A Man’s World? #IWD

In 1966, James Brown sang “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”—a song which goes on to detail the various accomplishments of men, such as inventing the electric light and making toys for unhappy children. Women and girls get a mention too, but only as a prop for supporting man’s ego whilst he does all of his inventing.

We’ve come a long way since 1966. Though sexism is still a global issue, and women are in some places and cultures considered inferior in many ways to men, considerable progress has been made. In many countries, women can—and are actively encouraged to—study subjects which would previously have been denied to them; subjects such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Time to take a look at James Brown’s song and see how it holds up 51 years after it was originally recorded. Let’s take a look at some of women’s accomplishments over the years:

“You see, man made the cars to take us over the road”

Sarah Guppy made the suspension bridges which carry the cars (and the roads on which they are driven) over the gaping chasms.

“Man made the train to carry the heavy load”

Marie Curie. Need I say more?

“Man made electric light to take us out of the dark”

Serious illness can put you in a dark place, but those dark places are a little brighter thanks to Gertrude Elion advancing drug treatments for leukemia and organ transplant rejection.

“Man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark”

Ellen H. Swallow Richards was a pioneer in water sanitation standards. Think of her the next time you’re pouring yourself a cup of delicious germ-free tap water.

“Man thinks about our little bitty baby girls and our baby boys
Man made them happy, ’cause man made them toys”

Chemistry was child’s play for Rosalind Franklin, the woman who discovered the double helical structure of DNA.

“And after man make everything, everything he can”

But is man as prolific as Dr. Giuliana Tesoro, who held 125+ patents in her lifetime?

“You know that man makes money, to buy from other man”

No list of remarkable women in science would be complete without Stephanie Kwolek, whose Kevlar keeps men (and women) safe on the streets and in war zones, so that they can come home and continue the cycle of purchasing!

International Women’s Day is about celebrating the successes of women, raising awareness of gender inequality, and pushing towards greater equality in all aspects of life. Remember, women aren’t just 49.6% of the world’s population; they’re also mothers and grandmothers, sisters and daughters, cousins and friends. They’re teachers and innovators, doctors and and soldiers—you name it, women are doing it.

Even if you’re not involved in IWD activities in your local community, there’s still plenty you can read online. Check out the official IWD website and #BeBoldForChange, and have a look at some fascinating statistics related to gender inequality on the UN’s IWD homepage. If you’d like to learn more about women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, check out any of the links in my list above. You might be surprised by some of the stories you read.

3 Comments on “A Man’s World? #IWD

  1. In the James Brown version, this line

    “You know that man makes money, to buy from other man”

    I always heard it as, “man makes money, to buy another man” which might mean either slavery, bribery, or shady big-business stuff. So, in my mind, that line refuted everything that was said before about what “man” did, and so the ultimate meaning of the song was woman-empowering.

    Liked by 1 person

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