We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Book Review

Title: We Should All Be Feminists

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre/Themes: Non Fiction, Essay, Feminism, Equality

Blurb from Goodreads

What does “feminism” mean today?

That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun.

With humour and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike.

Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

My Review

“A nice, well-meaning man …(said) that I should never call myself a feminist, since feminists are women who are unhappy because they cannot find husbands. So I decided to call myself a Happy Feminist.”

When you find yourself in a mini reading slump what do you do???
For me, I turned to my favourite contemporary author and this extended essay that is a slight variation on her much exalted TEDx talk from 2013. You can view the YouTube video of that talk here.

What does it mean to be a feminist?

It is a question I have often asked myself. As a young teenager I readily identified as a feminist. I wanted equality for the sexes, I wanted young girls like myself to be treated the exact same way as boys my age and for us all to have every opportunity there was for a bright future. I read feminist books, subscribed to feminist ideologies and I was very sure of my beliefs and forthright with my opinions.

Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

Somewhere in my late teens or early 20s that ideological young girl became disillusioned. I grew into an adult, I had different responsibilities and my relationships changed me. I became more sympathetic to the plight of men and began to say that I no longer was feminist but a pluralist. I still wanted the same things; equality for all, fairness, justice etc but I didn’t want to use a term like feminism anymore as it had such nasty connotations; a bitter undercurrent…

Feminist is so heavy with baggage, negative baggage: you hate men, you hate bras… you think women should always be in charge, you don’t wear make-up, you don’t shave, you’re always angry, you don’t have a sense of humour, you don’t use deodorant.

And then more years passed. I grew even older and somehow, I came full circle. And I am now back to being as proud and unabashedly feminist as ever.

And like Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie in this talk I am reclaiming the word feminist. Being a feminist is a positive thing. It doesn’t mean to man-bash, it doesn’t mean to be angry or bitter, it doesn’t mean to favour one gender over the other. No instead it is about calling out society on the way we are rearing our young people; on the social ideas we are instilling in them with regard to gender bias.

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.

We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much.

You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man.

If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate him.’

But what if we question the premise itself?

Why should a woman’s success be a threat to a man?

What if we decide to simply dispose of that word?

So I am embracing my femininity, I am proud of who I am. I like to be girly; I like to wear dresses and floral perfumes. My favourite colour is pink, rom-coms are my favourite types of films….

And guess what???

I am also technically minded, I am a scientist, political and current affairs are highly important to me….

I can be ALL of these things!!!

I do not have to deny any aspect of my personality to fit in with some notion of what society says a woman should be, should do or should want.

I knew that because I was female, I would automatically have to prove my worth.

And I was worried that if I looked too feminine, I would not be taken seriously.

I really wanted to wear my shiny lip gloss and my girly skirt, but I decided not to.

I wore a very serious, very manly, and very ugly suit.

This is a great, simple essay. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie just states truths. She explains things in a way that we can all understand them. She can make you angry with the simplest of stories and yet she is hopeful, as am I.

Equality is within our grasp.

We only have to change our minds, re-evaluate how we see ourselves and what it is we want to teach our children. Please don’t be like I once was. Don’t let society make you feel bad for saying that there is a gender imbalance out there, that life is experienced differently if you are female.

We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them.

But the reverse is not the case.

We don’t teach boys to care about being likeable.

We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons.

All over the world, there are so many magazine articles and books telling women what to do, how to be and not to be, in order to attract or please men.

There are far fewer guides for men about pleasing women. …

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.

We teach boys to be afraid of fear, of weakness, of vulnerability.

We teach them to mask their true selves, because they have to be, in Nigerian-speak, a hard man.

Chimamanda is a proud happy feminist and I, happily and proudly, am one too.

Other Works by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie I’ve Reviewed

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