In a world where women are restricted by harsh gender roles and stereotypes, it is imperative for us to educate ourselves on the injustices women face and how these injustices are perpetuated in our society. The reality is books have the power to address these societal issues through an author’s personal experiences and knowledge; and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie does just that in her book, “We Should All Be Feminists.”
Adichie’s personal experiences with blatant sexism are resonant and makes you truly understand the urgency for feminism. She recounts stories from both her childhood and adulthood that exemplify the instilling of harmful gender stereotypes and their persistence throughout her life. Her experiences and views on archaic gender roles are something many women can relate to. Adichie explains how gender roles normalize the subservience of women in our society. For example, Adichie conveys the antiquated belief that a woman’s duty is to cook, clean, and stay at home is not due to any biological reason (although that would make misogynistic internet trolls ecstatic), but because women have been socialized to think that’s their role.
Just as women have been socialized to think doing housework is their role, they have also been socialized to believe being powerful leaders isn’t their role, but rather the role of men. And Adichie conveys this through the quote: “If we keep seeing only men as heads of corporations, it starts to seem ‘natural’ that only men should be heads of corporations.” Adichie exposes gender for what it really is – a restrictive system that proceeds “to exclude and oppress one group.” And she expresses that this inequality between genders is most evident when it comes to who occupies positions of power. Adichie uses the quote, “the higher you go, the fewer women there are.” She explains that currently men rule the world, but that should no longer be acceptable. Adichie explains how we know for a fact men and women are equally as intelligent and capable, but our ideas of gender have not evolved to exemplify this.
Adichie recognizes that ultimately “We must raise our daughters differently. We must raise our sons differently,” because “Culture does not make people. People make culture.” She expresses that instead of perpetuating a constant cycle of gender inequality by teaching our girls to strive towards marriage, we need to teach them to strive towards a career and success in the same way we teach boys to. I love how Adichie explains not only the female experience with gender stereotypes, but also the male experience. From a very
young age, Adichie expresses that men are expected to hide their emotions for the sake of their masculinity. She explains that toxic masculinity causes boys to have fragile egos, but the worst part is women are taught to adhere to the fragility of men by shrinking themselves in their relationships, careers, and in family life. Adichie conveys in this book that even though people feel uncomfortable discussing gender, it is a conversation that needs to be had in order to generate change. We have to question why we teach women to compete for the attention of men. We have to question why femininity is seen as a weakness. We have to question why we make women “feel as though by being born female, they are already guilty of something.” We have to question these beliefs, realize their effects, and eventually change them for the sake of future generations.
I’d have to say one of my favorite parts of this book is when Adichie discusses the animosity towards the word feminist. She talks specifically about the relationship between anger and feminism. The term “angry feminist” is pretty prevalent (I have definitely been labeled this many times) but Adichie expresses that women have every right to be angry with how oppressive gender is and she explains that “gender as it functions today is a grave injustice.” Adichie also informs readers of the significance behind the word feminism despite its wrongfully negative connotation. She explains that not using the word to describe oneself “is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender.” Adichie puts it perfectly when she explains that “for centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem should acknowledge that.”
When I reflect upon this book, the first word that comes to mind is – unapologetic. Adichie is unapologetically female. She is able to encourage women to take pride in their femininity instead of feeling ashamed. Her words are everything I’ve ever wanted to say and more.
“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.”