Happy weekend! It’s the last Saturday of the month, and that means…It’s Give a Sh*t Book Club time!
This month’s pick is We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Because it’s based on a TED talk, it’s more like an essay or pamphlet than a full-size book, but I for one am super fine with that because May is a notoriously busy month. With a book that takes less than half an hour to read, we can all manage to squeeze in some tireless advocacy amongst the graduations, weddings, holidays, and such. Let’s keep the social justice train chugging along!
If you’re like me and spent your early years reading feminist children’s magazines, Adichie probably isn’t going to present anything here that’s earth-shattering to you. This book is like Feminism 101, covering things like why we should embrace the label of feminist, why gender matters across cultures, and the ways our ingrained assumptions impact how we raise girls and boys differently from each other.
What’s most useful about it, I think, are the succinct sound bites it provides in answer to the most commonly asked questions and challenges to feminism. I’m one of those people who struggles to come up with snappy responses in the moment, so having a ready supply of simple but articulate retorts in hand is very helpful indeed. Adichie describes conversations and situations from her own life that illustrate how men sometimes don’t understand the need for feminism, or how our expectations for girls don’t match those we have for boys. I think most women have heard similar versions of the sentiments Adichie highlights.
I could have highlighted just about every line, but these are some of the quotes I found most meaningful:
“[T]hat word feminist is so heavy with baggage” (11).
“Not long ago, I wrote an article about being young and female in Lagos. And an acquaintance told me that it was an angry article, and I should not have made it so angry. But I was unapologetic. Of course it was angry. 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” (21). I especially love this one because the knee-jerk response of the privileged often is to accuse the oppressed of using the wrong tone. Adichie calls this out for the bullshit distraction it is.
“We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons” (24).
“We teach girls shame. Close your legs. Cover yourself. We make them feel as though by being born female, they are already guilty of something” (33).
“I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femininity. And I want to be respected in all my femaleness. Because I deserve to be” (39).
So what did you think of We Should All Be Feminists? Comments are open below! If you haven’t read the book yet, it would absolutely be worth a few minutes of your holiday weekend to check it out. Feel free to jump in anytime; comments will be open for a week or so.
Also, if you haven’t seen Adichie’s TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” it’s fabulous as well—she is a powerful speaker, and it’s another message I can really get behind.