It was during the family’s routine bedtime ritual that Teresa asked her mother, Sonia John, about the embedded gender disparity in books
Six-year-old Teresa Manimala became a viral sensation when her routine bedtime story hour became an occasion to call out sexism and gender disparities.
As she indignantly asks her mother why books use man-made instead of the gender-neutral ‘people made’ or ‘human made’, her mother, Sonia John, can be heard outside the frame telling her that the word man implies women also.
“Aren’t women allowed to build?… Then why don’t they say human made?” she says. Before turning back to her book, she tells her mother with a shake of her head, “It’s not nice, right?”
That simple statement has made her voice heard beyond the confines of her home and family.
Sonia, a data analyst, who lives in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in the US, says Teresa is a voracious reader with an inquisitive mind. “I am not surprised that she asked these questions and I am happy that she has begun asking these questions. I hope she has that same attitude when she grows up,” says Sonia.
Sonia and her husband, James Manimala, an Associate Professor at the Oklahoma State University, were particular that their only daughter treasures books and so reading bedtime stories was a habit they instilled in her.
“I used to read to her, but for the last two years, she has been reading much of it herself. I got her a couple of books written by Sudha Murthy that she enjoyed reading,” says Sonia.
It was during their routine bedtime ritual that Teresa asked her mother about the embedded gender disparity in books.
“I recorded her asking me these questions while she was reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln that was meant for children,” says Sonia.
Amused by her daughter’s incisive questions, Sonia posted the video on her WhatsApp groups, her Facebook page and also on a YouTube channel devoted to her daughter.
Someone shared it on Twitter and before the family knew it, the video was shared by celebrities and advocates of gender equality. Sonia admits that the family was taken aback by the way the video went viral.
In the meantime, Teresa chips in to say that she has begun reading Enid Blyton and has got her first book of the author’s Famous Five series.