“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we should begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.”
We Should All Be Feminists is a book-length essay by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, based on a Ted Talk she gave a few years back. The copy I read was no larger than the size of a postcard, yet in just 48 pages, Adichie sends a resounding message about feminism to the world.
The conversation about gender is a sensitive one—people are generally uncomfortable when they hear the word feminism. But, why? Feminism is, by definition, the equality of the sexes. However, it emphasizes the advocacy of women’s rights, because it is women who have been historically discriminated against, it is women who have been excluded, it is women who are still largely inferior.
Despite this, feminism is not only about women. It is about both men and women. I believe this is a primary misconception that helps contribute to this general sense of disgust with the idea of feminism. In Adichie’s words, “We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage.” As a result, men are left feeling like they must prove their masculinity at all times. In my sixteen years on Earth, I can say that I’ve seen this far too many times both at school and in the media. At the same time, girls are taught to “make themselves smaller.” They are told to keep to themselves. An outspoken woman is bossy and aggressive, yet an outspoken man is an example of a good leader. “We make [girls] feel as though by being born female, they are already guilty of something. And so girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. Who silence themselves.” There exists a terrible double standard in society, of both boys and girls, that many turn a blind eye to.
Talking about feminism most often leads to a mentioning of the workplace. Yes, men are generally physically stronger than women, but Adichie brings up an important, forgotten point: “The person more qualified to lead is not the physically stronger person. It is the more intelligent, the more knowledgeable, the more creative, more innovative. And there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, innovative, creative.” It is only our pre-existing attitudes and societal habits that prevent us from realizing this. But I don’t understand why so many perceive the concept of one gender achieving more rights to reach equality as implying the other loses them.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie relays her wisdom in this rousing piece, and I hope by reading her words, we can all empathize with each other and open up a much-needed discussion on gender. Nobody loses when we as human beings are equal.