Review Tuesday: Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I had read We Should All Be Feminists a couple of years ago, and I completely loved it. I felt that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had explained feminism so well, and it’s definitely a book/talk that I recommend to a lot of people. So, I was very excited when I learned that she had a new book coming out called Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.

From Goodreads:

A few years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a dear friend from childhood, asking her how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. Dear Ijeawele is Adichie’s letter of response.

Here are fifteen invaluable suggestions–compelling, direct, wryly funny, and perceptive–for how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman. From encouraging her to choose a helicopter, and not only a doll, as a toy if she so desires; having open conversations with her about clothes, makeup, and sexuality; debunking the myth that women are somehow biologically arranged to be in the kitchen making dinner, and that men can “allow” women to have full careers, Dear Ijeawele goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century. It will start a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today.

This book is a very short read, but it packs a punch, so while it’s easy to breeze through it because it is so short, I advise you to stop and take your time because it’s easy to miss important points.

As I was reading this book/letter, some of the suggestions of the author I had already thought about – such as if your daughter wants a “boy” toy and not a “girl” toy, that’s okay, buy it for her. But some of the other suggestions and points I hadn’t thought about before. For example, the author uses the example of a play group and mentions how parents of daughters tell their girls to be careful, and don’t go too far, whereas for the sons they push them to go further, try new things, etc. It was interesting to me – in this example and others – how much of a way of being and thinking sexism is. So much so, that at times I didn’t even realize that that’s what I was experiencing or reading or thinking.

Not realizing how sexism society is, is also why feminism is so important. I mean, why do I have to change my name when I get married? Why can a male employee be assertive, but a female is a bitch? Why can’t I show that I’m feeling shitty when I have horrific cramps instead of pretending that my biology is, at the moment, not kicking my ass?

There is also the reverse of this coin too. Why when dad’s are parenting their children does society call it (or joke) that a dad is babysitting? He isn’t. He’s parenting. Why is parental leave for new dad’s a more common occurrence?

Sexism hurts both sexes, and your sexual organs should do hinder you from anything.

This book – and others like it – are vitally important because these issues are still happening, because society still feels the need to put women and men into specific boxes.

This is another book that I’m recommending to everyone because let’s face it – we should all be feminists.


Review Tuesday: We Should All Be Feminists

As I mentioned in last week’s Review Tuesday, I’m on a bit of a speech kick currently. I picked up a copy of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the San Francisco airport when my plane was delayed for 8 hours coming home from my first business trip because I had been hearing some good things about it.

We Should All be Feminists is based off the speech that Adichie gave in 2012 at TEDxEuston, a yearly conference focused on Africa. I will admit that I haven’t actually watched the speech yet, but it is on my list of things to do.

I have only read the speech once, and I do believe that this is something that needs to be read a couple of time because there is just so much content in it, as well as so many good points.

One of the points she makes is why the word “feminist”?

“‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights or something like that?’ Because [Adichie says] that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard feminism defined so elegantly before. Feminism growing up for me was defined by 10 Things I Hate About You where Kat, the shrew, embodied feminism has an angry white privileged female. (Don’t get me wrong I loved the move, but not for it’s representation of feminism).

The speech also talks about how society and parents teach their daughters shame – “close your legs, cover up” etc and we teach men “that having no self-control is somehow acceptable.” Society teaches women that they can’t appear angry, bitter, or aggressive because men won’t like that. And being LIKED is something that women should strive for. And of course marriage must be achieved otherwise there’s something wrong with you.

Another point of hers is that women are taught things or allowed to do things (or not) based on gender. But, and this is a point that I really loved is “What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender.

That last point seems so basic and obvious. But for most of the world it isn’t. This is why this discussion has to continue. This is why HeForShe is so important.

This blog post is certainly not going to do this speech justice. Read the speech or watch the Ted Talk and then talk about it with everyone that you know. It’s important – I would go so far as to say imperative. We should all be feminists.