One of the problems of patriarchy is that it’s so pervasive, we don’t even realize if or when it affects our thinking. Oftentimes, we believe our thinking is free from cultural baggage. (One of my favorite examples is how many people truly believe that advertising doesn’t affect them at all, despite the fact that almost all research into advertising would discredit that idea. Why do you think companies would spend so much money on advertising if it didn’t work?)
Academia often considers itself above personal biases, but lo and behold, new information is showing that academics are just as susceptible to cultural biases as everyone else. New analyses of art found in caves in Spain and France suggest that the people who created the art were probably women, not men. Dean Snow, the archaeologist who researched this, said, “There has been a male bias in the literature for a long time. People have made a lot of unwarranted assumptions about who made these things, and why.”
Snow’s quote reminds me of something I read a few years ago:
Years ago, when I was studying anthropology at university, one of my female professors held up a photograph of an antler bone with 28 markings on it. “This,” she said, “is alleged to be man’s first attempt at a calendar.” We all looked at the bone in admiration. “Tell me,” she continued, “what man needs to know when 28 days have passed? I suspect that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.”
Many people like to argue that women stayed behind and men did all the hunting, but in that case, wouldn’t it mean that women came up with most of the things that helped humans advance (like fire, cooking, etc.)? Yet even in articles about when humans started using spices in cooking, or the origin of clothing, women’s contributions are not mentioned.
Of course, plenty of very popular things have been invented by women, but we don’t learn about them the same way we learn about men’s inventions. This perpetuates the idea that men have always been innovators and inventors while women meekly sat by, which then creates stereotype threat and makes women believe they can’t achieve as much as men.
The only way to change this is to constantly question our cultural assumptions and not being afraid to disrupt the current methods of thinking. So keep being skeptical, and don’t assume men were the only ones who helped humanity to advance.