For the ‘read a book with fewer than one hundred pages’ task, I chose We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. This is a long essay based on a 2012 TEDTalk of the same name. The 37 year old Nigerian discusses her own experiences of sexism but also draws upon experiences of others and considers those experiences with respect to all women around the world.
Something that struck me about this essay was the acceptance of how the term “feminism” has come to connote something negative. Interestingly, Adiche confronts this and suggests it is related to the way men are brought up in modern society. She argues that simply the idea of feminism makes men feel threatened because men are conditioned to feel somewhat inferior if they are not in charge of situations and don’t assert their ‘manliness’. The idea of feminism therefore has developed negative connotations, as to give women more power and blur these boundaries could make men feel inferior and thus less of a man. One of my favourite parts of this text was how she referred to herself as a ‘Happy Feminist’ after an acquaintance described feminists as women who were unhappy because they couldn’t find themselves husbands. She goes on to explain how the idea of gender prescribes personailities, it doesn’t describe how people actually are. Gender does not recognise who we are as individuals, but how we are conditioned to act based on an almost global history of misogynistic and patriarchal societies.
What I also found interesting about this book was how Adiche draws upon experiences from her own life, in both Africa and the US. It brings together these two different areas and draws upon the common themes. It makes the reader realise how widespread the problem of sexism really is. From providing these two points of view, we can see that Adiche is not making her essay area specific – she draws upon many examples of her and her friends’ lives and uses them to show the far reaching effects of sexism.
When I first thought about writing this post, I really wanted to write a balanced review and cover both positive and negative aspects of this text. However, I read it twice and found nothing negative to really talk about. The only thing I could think of was how this essay is almost exactly the same as the TEDTalk and so not worth reading if you have seen the video. It does bring in a few more ideas, but essentially they are the same thing and both reading the book and watching the video is not necessary.
It was only when I stumbled upon this point in another blog post about We Should All be Feminists that I realised that it is not explicitly trans-inclusive; that is, transgender women do not seem to be included. However, it is just that these women are not directly mentioned and not that they are explicitly excluded, so I cannot criticise Adiche too much as she did cover a lot in only a short book/video!
I highly recommend this book or video to everyone. You don’t have to be a women to appreciate this text, and really you have no excuse not to pick up as the book is so short and readable. Adiche voices concerns that women have had, and some other women have also voiced, for centuries, but rarely are they voiced with such eloquance. It’s just a shame to me that this book needed to be written. Perhaps one day there will be a book named simply We Are All Feminists.