We Should All Be Feminists

March 8, 2017
We Should All Be Feminists Book Cover We Should All Be Feminists
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Essays
Anchor
February 3rd, 2015
Paperback
49
Library
2012

In this personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

(via Goodreads)

 

I had seen Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDxEuston talk before. But, in light of everything happening around the world, and today being International Women’s Day, I felt like I needed to reconnect with it on my own time. And at my own pace. It was time to pick up the published text. An eloquent and personal essay, We Should All Be Feminists addresses Adichie’s experiences as a woman experiencing internalized, culturized, and socialized misogyny on varying levels.

I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my feminity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.

This lecture, turned essay, is conversational in tone making it easily accessible without seeming preachy or patronizing. Originally presented in 2013, a lot of this content no longer seems new. However, the way in which Adichie addresses these topics, from her own experiences, makes it both refreshing and scary. The stories in We Should All Be Feminists reflect personal experience, the experiences she observes, and the experiences shared with her after the fact. And Adichie does not limit these experiences to what she observes about women. No, she addresses how both women AND men are affected by these conscious and unconscious biases.

Feminism is a big topic. Adichie’s thirty-minute speech barely scratched the surface. Yet, she covered so many topics in this brief period of time. She addressed experiences where feminism was identified as a bad word. Experiences where she didn’t feel comfortable or wasn’t allowed to do something because she was a woman. Experiences where the men around her were treated differently because of her presence. Experiences of gender stereotypes and how we allow ourselves to be conformed to society’s whims.

Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. I am angry. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change.

The must frustrating part of this essay is how it all seems such common sense to me. But, the reason we struggle with feminism is that this does not seem common sense to everyone.  Gendered standards are challenging to see in a world where our history is steeped in gender roles. It takes a conscious effort for most to see these biases in our daily lives. For example, we teach children about Edison, but not Hypatia. We name streets after notable men, but not women. We condition men to feel inept if they aren’t providing, and condition women to need help. It seems so obvious when stated this way, but how often have you, as a woman, asked for feedback from men before taking action? How many times have you, as a man, felt like you had to look at YouTube videos and fix something at home instead of calling a professional? We might think we are saving money, or looking to get a consensus. But are we?

Adichie addresses that this is just a start. Our unconscious (and conscious!) biases hurt both men and women. She states:

What if, in raise children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender?

I know that I personally can do better. I think we all can do better. We Should All Be Feminists is a great introduction to helping us see through these biases and begin to make the world a better place. I strongly recommend this to everyone. In fact, go watch the TED talk right now. And happy International Women’s Day.


What do you think?

  • Have you seen Adichie’s TEDxEuston lecture? What do you think?
  • If you have read this AND watched it, how do you think the TEDxEuston talk compared to reading the text?
  • What did you do today to celebrate International Women’s Day?

24 Comments

  • Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel March 8, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    I loved Chimamanda’s TED talk. I adore her writing. She is so sharp and unapologetic. Happy women’s day

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 11:13 am

      Thanks, Resh Susan! Happy (belated) Women’s Day to you too. 😀 It took me a while to get into Chimamanda’s writing originally; I started with Americanah and I wasn’t prepared for the perspectives I got. However, I can’t wait to read Half of a Yellow Sun. It’s on the waiting list at the library, and I can’t wait! Do you have a favorite of her works?

  • Diana March 9, 2017 at 12:22 am

    I have read Adichie’s books but I am yet to read this one or listen to the TED talk. Thanks for the recommendation. I will do so soon.

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 11:15 am

      Which of her books have you read? The only other one I’ve read is Americanah, and I really enjoyed it. But it took a while for me to *get* it. That was my first time reading an African author writing from an African perspective. Since then, I’ve been trying to see that voice out more. It fascinates me. Any and all recommendations are welcome!

  • MyBookJacket March 9, 2017 at 10:43 am

    I wanted to pick it up but having listened to the TED talk I didn’t bother. But the talk was absolutely amazing and I’m glad the book is too!

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 11:25 am

      I think that’s reasonable; they are almost identical. It is a nice short book to keep around the house. As an essay, I can just get on my soapbox and hand that to someone in my house. I’m glad you enjoyed it! Out of curiosity, do you remember how the TED Talk go to you? Recommendation, internet search, etc?

  • Amber Elise @ Du Livre March 9, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    I’ve heard so many great things about her TED Talk but have NOT seen it. Oops. One day though, especially since this book is on my TBR. I’m more invested now that I know it’s a series of stories. Thanks for the review Jackie!

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 11:29 am

      That’s okay! The link is up above if you want to see it. 😀 It’s super short, as well, so these stories are all very brief. It’s an inspiring and easy read, so I’d definitely recommend it. I hope that when you get to it you find it worthwhile. I’d love to know what you think.

  • Laila@BigReadingLife March 9, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    I loved this essay. I love her in general. A great pick for international Women’s Day!

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 11:42 am

      Thanks, Laila! I just felt compelled to make a statement with my blog, and this seemed perfect. Any favorite Adichie works you’d recommend? I’ve only read this and Americanah.

  • YAandWine March 9, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    Great review for international women’s day! ❤️❤️❤️

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Thanks Krysti!!

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea March 10, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Love this! I am going to be horrible here and say that I probably would not normally read this, but you have provided me with enough insight to remind me that I need to branch out more and be more diversified. You always do. I find the quotes you selected to be very appropriate and effective! I think I will look into her TED Talk that is being mentioned.

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 11:53 am

      D’aw. Thanks, Danielle! I am glad you’re considering reading/listening to this! I think it’s a good reminder for everyone that feminism isn’t just about women’s rights– it’s about equality of the sexes. It’s a super short essay if you want to read it, or 20 minutes of your time listening to the TED talk (link above). While this isn’t a short story, perhaps an essay to be micro-reviewed during your weekly wrap ups? <3

  • Evelina March 11, 2017 at 10:27 am

    I should read this. I’ve been feeling sad about this topic for the past week, because something ugly happened in my country. This parliament member was trying to hire personal assistants (normally a job in law) for a.. different sort of personal assistant’s job. Marking them down by breast size. Asking if they have boyfriends. Asking them to accompany him to the opera and wear what he asks them to wear. Suggesting to pay illegally. And when these girls spoke up, despite ALL the media exploding with this and all the parliament being appalled, apparently the law can’t do ANYTHING for them. Because the equal rights department can only defend them when they’re hired. They were just being interviewed. Meanwhile the police said this is stuff of no consequence so just please leave us alone. So basically, sexual harassment is something you can get away with in my country even if the whole media is buzzing about it. And now I don’t know how to feel about it. It’s very, very disappointing.

    That and another girl being kidnapped for her car and killed over it, that has just had all of us women in this country feeling a little.. eh.. can’t find the word for it. But it’s no happy feeling.

    So maybe I should read this. And maybe it could make me feel like things can change… I don’t know.

    Also, in a lighter note. I remember you said you’d be super busy, but I wanted to tell you I very selfishly tagged you in a post 🙂 in case you missed it. So there :p

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Oh no! How terrible. Ugh. I get so angry when sexism and harassment are so blatant and yet those in power are “powerless” to do anything. I’m sorry you feel powerless! One of the positive things which have come to be since Trump won the presidency here is that there are tons of groups getting together to make change. I have definitely felt helpless, and I still do in a lot of ways. But there are people coming together, talking about this, and addressing opportunities to make change. I don’t know if Why Should All Be Feminists will give you a ton which is actionable, but it might help you better articulate your position with others. Words can be very powerful.

      Have you heard ofEmma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf book group? It’s a part of Watson’s He-For-She UN campaign. I’ve been leading a small chapter of it in my hometown, and just getting women together to talk has really helped me emotionally. We don’t always walk away with actionable steps (but it’s great when we do!), but we do walk away with more stories to share. Even the Goodreads group discussion boards are helpful. Maybe you can check it out? If you are interested, I can also recommend some books to you! As we know, books heal most wounds. 🙂

      Haha. Yes, March has been crushing my soul a bit. I just got back from a week away, so I have a lot of blog hoping to catch up on! Your blog is definitely on the list. I was in my hometown doing wedding venue hunting. It’s crazy to think that I’m already at this stage in my life. Where did the time go? But it was a hard week without blog access! It’s nice to be back. 😀

  • Grab the Lapels March 14, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    I know we still need feminism, especially for those of us who were raised to think all things associated with men are better. In my family, we didn’t SAY it, but men are rock stars, powerful, loners, capable, the ones who drive, make big purchases, have the final say in big decisions. Women do dishes and clean up and make dinner. I eventually unlearned what I was implicitly taught, but I do have a bigger friend in a different platform who reminds me of the old me. She doesn’t care if women aren’t published by a certain press, because that just means they aren’t capable. She doesn’t care if bizarro publishers use exploitative images of women in the cover, because women are just too sensitive. ETC.

    • Jackie B March 15, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      That’s so sad– but it’s unfortunately a truth of our lives. It’s so hard to see implicit bias; particularly ones which are so common to the people we socialize with. How did you manage to unlearn your bias? Do you ever talk to your friend about her biases, and whether she sees them? What advice to you have for those who are trapped by what they can’t see in themselves?

      • Grab the Lapels March 15, 2017 at 7:52 pm

        I haven’t talked to her about it. She a very strong person and about ten years older than me, so I think she thinks I don’t “get it.” You know, don’t get how awesome and powerful and so metal dude life can be. But I totally get it. In fact, I “got it” because I published a story in an anthology that I later learned made my husband sad because he felt it was mean. I felt it was “truth.” Later, I was interviewed about the story, and all the questions focused on how mean I was to women. It was then I sort of woke up. It doesn’t help that this story was published in an anthology of experimental women writers!

        I guess advice I have is think about the people you “worship” as being super awesome. Are they ANYTHING like you? Why or why not? How would changing genders affect their “greatness”? For example, no one questions make musicians for overt sexual behavior and promiscuity. Women, possibly with the exception of Madonna, don’t get the same treatment. Female groupies fed, housed, and cared for male rock stars in the 80s, but no one talks about that. Imagine if a 9-5 job had to be incorporated into Motley Crue’s early days.

        • Jackie B March 16, 2017 at 3:52 pm

          I get what you mean about your friend. It often takes an incident close to your heart to shake that perception. That said, I don’t think we can perfectly judge the opinions of others from the outside. Like you point out, it takes personal reflection! I love the idea of sitting back and reflecting on why the people you look up to are the way they are and how their image reflects through you.

          Hahaha– Trying to imagine Motley Crue working in an office building or babysitting for kids. It’s killing me. But I get what you mean. I wish I could articulate these things as clearly as you do, Melanie! I feel like each time I bring up something like this, the men in my life roll their eyes and pat my head. I must continue to follow you and hopefully, I’ll absorb some of your wonder with words!

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom March 15, 2017 at 11:33 am

    What a perfect essay to read on International Women’s Day! I have had this sitting on my shelf for a long time now, but still haven’t made the time to pick it up. I really need to rectify this immediately.

    Your review was wonderful Jackie! It all seems very common sense when it is spelled out like that.

    Thankfully, I was raised in a household where my parents were equal. My Mom worked full time, and it was actually my Dad that was home more with us because he was a firefighter and worked 24 hours, then was off for 48 hours. My parents BOTH cooked and cleaned. When my father needed help with chores and fixing things, I was expected to help out just as much as my brothers. I mowed the grass, helped dig trenches, and even helped lay shingles on the roof after a storm. I can now look back and appreciate how I was raised.

    • Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku March 16, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      You definitely should read it. It’s super quick and quite inspiring. I appreciate it when things I know but struggle to articulate are spelled out so clearly for me. It really helps it when I need to defend my position!

      What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing your experiences, Amanda. What on earth were you digging trenches for? What there some trench warfare going on in your backyard? 😉

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