On a recent trip home, I picked up one of those small books sold at lifestyle stores often used as small gifts or side table decoration. This one just so happened to be a small work found at Anthropologie entitled We Should All Be Feminists.
Before I begin, and to fight the societal understanding of the label feminist, the author begins by calling herself a “Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men And Likes To Wear Lip Gloss And High Heels For Herself And Not For Men”. Not an angry woman, not a man-hater, a feminist.
This tiny yellow book is the publication of Chimamanda Hgozi Adichie’s 2012 TEDxEuston speech. I’ll try not to spoil the 48 pages for you, but Adichie, a Nigerian novelist, goes over her ordeal with claiming her name as a feminist and gives her interpretation of why we need feminism in our modern world.
Here are five passages I think we all should adopt into our lives:
1. “What struck me – with her and many other female American friends I have – is how invested they are in being ‘likable’. How they have been raised to believe that their being likable is very important...”
The other day I took a personality test and it said I’m in the 19th percentile of agreeableness–ouch. Apparently, I am callous, rude, and easy to judge. My boyfriend reassured me that I am not a rude person BUT I’m “not afraid to rub people the wrong way.” It took me a moment to realize this really wasn’t a criticism after all. In fact, being “not afraid to rub people the wrong way” is a (perhaps poorly worded) way to say your biggest concern is not the approval of others or being “likable.” It’s a double-edged sword: girls who care too much are “fake” and girls who don’t care enough are “insensitive.”
As of 2017, there are approximately 7.6 billion people on Earth. On average, let’s say, you meet 3 new people a day, that’s a little over 1000 new acquaintances each year. It is statistically impossible for each and every person to like you. Be kind, but don’t stifle your true self for “likability”.
2. “We raise girls to see each other as competitors–not for jobs or accomplishments, which in my opinion can be a good thing, but for the attention of men.”
I don’t have enough mental capacity to keep track of the number of times I’ve been in discord with another girl over a boy. Boys are not objects, they are not meant to be won, they are not meant to be fought over. They’re people too. Competing with each other for other people is an absolutely futile waste of everyone’s time. If anything, each person (man AND woman) should value themselves as a prize. We should love and support one another, not tear each other down. We have an obligation by being human to respect all other people.
3. “We teach girls shame.”
Shame is defined as: “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety; something that brings censure or reproach.” Regardless of the fact I’m “not afraid to rub people the wrong way”, I STILL notice a predisposition to feel shame, not only for my wrongdoings, which is acceptable but for things I perceive I should be ashamed of. I feel shame for my shortcomings, my sexuality, and my femininity, the presence or lack thereof.
I sometimes pass over details I subconsciously label “shameful.” It’s a horrible habit to have, and too many of us, both girls and boys, possess it. My best friend (peep her in the cover photo of this article) taught me much about shame and disregarding it. This girl seriously couldn’t give two f*cks. Madison, I commend you.
4. “Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we should begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how it starts: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.”
What I appreciate so much about Adichie’s speech is how she places the blame in everyone’s hands but vilifies no one. There is fault on all sides, you can neither simply look at women and say, “It is your fault for being complacent,” nor can you turn to men and say, “It is your fault for subordinating women.” There is no one person or peoples to blame; it is an epidemic we all must combat. She looks at the situation with hope and takes the blame into her own hands saying that we must start fresh with our children, and teach them to learn from our mistakes.