It’s no secret that the word “feminist” has become something of a dirty word as of late, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes the problems with that perfectly in We Should All Be Feminists.
Throughout this book Chimamanda Ngozi Aichie brilliantly narrates times in her life when being a woman presented its own set of unique challenges.
From tipping a “valet” type service in Lagos Nigeria, to talking about how an angry article was perceived by reporters, to how she can’t enter certain clubs unless she is on the arm of a man in Nigeria.
Aichie then calls for a change in how we raise men and women to view the gender binary and the word feminist in general.
Ultimately, the book aims to give a solid definition to 21st Century Feminism, which she accomplishes and does well.
This is a modified version of a talk that Aichie gave at TEDxEuston. While I have not seen her speech, reading it alone was compelling.
We Should All Be Feminists is one of those books I have been curious about for a long time. I’ve heard the title, seen it advertised and I really wanted to check it out for a long time.
Oddly enough, I don’t recall ever seeing a physical copy of this book because to my surprise it is under 100 pages long, a perfect book written in a conversation tone of voice that captures society’s issue with the word “feminist.”
The first few pages really struck me because Aichie recalls the friend who first called her a feminist and then all the times that the label was twisted and managed to the point where she had to place several modifiers before the word.
Ultimately she says:
At some point I was a Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men and Who Likes to Wear Lip Gloss and High Heels for Herself and Not For Men.
This alone presents a very interesting perspective as to how we view the word feminist, but most of the examples Aichie presents here aren’t new.
I recall watching a show one night in the early 2000s, it was a 60 Minutes, or 20/20 type program that examined how we raised boys and girls differently in our culture.
I watched as they gave kids a gift of socks and pencil and saw the boys react in disdain and the girls put on a smile. I remember this program being the first time I was aware of the perception of how women were supposed to be less than or a fairer sex.
I remember watching it and thinking about how unfair it was that boys could freely voice their opinions when girls were supposed to keep their heads down.
More than a decade later nothing seems to have changed. We are still continuing this gender binary of women being docile and polite and men being the breadwinners.
While we should all be feminists and the word should be reclaimed, sans its dirty implications, what we should also take away is how we are raising our children. Empowering them to affect change while society resists.
While this book is cathartic it is sad that we haven’t come as far as people think we have. I am not just talking about the wage gap, but just the way things are perceived. Many times, society makes assumptions based on gender.
In this thin book, Aichie covers a lot of ground. She discusses society, and marriage, and letting girls have ambition. All of which I think is important to the dialogue.
I hope that We Should All Be Feminists is a book that everyone picks up and reads for themselves, and I hope that teachers integrate it into their teachers.
Final Rating: 4 Stars