Happy New Year! One of my goals for 2017 is to read more. For Christmas, I got a Kindle. My first purchase was “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Feminism has had more than 15 minutes of fame recently. Like most of the world, I first learned of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie when she was featured on Beyonce’s song “Flawless.” What I did not know was the excerpt we hear in “Flawless” was adopted from a TED Talk. Unlike most of the world, I prefer to read about things before I go labeling myself willy nilly.
That TED Talk has since been put into a book. The book begins with Chimanada recounting the first time she was called a feminist by a dear friend. She did not know exactly what that was but she knew it was bad because it was “un-African” and feminists were unhappy women who could not find husbands. She then goes into several anecdotes about experiences she had in her home country, Nigeria (Lagos specifically). While most of the stories were things you may be able to imagine, the most ridiculous one is about an incident during her childhood. Her class was promised that whoever scored the highest on a test would be the class monitor. After getting the highest score she was not allowed to be the monitor because the monitor “had to be a boy” according to her teacher.
Adiche then goes on to highlight the disparities between the ways girls and boys are raised. She aptly illustrates how divergent the values are. For example, girls are praised for virginity while boys are allowed to be sexual which is weird since it follows that most of those boys are being sexual with girls. Just as many girls are not allowed to have boyfriends but still expected to find the Mr. Right when it is time for a husband.
Most pointedly, Adiche admits that there are biological differences between the sexes but emphasizes the point that socialization causes exaggeration. She asks, what if children were raised with a focus on ability instead of gender?
By her own definition, “a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.” My favorite part is when she shared the story of her grandmother and says, “she did not know the word feminist. But it doesn’t mean she wasn’t one.”
If you are new to feminism as a school of thought I highly recommend this work. It is short and the language is very plain. Being that feminism came out of high society and academia, many texts on it can be discouragingly dense. You can buy the paperback here.
Have you read this or any of Chimamanda’s other work? Are you a feminist? Comment below and let me know!