what disturbs me most is my own relationship to a daughter.  In my mind's eye, I have always seen a future spent with a son.  I see us camping, hiking, shooting hoops; the usual tropes of male rites of passage.  Not that I can't share these my daughter, but somehow this doesn't visualize in the same way.  I want to believe that I feel this way because I lost my son at a young age, and will never have a chance to share those things with him.  So I enter into this new relationship with my daughter from a position of lack.  Which isn't at all fair to her.

With every week, she is growing into her own sense of being, and it is to watch the shaping of this personality that allows me to begin to see her own distinctiveness. And what I see stands apart from gender.  My child is simply my child.  

I look forward to watching her moving further into life, eventually taking on the role of teacher and challenging more of her old man's inherent preconceptions.

On the turntable:  Ziggy Marley:  "One Bright Day"
On the nighttable:  Edward Dorn, "Views/Interviews"

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