Book Title/Author: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publisher/Year: February 2015 by Anchor (first published 2014)
Genre: Non-Fiction, Feminism, Essays
Source: Own, bought at Chapters
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 humor 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.” (Goodreads)
I want to buy a crate and a bunch of copies of this book and start passing out copies on the street. Everyone should read this! Not interested in reading it? Well, you should because gender stereotypes is still an issue, so humour me and read these 52 pages (or watch/listen to the 30 minute TEDx Talk video).
After reading this in one quick sitting, I immediately wanted to watch the TEDx Talk video that is referenced in the beginning pages. I will say that the TEDx Talk is probably 96% of the book; there are some quotable lines in the book that were not stated in the TEDx Talk, but other than that, the two are a close match.
This book isn’t really a book, it’s actually a short essay/presentation put in print — but for ease of this review I will still call it a ‘book’. This book takes on the heavy subjects of gender stereotypes, societal norms, and the negative stigmas around the word ‘feminist’, but it is done in such a way that is condensed and short — a hard task to do with such a big issue and so many related topics (e.g. workforce, education, ect.). This book identifies the problem and offers a solution. The way it is written (flow, examples, & physical length of the book) is intentional to provoke and to make you reflect on the behaviours of those around you (and your own) and how they may be connected to learned gender stereotypes in your present society.
My favourite — and this isn’t a spoiler because it’s told in the first few pages — is the anecdote about her friend, Louis who says, “I don’t see what you mean by things being different and harder for women. Maybe it was so in the past but not now. Everything is fine now for women”. What I loved about this is that this phrase has been said in my discussions with my male friends (and many of you reading this have experienced the same, I’m sure). I feel that by having this introduced at the start readers are forced to recall that statement and how they have said it/heard someone say it and reflect on what is being addressed through the whole 52 pages.
As I said at the start, everyone should read this. It will take up only 30 – 40 minutes of your time (that is one episode of your Netflix show you’ve been binge watching). Don’t want to read it? Click here for the TEDx Talk and watch it instead.
“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.”
“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”
“We teach girls shame. “Close your legs. Cover yourself.” We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up — and this is the worst thing we do to girls — they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form.”
“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. The sad truth of the matter is that when it comes to appearance, we start off with men as the standard, as the norm. Many of us think that the less feminine a woman appears, the more likely she is to be taken seriously. A man going to a business meeting doesn’t wonder about being taken seriously based on what he is wearing—but a woman does.” “A Nigerian acquaintance once asked me if I was worried that men would be intimidated by me. I was not worried at all—it had not even occurred to me to be ”
“A Nigerian acquaintance once asked me if I was worried that men would be intimidated by me. I was not worried at all—it had not even occurred to me to be worried, because a man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.”
“In the recent US elections, we kept hearing of the Lilly Ledbetter law, and if we go beyond that nicely alliterative name, it was really about this: in the US, a man and a woman are doing the same job, with the same qualifications, and the man is paid more because he is a man. So in a literal way, men rule the world. This made sense—a thousand years ago. Because human beings lived then in a world in which physical strength was the most important attribute for survival; the physically stronger person was more likely to lead. And men in general are physically stronger. (There are of course many exceptions.) Today, we live in a vastly different world. The person more qualified to lead is not the physically stronger person. It is the more intelligent, the more knowledgeable, the more creative, more innovative. And there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, innovative, creative. We have evolved. But our ideas of gender have not evolved very much.”