Categorising is an interesting word; the less harmful cousin of stereotypes and discrimination and, more extremely, apartheid. It is, though, probably the single biggest cause of grief throughout human history.
So, you’re Jew, you’re a non-Jew. You’re white, while others are coloured, Indian and African. You’re Christian, but others are Muslims or Hindus. You are a Hutu, but she is a Tutsi.
Defining people by their physical features, their tribal allegiances or their religious beliefs has helped fill cemeteries and mass graves on battlefields for centuries.
So, categorising people is, therefore, an evil thing? Well, not necessarily …
Human beings are all different from each other and it is that diversity that makes the tapestry of humanity so rich. And nowhere, in my humble experience, are those differences more apparent than in how men and women are the opposite sides of a very interesting biological and evolutionary coin.
There’s a lot of truth in that old cliche that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Men are more likely to fight and women more likely to love.
In our family, we have first-hand experience of that. Like most liberal parents, a generation ago, we had imbibed the hippie-style beliefs that you should not force children into gender roles. In our case, I was determined that my son would not grow up playing with guns. I have used them. I know what they can do.
So, we didn’t give my son toy guns. Nevertheless, one day when he was less than two, he was running around making “bang, bang!” noises and pointing his fingers in a gun shape.
My daughter wasn’t interested in guns, nor did she show the slightest excitement about toy cars and trucks. But she loved dollies and dresses. And, her idea of a treat when she was two? Standing on a chair at the kitchen sink, helping with the washing up.
So, did we ruin the lives of our children? My son is in corporate investment; he cooks, he cleans and takes instructions from his girlfriend. He has never fired a real gun in his life and has no desire to do so.
My daughter still loves make-up and good clothes, but she is also a tough cookie and doesn’t take nonsense from anyone.
Despite being raised in a household that would today be pilloried by leftie liberals for its archaic values and ways, my kids are useful members of society with a clearly defined sense of their identity.
I was thinking about a lot of this last week after I saw the news that Wits University has decided to do away with all “gender labels” – so no more Mister, or Mrs, or even Ms.
Just name and surname, because labels are oppressive, it seems.
The university – which clearly doesn’t have better things to do – suggests, helpfully, that students might like to use the appellation “Mx”, which is some sort of halfway house between Mister and Miss.
I worry that, when the long-awaited gender (not sex, apparently) revolution finally bares its unpolished nails, they could come for my wife for selling out. Not only is she happy to be called Mrs, she also took my name.
And I guess there goes my chance to be a guest lecturer at Wits because I am Mr Seery if you don’t know me; Brendan if you do.
And I’m quite comfortable in my category…