What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun.
With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.
This was a completely oddball, random read for me because a few of my fellow Rioters were talking about it on Twitter and I dashed over to Netgalley as fast as my internet would take me. Then I saw the cover (green is my favorite color, that helped too) and I was pretty much sold.
This essay is adapted from a presentation Adichie gave at TEDxEuston two years ago titled We Should All Be Feminists. You can watch it right now.
If you don't want to read the essay, you should at least watch the talk over your dinner tray (just don't read the comments below it if you surf to YouTube instead of clicking on the embedded video in this post). It's so, so important. Adichie is rehashing some of the things you've probably heard before, but she brings a wonderful perspective to the conversation, and does so while being incredibly charming. What I mean by a fresh perspective is she comes from Nigeria - a society she describes as one that respects and values men over women, to the point where she is not greeted by servers at restaurants and her male companions receive the thanks when she tips someone with her own money.
One of the points she made that makes me happy, so so happy, is that we ("we" is all-inclusive) should be angry. And anger isn't a bad thing, especially when it leads to positive change. It reminded me of a lecture I sat in (if you sit in lectures online) where the professor was talking about The Odyssey, and how Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, had to grow up and "learn to be a man" in his society. And one of the things he had to learn was that anger was the appropriate response to the awful things happening at his home while his father was away. That he should be angry, and that he should do something about his situation. Too often, many of the qualities we praise in men are discouraged of women, and there are some fantastic examples of and arguments against that in this essay that serve all genders. Because that's the whole point of feminism.
This is completely unrelated, but this essay/talk has also sold me on reading all the rest of her work. Rock on.