Like Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, I admit that I was not a fan of the idea of feminism. I did want equal rights and opportunities for women, and I hoped for a society where women could be judged less for simply being themselves, however the term seemed so defiant.
“Feminist” was a term for those women who marched in protest over the fact that they were stared at simply for walking down the street, or held angry talks on the discouragement given to women for using (or not using) their sexuality in the the correct way. Yet after my second time viewing the TED talk on why “we should all be feminists”, I feel I’m beginning to understand the term better.
I appreciate the ease of the speaker, and how she admits to still learning about feminism and a woman’s place in the world. However, in my opinion the reason why it is important to listen is the fact that the term feminist isn’t just about women. Perceptions and ideas about gender begin from what we are told as children, and as we choose to believe these ideologies we shut out any notion that there may be more than one standard, or more than one correct way to think about somebody or something. And because there is more than one answer to the question “why treat women any differently than men?”, modern feminism should explore the possibilities and use them to further not only education, but acceptance and understanding as well. This is especially true for people like me, who agree but in what they are still deciding.
As I sat in class listening to my colleagues compare the life of women in Nigeria — as described by writer and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — with that of American women, I couldn’t help but think of the differences. Perhaps the most intriguing perspective Adichie had to offer on feminism sat at the intersection of gender, race and ethnicity. The starkest difference to me was the belief that to be an American feminist is more convincing that to be an African feminist.
In this passage of her talk, Adichie recalls the time she was told that feminism was “un-African”:
Then an academic, a Nigerian woman, told me that feminism was not our culture, that feminism was un-African, and I was only calling myself a feminist because I had been influenced by Western books…. Anyway, since feminism was un-African, I decided I would now call myself a Happy African Feminist.
My immediate thought turned to the theory of liberal feminism in international relations. Liberal feminism assumes that the west has cracked the code on the most valuable feminine norms for women everywhere. These norms are rooted in capitalism, individual rights and equality under the law.
The flaw of liberal feminism, however, is demonstrated by the logic pursued by the academic Adichie refers to in her talk. The idea that feminism is “un-African” is used by liberal feminists as a basis to legitimize a sort of “benevolent paternalism.” Adichie seems to suggest that there is not only a severe failure to understand what feminism is, but also a failure to understand who has the capacity to understand and practice it. The idea that feminism is “un-African” is rooted in infantilized conceptions of folks of color — an idea that has historically been used to legitimize imperialism and colonization.
The conflation of Western civilization and feminism is not only dangerous, but wrong because it excludes folks of color from the equation. Adichie’s talk, therefore, is proof feminism, at it’s best, must and should be intersectional.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s prose is poignant and honest. It is reflective- autobiographical without being isolating to an outsider. Most of all, it is a narrative that can relate to and fit with any woman of the world’s global experience. We are separate from men, perhaps unequal in experience, but never in spirit.
Adichie makes a point to mention that female inequality is perpetuated by cultural normative. “Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture,” she says.
This is inarguable. Centuries of oppression and female victimization has been a result of societies not asking the most important question in birthing reformation: “Does it really have to be this way? Is there a reason it is?”And this is how culture shifts. Adichie is right to hold her audience accountable for asking this question. It is a point that goes forgotten too often because people become comfortable and forget they have the power to change.
As a woman, it is impossible to disagree with any of the things that Adichie says. She mentions that at times she still struggles not to internalize the gender expectations she has been taught in her life. Her identity is compromised by what the world wants of her. And so many of ours have.
Everyone should read ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ because as a woman, it wakes us up. It reminds us of the responsibility we have to change the future for female generations to come and honor the women who have struggled to do so. For a man, it teaches, and dissolves the preconception that women are feminists just to stand alone.
Adichie reminds that we should be feminists to stand together.
Feminism has been a huge topic of conversation for years, but the internet and social media has given so many women around the world to speak on this issue. In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay, “We Should All Be Feminists”, she addresses the complexity behind embracing feminism as well as culture. Although feminism is often considered to be a western trend, it is hardly really embraced in western societies. Chimamanda recognizes that the only way we can overcome gender inequality is to raise both boys and girls with equal expectations. Gender inequality has been the norm since the beginning of time, so clearly this is not a change that can be made overnight. We must raise future generations with an open mind, and make sure to not put any pressure on gender roles and expectations. I love that Chamamanda said that gender and class are two different oppressions, because that is often an argument that men disregard. Of course, race and class struggles are a dramatic oppression all over the world, but that does not make the neglect of women’s rights okay,it just means that we should fight all injustice the same way; through discussing these topics and through future generations.
When we raise boys and girls with different expectations, not only are we hurting the girl’s self-esteem, but it is also damaging for boys as well. Men are taught to be the bread winners in a family, and to make the most money, while the women are classified as the homemakers. While there is nothing wrong with staying at home and taking care of the children, it is very important for young girls to realize they can work in whatever field they want, and should also have the opportunity to earn the same amount of money as a man. As mentioned earlier, feminism is a westernized concept. Women in the United States certainly still have a battle to fight, however, it is not as difficult as it used to be, or even in other countries. So, when women make more money than her husband, and appear to take the more “dominant” or “powerful” role in the household, a man’s ego tends to be crippled.
The psychology behind gender inequality is truly heart breaking. It is so crucial that we raise future generations with the same expectations and to begin to try to open up the minds of the men today.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to me, captured a message I have always tried to spread to my close ones. Feminism always has this negative connotation attached to it. It is a dirty word. It is the big F-word. To associate yourself with feminism is to be a man-hater. It amazes me how misunderstood feminism is and how we are not all feminists. Listening to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speak was a much needed drink of water. She outlines that feminism is not solely about women and their rights. It goes beyond that. It is about gender norms and roles, it is about the acceptance of women as humans with rights. I know one way to capture attention is by talking about how things affect men, so I will begin with that. One point she Adichie brings up is the toxic masculinity that is so often pressured upon men. They are told to be the strong man and to not show feelings because they are weakness. Time and time again this negatively affects young boys who grow up to be lacking in understanding to be strong is to be vulnerable. They are taught misconceptions that only hinder them as they grow. Who really benefits from this toxic masculinity? No one. Another point I quite agree is that not everyone is consciously aware of the problems women face. Unless the person is not experiencing it, then they will remain in the dark. She mentions her friend Louis who, in his obliviousness, argues women and men have made it together. It is not until he faces it does he notice that his previous point is not the case. Awareness and acknowledging is the first step is change.
“This made sense – a thousand years ago. Because human beings lived then in a world which physical strength was the most important attribute for survival; the physically stronger person was more likely to lead. And men in general are physically stronger.
Today, we live in a vastly different world. The person more qualified to lead is not the physically stronger person. It is the more intelligent, the more knowledgable, the more creative, more innovative. And there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, innovative, creative. We have evolved. But our ideas of gender have not evolved very much” (Ngozi Adichie).
Written by: Kristelle Marie Villaverde Date: 08.30.16
We Should all be Feminists” definitely incorporates many points that I agree as well as disagree with. Further, men and women will gain beneficial information through this speech about the idea of feminism. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who eloquently presented the speech “We Should all be Feminists”, spoke to me the loudest with the quote written above. Growing up, I learned that men and women have specific roles in life. My parents were not biased with how they raised my siblings and I. My sister and I were not robbed of the experience of playing sports or trying out for sports. My brother was not ostracized for baking or cooking. My parents taught us the duties men and women should do, but they never scolded us if we did the opposite sex’s job or if we did not fulfill our duties as a boy or girl or as a man or woman. I also agree with the notion that the world is definitely changing. Equality between men and women may not be established well enough but women have come a long way, at least in the United States, with their freedom, rights, and opportunities to do everything a man can do. When Adichie discussed what men and women have to do in a marriage to “keep peace”, she said that for women, we ultimately have to make the bigger sacrifices in relationships by compromising to something below our worth in order to “keep the peace” in the relationship. I defeinitely disagree with the idea that women have to compromise things such as a “job, career goal, or dream” just to satisfy the men in their lives. I disagree with that because I believe it is unfair that some men get away with doing irresponsible things because they do not have as much to lose as women do. In all, I believe this speech will help men understand women better and help women gain confidence that she does not have to follow the crowd just to be accepted. A woman should fight for her equal rights because as Adichie stated: “A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, innovative, and creative”.