Book 455: We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adiche, Chimamanda Ngozi - We Should All Be FeministsWow. I know I’m late to the party on this one, but Wow. Thanks Jess for, all those months ago, finally giving the recommendation to make me read it.

There is not a lot to say about We Should All Be Feminists, that hasn’t been said. And yet I’m going to dither on about it for a good while. IF you don’t want to read (which, shame on you) this 48 page “manifesto” (because it should be one), then check out the TEDx talk she pulled it from at the end of the post. (I haven’t watched it, but need to.)

This is one of those essays that should make its way into our collective conscience, but I’m not sure it will. It is also one of those books that I feel should become required reading, if only for the conversations it will spark, but again, thanks to the divisiveness of today’s politics, outside of specific classes focusing on women and gender, I doubt it will.

The strongest aspect of Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists, is her taking ideas from women and gender studies that are entirely way too complex and simplifying them from Butler’s gender performativity to Foucault’s normalization (Wikipedia links), she makes topics that can be hyper-philosophized easily approachable:


“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 will 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” (13)

Gender performativity

“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognize how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.” (34)

And to top it off Adichie did an excellent job of making connections of something I know quite a lot about, women’s rights and gender equality, to something I know little about, but now have a better paralleled understanding: the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Some people ask, ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because 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. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem should acknowledge that.” (41)

It should not have taken reading this to have the light bulbs go from half-lit to fully lit, but as I’ve said two or three times now, Adichie’s ability to simplify and get to the point took out all the distracting jargon and political heaviness and basically said if x causes y and x causes z, then y and z have a lot in common.

Recommendation: If you haven’t read this, you need to. Adichie’s way with words and ability to simplify seriously impressed me. I’m now debating looking at some of her other works, especially her shorter fiction as a starting point, since I’ve heard mixed reviews of her longer works.

Opening Line: “Okoloma was one of my greatest childhood friends.”

Closing Line:All of us, women and men, must do better.” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction.)


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