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What I’m Reading: We Should All Be Feminists

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

There it is again, that word—feminist. In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2012 TEDx talk, adapted to a published essay in 2014, she relays her early justifications of the term. “At one point, I was a happy African feminist who does not hate men and likes lip gloss and who wears high heels for herself and not for men,” she says. “That word is so heavy with baggage—negative baggage.”

Of course, this baggage is something we are painfully aware of in the work we do. The perception of feminism, and often its slightly less weighted counterparts, gender equity, gender diversity, gender inclusion, is not always a positive one.

What Adichie’s talk and essay provide, beyond anecdotes of her own experiences with gender bias, is a call to action. We live in a world where the physically strongest person is no longer the automatic leader, yet looking at the leadership within organizations, it seems this is often still the prototype. Adichie admits that this causes anger, but anger with purpose. She says “in addition to being angry, I am also hopeful. Because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better.”

The outline for remaking ourselves for the better is simple:

  • Raise our sons differently. Stop stifling the humanity of boys, focusing only on masculinity. This leaves them with small, fragile egos, centralized around the narrow definition of being a “hard man.”

  • Raise our daughters differently. Stop training girls to cater to the small egos of men, shrinking themselves to avoid emasculating a man.

  • Create consistency in how men and women are treated. Stop accepting, celebrating, or shaming behaviors of one gender but doing the opposite for another. Remove the weight of gender expectations and allow people to be who they are rather than who they should be. Focus on ability instead of gender, or interest instead of gender.

  • Start the conversation surrounding gender. Many men do not think about gender and don’t consider that there is anything wrong, therefore, there is perhaps nothing to be done to correct the issue.

These themes were developed with the culture of Nigeria in mind, but easily transcend to many parts of the world. Adichie puts it in more simple terms: “if the full humanity of women is not our culture, we must make it our culture.”

She ends with her own definition of a feminist, one that she believes each of us should reclaim.

“A feminist is a man or a woman who says ‘yes there is a problem with gender as it exists today and we must do better to fix it.’”

Read a few of our other posts focused on feminism—Still a Feminist and What I’m Reading: Feminist Fight Club.