Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 1 second

Is Feminism Natural or Man-made?

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 1 second

The title of this post is kinda tongue-in-cheek and inspired by my 7 yo daughter.

Today she was helping me make sambousak and she asked if the pastry sheets we were using were natural or man-made. When I said man-made, she told me they learned that term in school, then she asked, “so it’s not woman-made?”

Me: man-made actually means made by humans. Could be men or women.

Kid: so why don’t they just call it “Made by humans; why call it man made?” Pause. “Or were most things invented by men and not women?”

Me…lists many great women in history we have read about together who were scientists and pioneers and whatnot.

I’ve always always believed that criticality comes more naturally to women because, being girls in a patriarchal society, it’s quite easy to spot inequality in society on a daily basis. In fact, when I was telling my husband the story of our discussion on man made vs woman made…. my kid told him, “you’re lucky”. Why? “Because you’re a man, in a man-made world”.

You could argue that she’s 7 and not a blank slate. She sees and hears feminist discourse around her all the time. She sees how I react to things and hears me talk and has the t-shirts with feminist slogans and watches the feminist cartoons and hears me critique the ones that aren’t. But I would still argue that boys who grow up in these conditions don’t internalize these things as naturally as girls do – because the girls are experiencing oppression (or future potential oppression as they see it happening to women around them) all the time.

Now, how the consciousness of patriarchal oppression comes to young girls, I don’t know. I do remember as a child asking my mom “why are all of God’s prophets men?”* And I remember her repeating the question to her friends, impressed (I also remember her answer being something like “back then, women didn’t go out much”). My mom is, of course, a feminist, but of her generation, and this was not explicit to me as a 6 or 7 year old child. Most women in my family and social circle worked and were strong, independent women and all, and my dad never made me feel like being a girl was an obstacle to anything…but this never really managed to mask patriarchal society as a whole. I don’t know.

My question is…does every social group notice their own exclusion in certain contexts, or does this only happen to minorities or oppressed groups? Or does it just occur much more often to oppressed groups so that seeing it becomes inevitable, whereas dominant groups see it so rarely that it doesn’t become central to their worldview?

I’m sure someone way more intellectual than I has written about this extensively. But in the meantime, I am both happy and sad. Sad, of course, that a 7 year old feels her gender is excluded from the term that signifies human invention and innovation, and that she recognizes she is not the lucky dominant gender… but happy that at 7 she has this awareness. Because perhaps the earlier you are aware, the earlier you can start resisting (hopefully not accepting! Of course many women are not feminists and many even support and reproduce patriarchy).

*Speaking of male prophets. I grew up to later take a course called Women in the Quran, where I wrote a paper arguing that certain women who receive honorable mention throughout the Quran are arguably also prophets because angels or God spoke to them directly, like Virgin Mary, Asia (Pharoah’s wife) and Moses’ mother. Just FYI.

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