Saturday, September 10, 2016

#38 [2016/CBR8] "We Should All Be Feminists" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was a girl and arguing with a male friend of hers, he called her a feminist in a derisive tone. She had never heard the word before but assumed it must be something bad. However, unlike many people who deny their connection with feminism because of ignorance and social pressure, Adichie went home and looked it up. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Really, not a bad thing after all.

I became a huge fan of Adichie after reading Americanah, which I loved. When I saw that she'd written a tract called We Should All Be Feminists (2014), I immediately knew I wanted to read it. It turns out that We Should All Be Feminists is a modified version of a TED talk that Adichie delivered in December of 2012. It is a very quick read and has all the trademarks of Adichie with insightful personal stories, and clear, progressive, common sense ideals. It's definitely worth reading.

One fascinating trait of Adichie's writing is that she understands American culture but also has the perspective from her own Nigerian culture. She compares and contrasts the realities of the two, and it is especially interesting when she does this with race and gender. In many ways, the United States is much more progressive than Nigeria, when it comes to the role of women in society. With many of Adichie's examples of inequality coming from Nigeria, I often felt grateful that I lived in the United States. Yet Adichie still discussed interesting differences with gender roles in the two countries.

"What struck me--with her and with many other female American friends I have--is how invested they are in being "liked." How they have been raised to believe that their being likable is very important and that this "likable" trait is a specific thing. And that specific thing does not include showing anger or being aggressive or disagreeing too loudly....We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them." (23)

Adichie also argues that both men and women will ultimately benefit from women's equality and less enforcement of strict gender roles.

"We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage...And then we do a much greater disservice to girls, because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller."

Adichie is a thoughtful, progressive writer with a unique perspective. This book was a fast read and recommended to everyone.

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