Part of why “We Should All Be Feminists” was so successful as a TedTalk, and then as a published text, is Adichie’s way with words. Every syllable is deliberate; every sentence has a purpose. She talks about feminism being a dirty word in Nigeria, and it is as if I am there, hearing the Nigerian academic tell her that “feminism is un-African.” I feel her frustration so deeply that it becomes my own. When Adichie says “If we do something over and over, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over, it becomes normal,” she describes a near-universal experience for women. Maybe we haven’t all been passed over for class monitor in favor of a boy, but we’ve all had something similar happen, and it was just as unfair.
“Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice,” Adichie says. “Of course I am angry.” I think her focus on anger is important, because too often women are told that anger is intimidating — that when they display the same emotions men are praised for, they are called aggressive, domineering, bossy. We should be angry! “Why should a woman’s success be a threat to a man?” she asks. Why indeed? Why are my triumphs seen as an attempt to overshadow my male colleagues and theirs are seen as something normal? This is, of course, because men are raised to have weak egos, Adichie says. Masculinity has become so important to them that any accomplishment by a woman is perceived to be a slight against them as men.
A final point she makes is that of guilt. Women are raised to think of ourselves as “inherently guilty.” We silence and police ourselves and feel shame for expressing our interests and emotions, because we have internalized the notion that we must. Only by directly challenging the ways in which children are raised can we combat this and overcome it, and only then can we all be feminists.