REVIEW: The Gender Games – Juno Dawson

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Author: Juno Dawson (twitter / website)

UK Publisher: Two Roads

Genre: Non-fiction, autobiography, gender studies

Buy Now:  ebook | hardcover | paperback

I was lucky enough to find this book as a proof going spare whilst I was interning last summer. It was not necessarily a book I would have bought myself, but I have to say I did enjoy it a lot. Dawson’s tone is conversational, light and very personal, reading it feels like having a conversation, or reading a blog.

The book frames itself around Dawson’s gender journey – from a non-conforming young boy with no interest in sports, to a gay man, to a straight woman. All of that is interspersed with her views on gender as a social construct, how it impacted on her life, and her views on feminism in today’s world. She has clearly researched, citing studies and recounting interviews with prominent individuals, but the book doesn’t feel heavy or densely academic. As a freelance writer and columnist, you can see the way Dawson has honed her trade in the conversational, usually targeting readers for short periods of time. It means that for a book that contains a lot of thoughts on serious topics, it doesn’t feel slow, and instead keeps a nice casual tone throughout, with Dawson’s humour and voice in strong form.

It is difficult to review books like this, in that they focus on someone’s very personal journey and experience so any review could be seen to be a judgement on that. But Dawson is very clear throughout that she is discussing things as she has experienced them, and that her observances are entirely subjective. Where she talks more generally, she uses citations and figures to support her claims, but never labours a point or claims to speak for any one group of people as a whole.

Books like this are an important insight into a group of people who are not given much visibility in society, but also because in giving a general audience this new perspective, it encourages them to reconsider society from these perceptions, and see what has been taken for granted as normal. The book seems to have been written in the latter part of 2016 and the early months of 2017, and this definitely informs the later part of the book. It’s strange to think how much has happened since then, but it would have been interesting to see how the rise in the #MeToo movement might have impacted on the discussions later on.

The end of the book becomes clear that Dawson is hoping to attract a wider audience with this, but I do find myself wondering how many readers will pick this up if they are not already of a similar social and political mindset to her. I enjoyed it very much, but I also didn’t need to be convinced of any of the points she was arguing. Perhaps this is more targeted at the middle ground than direct opposites – people who tend more towards liberal thinking but generally hover around the centre. This may be ideal for helping broach issues that they might be unsure about, or not know where to begin looking for answers.

Whatever the case, I enjoyed it, and I think most people I know would too.

Briefly:

  • Part memoir, part essay on gender in society, but kept conversational and easy to understand.
  • There is an easy, self-deprecating humour in Dawson’s language, even when talking about issues which must have been very difficult for her. This openness makes for a familiar tone, and makes it easy to relate to and empathise with her.
  • It is a very pretty book – the jacket is clearly an homage to the trans flag, and I love the segmented picture on the front, reminiscent of the flip books I had as a kid. Underneath the jacket, the book is a lovely yellow colour, with very pretty pink foiling on the spine.

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Rating: 4/5 – I really enjoyed it, however I wonder if it will reach people who perhaps could stand to consider these issues, or whether it will be a case of preaching to the choir.

 

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