I nearly didn't write about this book because I'm just so overwhelmed by all of the awesome and I didn't know where to start, but then I thought I should even if all I say is 'this book is incredible read it immediately'. I use the word book loosely as it's actually the published version of a TED speech which Adichie gave in December 2012, and I read it as part of last weeks minithon, because at 48 pages it's pretty much the miniest form of literature I possess.
Honestly - this book is incredible, please please please whether you call yourself a feminist or whether you don't or (especially, probably) if you hate people who call themselves feminists or if you're one of those people who thinks feminism is unnecessary please read this. I turned over the corner of nearly every page for quotes I wanted to use when I came to write about it. I can't formulate words to explain how encouraged reading this made me. That there are people who can be so eloquent about something which I struggle (clearly) so hard to vocalise without getting angry, and there are people who can put such a positive and hopeful spin on the shit that women go through. I really loved it, I think it may be my favourite thing I've read all year.
In response to being told she should never call herself a feminist because feminists are women who are unhappy because they can't find husbands, she decides to call herself a 'Happy Feminist', which I like, but then this; "At some point I was a Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men And Who Likes To Wear Lip Gloss And High Heels For Herself And Not For Men". It's actually ridiculous how many negative connotations people have of the word feminist and how much you (even me, and I'm a white middle class English girl - to some extent people expect us to be feminists) have to justify being one. You know 'I'm a feminist, but not that kind of feminist' - the kind that is angry/doesn't like men/is overly vocal about their beliefs/won't let their colleagues make continual sexist jokes without calling them on it (ok, I am the last kind). Why is it not OK to be a person who thinks that women and men should be equal? And why do people also not understand that wanting women and men to be equal doesn't mean I want to be a man. I don't want us to be the same, I just want men to stop being knobs because they have knobs, basically.
"Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. I am angry. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change." Yes. This.
Oh why why why do we have so many double standards when it comes to raising girls and raising boys? This essay made me think so much about the significance of the role I have bringing up boys. Why do we (as society not personally) teach girls that their entire appearance must be about what makes boys happy but we don't teach boys the same? Why do girls have to constantly think about pleasing boys but nobody bothers to tell the boys that it's equally important for them to impress/respect/whatever girls as well? When the answer to a question is 'because we do' or 'because it just is', then the answer isn't good enough. We need a new one, or we need to change the question.
"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." (p25)
"We make them feel as though by being born female, they are already guilty of something"
This is so painfully true, and so so wrong. I've been thinking so much recently about things which I've always just accepted as being a 'standard' part of being a girl (e.g being groped by random strangers at pubs/clubs) and wondering why the hell we just accept this as a thing which happens. Why the hell is half the population keeping quiet about this shit? Why are we letting assholes tell us they should be able to do and say what they want to us, and around us without our permission just because they always have been able to? Why is this still ok? I sound angry and exactly like the kind of feminist it's socially unacceptable to be now, but I honestly don't care. I am angry about the way our society teaches women to be. It is not right.
I'm going to stop writing now because I could go on and on about this book forever. I'm going to be buying it for everyone I give gifts to for the next while at least, and in case you haven't got it already from reading this, I really really think you should read this.
"The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing 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" (p34)