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Read the following and, within 5 seconds of finishing, provide an answer:

A father and his son are involved in a car accident, as a result of which the father is very badly injured and his son is rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. 

However, the surgeon takes one look at the boy and says “I cannot operate on him”.

When asked why, the surgeon replies ‘Because he’s my son…‘”.

What’s going on here?

Manification…

If you immediately and without hesitation answered the surgeon was obviously the boy’s mother, then “Congratulations!” are in order. You’ve successfully avoided the trap of manification – the process that makes, creates or causes (fication) something that is not male to be seen as male or masculine.

In this example, those who fail to solve the problem invariably do so because they make the erroneous, if frequently unconscious, assumption that surgeon is a masculine occupation. Ergo, the father couldn’t operate on his son.

So if you did fail to see the solution immediately don’t worry. You’re in good (or maybe that should be bad?) company.

While manification is similar to the concept of a male gaze – the process by which the world is seen through male eyes – it describes a situation where the world is not merely seen as male but actively interpreted as such. The world, in other words, is by-and-large, assumed to be male: it is given characteristics that are assumed to be the property or preserve of men.

Hence, for example, the historic connotation that certain types of work, pastimes (such as football or video games) and objects (such as computers) are inherently male / masculine.

…Mentrification

Mentrification is concept closely-related concept to Manification and is described by Badham (2019) in the following terms:

If “gentrification” describes the process by which one “improves” a place so it “conforms to middle-class taste”, mentrification achieves an equal status transformation by taking the history of female participation and achievement and festooning its narrative with phalluses“.

It involves, in other words, a process whereby a cultural activity or product originally associated with or created by women is reconceptualised by and for a male audience. Badham uses the example of beer, something that a few hundred years ago was almost exclusively brewed by women within the home for family consumption. With the development of capitalism, brewing moved into the factory and was eventually marketed as a drink by and for men.

A more-contemporary example might be the development of new technology, an arena that has been both Manified (recreated as a masculine occupation / preoccupation) and Mentrified: while women were instrumental in the development of personal computing, for example, their “participation and achievements” have been – and in many respects continue to be – largely erased.

The same process of mentrification is true historically with broader concepts such as “science”. Aside from Marie Curie  and, at a push, Ada Lovelace I’m guessing you’d be hard-pushed to name any female scientists, let alone their scientific achievements. The reverse, of course, would be true for men…

This leads to a second dimension of mentrification whereby the cultural achievements of women become subsumed under a masculine mythology, such that those achievements are either completely forgotten or overshadowed by male achievements. This also includes the idea that men are also given the credit for something originally pioneered by women.

And Finally

While these aren’t two concepts you’re going to be using everyday is Sociology they are potentially useful when discussing feminist perspectives (or using them to evaluate non-feminist perspectives).

Not only are they a useful shorthand, with the added bonus of having to explain them when you use them – because it’s a fair bet that a lot of other students won’t be using them – they also encourage students to apply these concepts creatively across a range of ideas and issues.

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