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Book Review: We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Posted: July 18, 2021

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Adichie’s presents her experiences on gender disparity from Nigeria, but it strikes a chord with every woman reader across the world.

We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a modified version of her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name. Adichie is a master storyteller, and like all her stories, this too has her trademark. She conveys her points in a witty, hard-hitting manner, without sounding preachy.

It would be wrong to dismiss this book as another run-of-the-mill essay. For it is much more than that. It’s a deeply passionate book based on Adichie’s experiences while growing up in Nigeria. Though the episodes are drawn from Nigeria, every woman irrespective of her culture and origin can identify with them.

Gender disparity is everywhere

Ngozi Adichie narrates an incident wherein she visits a restaurant with her male friend. When she tips the parking attendant, he turns to her friend and thanks him. In Nigeria, it is assumed even if the woman is paying; it is ultimately the man’s money. In India, too, we experience this often. Society treats the woman as the weaker link. Irrespective of how much ever a woman earns, she is expected to be ‘lesser’ than the man! Being ignored, or treated as invisible or lesser beings is the story of countless women across the world.

We experience this disparity every day. Be it at homes, or in offices; the gender gap is growing wider. Till today, despite a higher educational level, women earn lesser than men. According to the Gender Gap Index in 2020, India has slipped into the 112th position from the previous 108th in 2018.

While the country makes progress in all fields, there isn’t much significant evolution in the idea of gender. “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.”

Feminism is not a stigma

Adichie addresses the stigma associated with the word ‘feminist’. Feminism is not about hating bras, men or culture; but it’s about achieving equality in a world where gender disparity is growing wider every day. Be it at home, or office; the rules are different for a man and a woman. Isn’t it high time we change the narrative? How often have we women been told not to raise our voice, or sit in a particular manner? In the corporate world, a male boss can be authoritative, but we expect a woman in the same role to be softer, and not bossy! An authoritative man in a position of power is appreciated, but in case of a woman boss, the rules change! Why? Why do we have such distinctions? Why are men intimidated by a woman in power? Does she make them feel inferior?

The author narrates another incident wherein her female friend decides to sell her house so as not to seem superior than the man who might be marrying her. According to Adichie, young females in Nigeria are under pressure to marry before a ‘certain age,’ else it’s a great personal failure. Well, haven’t we Indian women experienced this enough number of times.

“Boys don’t cry” is not macho but restricting emotions

This book is not just about women and girls. Adichie raises a pertinent point when she questions: are we stifling the humanity of boys? It’s sad that we don’t allow boys to cry, or express their feelings. She says in Nigeria, men have to mask their feelings, be a hard man. Isn’t it true of the way we tell our boys not to cry like a girl? Bollywood magnifies the image of macho men who are not scared, never cry, and their physical violence is accepted.  Mard ka bachcha, after all!

Flawed idea of “Right” age for everything

Adichie shares another incident wherein a young woman was advised to not listen to her ‘feminist’ talks, as it would destroy her marriage. Why is a woman’s success or freedom, a threat to her man? Are we teaching our girls to aspire for marriage, at the cost of their dreams? I know of a friend who dropped out of her PhD just because her husband failed to get his doctoral degree. Only after that, her husband was ‘happy.’ But I keep wondering if any relationship is worth such great sacrifices.

My only hope and prayer is that we are not raising our daughters with a deadline in mind, an age at which they have to be ‘settled.’ I know for sure; I will never pressure my daughters to marry just because it’s the ‘right age.’ They will do so, if and when they wish to make the commitment.

We Should All Be Feminists, is a book which would help the reader unlearn the lessons of gender. It initiates the much-needed discussions on this topic. I read the book, after my daughter and I listened to the TED talk; and I would recommend this book to all. It is thought provoking, and a much needed book.

Image courtesy: Official website of Ngozi Chimamanda

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