We Should All Be Feminists

A Review of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "We Should All Be Feminists"




As she pointed out throughout the talk, gender conversation is difficult because of all the connotations that it entails. By humanizing what she says with examples, she is explicitly stating that her words are not ambiguous thoughts, but rather facets of reality that must be discussed. She also links her anecdotes to humor which, in a way, makes the public more open to wanting to listen, as it is less likely to be perceived as a ‘heavy-hearted critique of society’.

Throughout the speech, she makes it clear that there are vast differences in the raising of males and females and the profound repercussions this has had on society as a whole. Men are raised to be confined in this box of masculinity that has only one definition; to prove you are worthy of your gender through inherit power. For men to try and metamorphose into anything outside of this box, is not only a stab in the back to years of unquestioned culture but also a demonstration of his withering power. In a similar but opposite way, women are expected to bow down to orders, keep their mouths shut and comply with what is expected. Whether it is by having children, not being sexual or unaccepting that a man will earn more no matter their input; women must keep passive to the longstanding status quo and be thankful for it.

Chimamanda’s tone reminded me of a fireplace on a cold winter day. She made sure that people heard her mellow, affable words whilst making us understand that she was inferno after all, and one step too close would burn ignorance with truth. She made sure she was heard through poignant humor masked in bitter reality. She was unapologetically confident, marking the yellow brick road for the rest of the spectators.

Throughout her anecdotes, the general consensus (often marked by male figures) was that women who classified themselves as feminists were actually complaining, being too loud, about issues that were presumably ‘elusive’ in the present world. Her explanations culminated in her personal definition being: a man or woman who does not accept gender expectations as the norm. Although, this is true, to me feminism is the constant fight so young women accept that they don’t have to dim their light so that others won’t have to squint. My sister will not be called a nurse when examining a patient, but rather lead doctor. My future nieces will not define their words as too ‘79 cents for every dollar their brother makes’. My male friends won’t have to be embarrassed that they have, god forbid, human emotions: tears, fear, anxiety. To me feminism means that maybe in a not too distant future, Serena Williams’ actions will not be seen as an overreaction, but rather her sticking up for her values. The day will come when white males no longer get to decide the fate of my reproductive system. A future in which my female friends no longer need to walk back home at night with keys interwoven with their fingers. A day when there is political, social and economic equality of the sexes.

I think that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's words should not be slept on. Her tactfulness to transmute a stigmatized issue into a call for individual action is iconic, for a lack of a better word. She left no space for doubt that the fight is manifestly not only for females but rather for all human beings. To me, this speech is a clear cut example of what a role model should be and personal values we should all aspire to develop.


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