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?