“Mama!” This was the first time my daughter directly addressed or called me.
I still remember both the shock and thrill that ran through my system as I heard that one little word, from her cute baby voice! It was simultaneously a shock and a thrill because it said to me “she recognizes me as her own” and “I’m (legitimately) somebody’s mother!”
Although I knew I was her mother (after all, I gave birth to her and the scars from my Caesarian section are proof she came from me!), I felt a jolt of electric shock run through my system when I first heard her call me “Mama!” Shock and deep, profound joy, but not shame, and definitely not belittlement! Rather, affirmation and a sense of worth. But it was coming from my daughter, who, in every culture and society would be considered ‘less than me’ the parent, right? Yet, here she was naming me “Mama!”
To this very day, I answer to her call of “Mom,” “Momma!” “Mama!” I answer because it speaks of the relationship she and I share – one of mutual love and care, because although I started to care for her, as time has gone on, I have seen a shift in that dynamic as she’s turning around to ‘care for me’ pretty much in the same way I’ve cared for her and I expect that shift might one day come full cycle as it has for many other parents and their children.
But what does this have to do with gender equality, you may ask?
Because the fact that Adam ‘named’ Eve has been used as an argument against equality of men and women by proponents of gender hierarchy. They have argued that the fact that Adam named Eve means Adam is superior to Eve.
So the question I wish to raise by my discourse is “Does naming indicate superiority?”
Biblical accounts reveal God named some humans and some humans ‘named’ God. If the arguments of gender hierarchy is correct, that would mean those humans who named God are superior to God, right?
Likewise, when my daughter was born, I named her, but a few short months later she named me. According to gender hierarchy, she became my superior when she named me, yes?
I would like to postulate that the issue of naming does not in any way depict hierarchy, but rather relationship. We see this in the way Jesus taught his disciples to call God ‘Father’ whereas prior, He had only been referred to as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and Jacob.”
I postulate that naming does one thing only – to depict relationship and that if gender hierarchists interpret it otherwise it is because they choose to ignore all the facts around them to that effect.
Therefore, let Adam’s language show that when he named Eve, he named her according to her relationship to him and all of creation – she was his equal AND co-creator! – the mother of all living. With her and from her, would come the rest of humanity. At that moment, Eve did not need to name Adam because Adam had already been named by God as ‘human.’ What remained was only the naming of Eve as the co-human with whom the first human would populate and govern the earth.
When Adam named Eve, he was ‘acknowledging’ her role in the world, as well as her equal relationship with him as his partner.
When Adam named Eve, it was not a nomenclature of lesser worth but one of equal partnership…
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (Gen.2:23)