Book: ‘We Should All Be Feminists’

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay ‘We Should All Be Feminists’

Though technically an essay bound between two covers, I couldn’t help but reflexively share Adichie’s words as something which grabbed my attention this month. Aptly named, Adichie’s essay – adapted from a TED Talk of the same name – presents compelling arguments in favour of feminism being embraced as an all-encompassing ideology, as opposed to a stereotype or label for a certain type of woman; the woman who does not shave, the woman who burns her bra, the woman who cannot find a man to accept her. By sharing her experiences of gendered discrimination from as young as nine years old, Adichie shows us all how this stigmatism affected, affects and will continue to affect women and girls for generations to come, if we do not all become feminists.

Despite meeting the condition of having the highest score on a test to become class monitor, Adichie watched her ambition slip into the hands of someone who scored lower than her, and someone who had no desire to fulfil the role though filled it nonetheless, – because the teacher’s assumption was girls knew the monitor had to be a boy. Or more recently, where on a trip to Lagos, accompanied by a male friend, she tips the valet, who turns to thank him instead of her, because of the assumption that women cannot be financially independent from men. Or when entering her hotel, she is harassed with questions relating to her stay, or asked to produce a room key as evidence of her lodging, because of the assumption a woman entering a hotel alone means she is a prostitute.

Much like Pateman’s argument, Adichie questions, why, in the incident she may be a prostitute, the focus is on combatting her as the supplier, as opposed to the one who demands her. Being ridiculed by friends and family from Nigeria who claim her mindset has developed through a Western upbringing, – where attitudes and literature allegedly encouraged Feminism as a concept – Adichie questions if this were the case, why equal pay was only brought to the table as an issue in the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act.

Though the ’80s popularised the movement, Adichie highlights in these daily assumptions regarding jobs, financial independence and social settings, how both developed and developing countries are still lightyears behind where they should be when it comes to rectifying gender inequality, because feminism remains a label with ‘baggage’, as opposed to an ideology which affects us all. It’s negative stickiness – in the words of Ahmed – means it fails to attract an audience beyond the narrow pool of women who understand a woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle.

From Adichie’s Essay:

‘If we do something over and over again, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over again, it becomes normal. If only boys are made class monitor, then at some point, we all think, even if unconsciously, that the class monitor has to be a boy. If we keep seeing only men as heads of corporations, it starts to seem ‘natural’ that only men should be heads of corporations.’

KG

 

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Book: ‘What I know now’

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Ellyn Spragins: ‘What I know now’ (My well-loved copy)

Though not every mother-daughter relationship is privy to the openness, honesty or friendship of Lorelai and Rory, at some point, almost every girl finds herself in search of advice from the one person she can count on to have her best interest at heart – her mother. For most of us, this moment doesn’t begin until our twenties; the lost years that we are bound to make mistakes within, that aren’t as easily forgiven as the missteps of our troublesome teens, and continue long into the years of adulthood.

Unfortunately, for Spragins, these moments were cut short, when she lost her mother at the age of thirty-two. From this moment on, Spragins couldn’t help but wonder what words of wisdom her mother would have offered through life’s trying passages, and in search of answers, gathered the words of 42 exceptional women. The first in a three part series, this book is the work of women offering others pearls of wisdom in the form of letters they write back to their younger selves.

These women range in occupation from Activists to Writers to CEOs to Olympic Gymnasts, writing on both professional and personal obstacles, with the recognition that life continuously makes us choose what our priorities are, naturally creating room for doubt on whether or not we have made the right decisions. In this book you find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. One or many of the women in this book have probably been in very similar predicaments, if not the exact same, and share a distinct correlation in the things that were once their biggest weaknesses, and are now their biggest strengths. I carried this book everywhere in hope I’d have a few minutes to fill with reading one of these letters.

From Spragins’ Introduction:

‘Only in hindsight can we see that our fears and worries were unwarranted, that insecurities and doubts were just illusions, or that we should have taken a risk or dared something new sooner. It’s humbling to compare yourself to the women in this book. But at the same time, it’s encouraging to know that even women at the top of their fields have suffered private fears, longings and missteps. To know that these talented women didn’t enter the world as finished products… is to understand that it is within our grasp to reach loftier levels then we might have dreamed of. Choosing to grow during trying life’s passages can be lonely work. I hope this book will make that choice less solitary, because you’ll be in the company of great women’

KG