Why Every Woman Must Read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Recent Essay On Feminism

Posted: October 21, 2016

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s perspectives on feminism which are strongly rooted in her being black and being proud of it is what makes one want to read her work more. Her thank you note to Michelle Obama is pretty amazing too.

Recently, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote an extremely powerful essay titled, ‘Dear Ijeawele, or a feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions‘, where she elaborates on how to raise a feminist. The essay is written in the form of a letter to a mother.

Chimamanda starts with giving a perfect perspective on the first choices a new mom has to make – how to evaluate her going back to work and how to behave like a mother. You choose to work because it is your choice. And one does not need to justify it just because she is a woman.

“You don’t even have to love your job; you can merely love what your job does for you – the confidence and self-fulfillment that come with doing and earning.” Chimamanda writes.

Motherhood automatically comes with an implicit expectation of know-it-all and do it all. However a plain human woman does not turn into Superwoman overnight. Rather, she never will.

“Give yourself room to fail. A new mother does not necessarily know how to calm a crying baby. Don’t assume that you should know everything.”

“Let your focus be on remaining a full person. Take time for yourself. Nurture your own needs.”

Chimamanda puts a clear perspective on the role of a father in child caring. Let him do it. And when he does it, don’t call it helping. Caring for a child is still a mother’s domain, working or not. And women take it upon themselves more as a result of social conditioning.

“When we say fathers are ‘helping,’ we are suggesting that childcare is a mother’s territory, into which fathers valiantly venture. It is not. Can you imagine how many more people today would be happier, more stable, better contributors to the world, if only their fathers had been actively present in their childhood?”

Chimamanda slams gender roles and gender segregation even if it’s in seemingly harmless like buying pink or dolls for girls and blue or planes for boys.

“If we don’t place the straitjacket of gender roles on young children we give them space to reach their full potential. Please see Chizalum as an individual. Not as a girl who should be a certain way. See her weaknesses and her strengths in an individual way. “

“The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina. “

And so true it is!

Biologically men and women differ. But it ends there. Any skills which help us live our life are definitely not based on gender. And our gender related roles are so deep rooted that a boy loving to cook over wanting to play sports is snubbed as much as a girl who might choose say wrestling over crochet!

Chimananda touches upon a very interesting concept called ‘Feminism Lite’ which sounds pretty much like Feminism of convenience or safe Feminism. Example stated by her in the essay:

“A woman should be ambitious, but not too much. A woman can be successful but she should also do her domestic duties and cook for her husband. A woman should have her own but she should not forget her true role as home keeper. Of course a woman should have a job but the man is still head of the family.”

It is a hollow ideology and mars the essence of feminism itself. Because it is not based on equality. In ‘Feminism Lite’ the man is still the boss who allows the woman to pursue her dreams, if she must.

Chimananda stressed on reading and how necessary it is! Reading is a potent tool which helps in understanding one’s self and enabling expression. Our environment is sometimes detrimental to helping us in self-awareness or it is just too closed for any foreign ideas to percolate. Books help us know the world and beyond and aide us in making choices which are meant for us not for our surroundings, our family, our society.

Chimananda writes “Teach her to question language”.

“A friend of mine says she will never call her daughter ‘Princess.’ People mean well when they say this, but ‘princess’ is loaded with assumptions, of her delicacy, of the prince who will come to save her, etc. This friend prefers ‘angel’ and ‘star.’”

Our language has a lot to do with the way ideas form shape in children’s minds. Phrases like ‘She is being such a boy’ or ‘Don’t cry like a girl’ are way more loaded and harmful than we think they are.

One of the other prevalent evils is treating marriage as an achievement. Chimananda writes “A marriage can be happy or unhappy but it is not an achievement.”

Marriage is just a relationship, an important one, but still a relationship. They do not identify us. Our value does not go up or down because of our spouses. Unfortunately we bring up our girls, we educate them, hone their skills with a subtle motive to find a ‘good’ husband. However boys are not taught to view marriage the same way as girls.

Chimananda writes “The relationship is automatically uneven because the institution matters more to one than the other. Is it any wonder that, in so many marriages, women sacrifice more, at a loss to themselves, because they have to constantly maintain an uneven exchange? “

A very essential aspect of feminism which Chimananda touches upon is giving her a sense of identity.

“Let her grow up to think of herself as, among other things, a proud Igbo Woman. “

In a world where the colour of our skin and origin of our blood become a deciding factor in the way the world looks at us apart from physical characteristics; being proud of where we belong to and our distinct personality goes miles in facing hostility, if ever.

Chimananda talks about sexuality and romance. As much as there is no shame in sexuality there is no necessary need of sacrifice in romance.

“Teach her that to love she must give of herself emotionally but she must also expect to be given.”

Chimananda ends the essay with the point “Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. “

The fact that we differences are not respected is the cause of all conflict that we come across. Each and every individual is different. And the only thing normal is this difference. To group people based on ideologies, race, gender or any other scale is only defying nature.

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