As I was reading the modified version of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s famous TED Talk, We Should All Be Feminist, anger filled inside of me. Reading about the different struggles she and other women have endured solely based on their perceived gender was disheartening. Some events mentioned in the work made me infuriated. The societal impact of gender is parallel to its negative impacts regarding race. Adichie states, “Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change” (21). This comment about the anger that many people hold pertaining to gender hit a key point. Our anger has led to the current increase in respect and education about feminism. While I was reading, I kept reminding myself that this message was delivered in 2012, and I thought about all of the positive progress feminism has made in the six short years. Commenting on the changes in society from 2012 to 2018, Adichie’s emphasis on the experience of only cisgender people is outdated. This powerful piece would be even more powerful to many arrays of people if it included or acknowledged the struggles of people of different gender identities. The misrepresentation of various types of genders is my only complainant about the piece. It is pure gold in my eyes and hit a lot of points many people need to hear. For 2012, this was a great feat.
Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. At first glance of the definition included in the book by Adichie I would consider myself a feminist. She includes many examples of gender inequality that are still prevalent in the U.S. today. In all of these examples I would agree in the incorrectness and injustices perpetrated. With that being said, to change the thinking of the world and live up to the definition of equality of both sexes, one must also include men in the decisions that are primarily in the realm of women. If I said in order to obtain an abortion today, you must get the male’s permission, would that be acceptable? Yet that would be equality of the sexes. It is the female’s body but also the male’s progeny. Another example would be the military, a woman can lead men just as well as other men, hold a high rank, make crucial decisions in combat situations, but that woman should also be able to fight alongside them having passed all physical tests that men do without modifications. You are only as strong as your weakest link in a battlefield situation and as a military wife, I would not wish to be told that my husband has been killed because the weakest link could not keep up physically, or could not shoot as far accurately, etc. I agree that both men and women should be brought up to be sensitive of gender abilities. My own daughter was a high-school wrestler when it was limited to male students. My son has been encouraged to break traditional gender roles. All of this aside, Adiche addresses problems still in existence without also takin into account what real gender equality would look like.
It was interesting to read that Adichie never considered herself a Feminist until her close friend told her so. I feel like that is the experience of most people, you have viewpoints that you feel strongly in just because you believe they are right and you do not really think if they are “feminist” or not just because you believe they are right. I really like the quote she said on page 13, “if we do something over and over, it becomes normal. If we see the same things over and over, it becomes normal. (Adichie, 13) ” We see patterns in our daily lives where masculinity is glorified and femininity is looked down on which has become so normalized to us which is something that needs to change. Adichie says, “We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case. (Adichie, 24)” Growing up, I remember hearing “boys will be boys” whenever there was an issue with a male classmate which is completely unfair to a female student being bothered by a male classmate. It was interesting to also read about her experiences in different places around the world in comparison to her own and how gender equality is something that is a universal issue that we need to all work on together to overcome.
When reading this book, I felt like I had heard these words before and realized that I had watched the TedTalk in a class last semester. I love the authors perspective and how she is able to make the concept of being a feminist seem so simple. I especially like how she phrases things in a way that anyone could pick up the book and understand what she means, even if they have never heard of feminism or disagree with it.
One idea that she discusses are the many double standards that men and women face. Some of these are how men can be aggressive or tough and be praised for it, but women are taught they cannot act that way because they will be “unlikable.” In addition, we teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the ways boys are and to always compromise in relationships, while men never do. One part in the book that made me sad is that when women say ‘I did it for peace in my marriage’ they are usually giving up a job, a career goal, or a dream. When men say this they are just changing something that they should not be doing anyway. In order to change these double standards, it will take many years of people raising boys and girls differently and teaching girls to value their self worth and never compromise for a man.
Lastly, I like how Adichie brings up how some people ask why people use the word feminist instead of just saying you are a believer in human rights. I have been in classrooms and around people that have brought this up and I like the way Adichie words her reasoning for using feminist. She says that not using the word would “deny the specific and particular problem of gender.” Many people don’t see how gender specifically is the problem but it is necessary to use a word for the movement that acknowledges that it is.
Since I had never heard Adichie’s TEDTalk (only the snippets that were played in Beyonce’s album), I was glad that we would be reading it. In this text, I really do enjoy how Adichie brings a perspective we don’t see here in the West and especially in the United States. All of the knowledge that I have about feminism relates to feminism in the West.
She definitely talks in more gender binaries than I’m used to when I hear people normally talk about feminism, such as the differences biologically between men and women (p. 16). Yet the comparisons and examples she brought up of gender discrimination in Nigeria were very similar to examples and experiences that are still happening in the United States, so while our two countries are very different, the experiences still have a lot of commonalities. I also liked that she brought up how detrimental sexism and toxic masculinity is not just on women, but also men because it can be very limiting on men. Toxic masculinity expects very little of men, when they are capable of so much more.
I believe it’s important to note, right off the bat, that in Adichie’s Ted Talk adaptation, she is only referring to cisgendered feminism. It becomes apparent when she talks about “different biological abilities” on page sixteen. Besides that digression into weirdly phrased biology, I thought that Adichie brought up some incredibly important points when thinking about feminism.
Toxic masculinity is an aggressive force in our society that prohibits men from vital aspects of life including showcasing emotions and asking for help when needed. Adichie states that “[society] stifle[s] the humanity of boys” (page 26) by raising them with these masculine expectations and I could not agree more. I feel that the topic of men’s lost, in terms of character/social/mental growth, when dealing with these masculine expectations is rarely addressed. But maybe even more important, these prohibitions are rarely acknowledge and addressed by men. The term “feminism” is constantly criticized for it’s supposed exclusivity, yet those who criticize it rarely are activists for men hurt by gender expectations.