We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This incredibly short book, which is really some compiled excerpts from Adichie's TED Talk, was the perfect inspirational afternoon read. I'm always looking for ammunition for my next feminist discussion, whether it's an encounter where I need to speak up, or an informal discussion with family or friends. We Should All Be Feminists opened me up to new angles on the feminist discussion that I hadn't previously considered in so much depth.
Adichie highlights personal experiences and struggles as a woman and traces back why women are treated the way they are today. She asks why the word "feminist" carries baggage -- like anger, no sense of humor, not shaving, thinking women should be in charge, no bras, and hating men. Historically, because men are typically stronger, they have had leadership positions, but now we live in a very different world, where hunting and foraging for food based on physical strength does not gain us clout in society. Somehow, our ideas of gender haven't evolved that much since those primitive times. She observes how many females she knows, particularly Americans, strive for the trait of "like-ability." This caused me to pause, as I can definitely relate. Why did I feel that being liked is a positive goal to strive for throughout much of my life so far? Where did I get the idea that it was so important to be liked, when this whole time I considered myself a feminist? Being brought up as women to value being liked, as opposed to men being raised to be strong and aggressive, is where the problem starts. She proposes that we raise girls and boys differently. We somewhat inadvertently teach girls shame by telling them to be polite, cover themselves, and never to express desire. Though boys and girls are obviously different biologically, "socialization exaggerates the differences, and then starts a self-fulfilling prophecy." She points out that "gender prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are," and then pleads her readers to focus on our children's ability rather than their gender.
My favorite part of Adichie's argument is her explanation on why she rallies for feminism as opposed to human rights. While feminism is a part of human rights, of course, if we don't focus on the female aspect of humanity in this discussion, then we are denying that the gender problem targets women. "That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem should acknowledge that.... 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."
I plan on passing this book around to as many family and friends as I can, because it packs a serious punch for such a short read. Adichie's clear and confident voice brought such gratification to my reading, and I can't wait to devour more of her work!