What does feminism mean today? The common meaning of the word, as defined by Chimamnda Ngozi Adichie is a “person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” This current, broadly approved definition of feminism is the least threatening for those who do not agree or have negative connotative definitions for the work feminism. As in Adichie’s book, those around her told her to not define herself as such because it means everything but what it should. One person said that it means she ‘is unhappy because she cannot find a husband’ or hates men and that it is ‘unAfrican’. These definitions all center on the notion that a man is the center of a woman’s life. The woman is simply not unhappy with her life, but because of the absents of a husband. And because she cannot find a husband she now hates all men. Which is in essence an ‘unAfrican’ trait because of the way African society and culture is set up around a man. As seen in the picking of class monitor, who is greeted in a restaurant, and thanked in the exchange of money.
How these products of society and roles we act, are so strong, that we cannot break out of them? The answer is that humans are social beings, who bury what they really feel deep in themselves. The examples and experience can differ between Adichie’s Nigerian home and America. One example she gives is the American females need to be ‘liked’ and how being likable is in some way equal to being respected. This is a byproduct of the American society. While being liked will allow a woman more leeway with a group of individuals because it is expected of her, therefor she is playing her role and not trying to deviate from a norm. And when the role is not played expertly others feel as if they are being lied to and lash out. Like the woman who took over the job from a male coworker and handled the job in the same way but was seen as being meaner and harder to work with.
Adichie wrote that we have evolved but our ideas on gender have not. This is most easily seen in the initial reaction of publicly stating “I am a feminist”. Some will look at you in a certain way, change their stance and tone when talking, or halt the conversation entirely. While the definition has evolved what it means at heart to be a feminist has not, like Adichie’s grandmother who was a feminist before it was defined as such.