Tuesday, 18 August 2015

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Review

We Should All Be Feminists is a modified version of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk at TEDxEuston from December 2012. 

It’s an informative discussion of and wholly convincing argument for feminism that starts with anecdotes about Adichie’s life and builds to a rallying cry for global change. 

She lists examples from her life in Lagos illustrating Nigerian patriarchal society. When going to a restaurant with her male friend Louis, she’s ignored by the waiter who instead addresses the man because he’s the man; she’s stopped in the lobby of a hotel and asked to prove that she’s a guest because the staff suspect she might be a sex worker; when at school, she wanted to be the class monitor but the teacher gave it to a boy who didn’t really care but got it anyway because he’s the boy. 

She also mentions the Lilly Ledbetter case where an American woman proved she was paid far less than her male counterparts purely because she was a woman (this led to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009). 

So why is it women are treated as inferiors? The problem is historical as women have always been denigrated but this is the 21st century and still this divide persists. 

In most countries, girls are raised to want to be liked, told to be understanding rather than angry, virginal, and discouraged from being too successful – the opposite of boys. And it’s that word “raised” that is central to Adichie’s argument. People raise their kids without questioning the culture around them. But if the state of things is, as it actually is, that women are treated unequally to men, then shouldn’t we change the culture? Culture does define people but people can similarly change culture. That’s why our society is vastly different today from 100 years ago and that society was different from the one 100 years before that and so on. 

The word feminist is a loaded term and conjures up stereotypes which Adichie gave in to at one point, choosing to wear an ugly business suit on her first day teaching a creative writing class instead of her preferred choice of a dress. But it’s more than a feminist proving that she can be feminine at the same time and unlearning gender lessons so much as it is this wider view of gender stereotypes. Men shouldn’t have to pay for the woman on a date just like women shouldn’t feel pressurised to get married by a certain age and then, once married, cook and clean for the man. The man needn’t be the breadwinner nor feel inferior if the woman is making more money than him. The most important point: feminism is NOT for women exclusively. 

Cultures change when the majority wants it to. It shouldn’t just be up to women to make men treat them equally, it should be as much the responsibility of the man to challenge gender stereotypes and inequality whenever it appears. Adichie’s essay makes an important and eloquent argument in favour of positive societal change. 

Here’s the definition of that word - “Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”. Who in their right mind today would oppose something so reasonable and benign? And yet gender inequality still exists making it all the more necessary for essays like Adichie’s to keep highlighting this problem until true equality is achieved. 

We SHOULD all be feminists. Hear, hear!

We Should All Be Feminists

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