Review: We Should All Be Feminists

This tiny book is an essay by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, adapted from a TED talk she gave in 2012. I don’t want to write political posts here (or anywhere), but I think we can talk about feminism without turning it into a giant political debate. Why? Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists is first and foremost a definition and an appeal to humanity.

weshouldallbefeministsAbout the book: Adichie explores some of the backlash she has received for calling herself a feminist. Specifically, she addresses the struggles of being African and calling herself a feminist, but she stands firm in her beliefs and explains why her quest for gender equality should be called feminism rather than something more broadly encompassing of both genders–the female gender has been discriminated against for centuries, no matter which way you slice it: any fight for equality must take that into consideration.

“I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femininity. And I want to be respected in all my femaleness. Because I deserve to be.”

Conditions have certainly improved for women over the past several decades. Adichie argues that men have been favored by society since hunter/gatherer days because the (generally) greater strength of the male body meant that he was needed as the protector and provider of the family. But now, when men and women can work the same jobs for the same pay (although Adichie also notes that the higher up the corporate ladder one climbs, the fewer women one finds), there is no longer any reason for certain expectations to fall to the female–expectations of cooking, cleaning, child rearing, house tending, etc. Adichie uses anecdotes from her own life to prove that despite law changes, social expectations that preserve the unequal gender balance between men and women still remain.

“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.”

Without allowing her essay to become a list of personal complaints or a diatribe against men, Adichie proves that humankind still has some fighting to do in the name of equality–and that everyone would benefit from an evening of the scales.

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. This essay really seemed to put some of my own scattered thoughts into words. It’s simply stated, easily understood, properly backed up with anecdotes that many people can relate to, and it makes some darn good points. In the end, I decided against 5 stars simply because I didn’t feel like I was discovering anything new. I haven’t read many feminism texts (by which I mean I can’t specifically name any, although I feel that in my essay class in college we brushed through the topic), and yet I felt like I’d heard all of this before. Don’t get me wrong–that’s a great thing. I love that these ideas about equality have a firm enough footing in the world that without trying I’d already acquired a solid definition. I just expected a little more from this essay once the meaning was established. I’m really glad I read this book, though, and I will definitely be reading more–not only from this author, but along this same topic in others’ words. Personally, it’s something I want to be educated about because I think it affects us all.

Equality for the win.

What’s next: I’ve just finished reading Rainbow Rowell’s adult romance novel, Landline. This one’s about Georgie (the dreamer and breadwinner) and Neal (the stay-at-home dad) who find themselves at a difficult point in their marriage, and the magical phone that unites the two (even if only to argue) across the country and across time. Check back tomorrow to find out more!

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

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