Dear Ijeawele,

This book was written as a letter to friend who just recently had a baby girl. The friend wanted advice on how to raise a feminist. The author, (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) offers 15 suggestions on how to raise a strong feminist.

The first suggestion given is to be a full person. This means to not define yourself solely by motherhood. Know that you being a mother and going through everything that comes with motherhood is a part of your life, but it is not your whole life. Show your child that you have more to define yourself by and your child will look up to you for that. Just because you are a mother does not mean you have to quit your job and stay at home raising the child. Of course this is fine if you choose to and have the means to, but the important part is that you have the choice.

Second suggestion is to do it together. The father has just as much responsibility as the mother. A lot of the times a mother is help to more responsibility due to her “motherly instincts”. Dad’s should have equal responsibility as mothers.

The next one goes along the same lines as the one above. It is to teach her that the idea of “gender roles” is absolute nonsense. Moms and dads are not stuck to specific tasks (except breastfeeding). A mom should not have to do certain things like clean and cook just because they are the woman of the house.

Suggestion four is about being aware of what is called “Feminism Lite”. This is about the idea of conditional female equality. You cannot decide that sometimes you want to be a feminist and sometimes you don’t. It is either all in or not at all. To be a true feminist is to always strive for equality, even if it means missing out on the “benefits” of being treated less than.

Suggestion number five speaks on teaching her to love books and how to read. If she sees her mom reading, it will make her want to copy and want to read. There is so much knowledge one can learn from just picking up a book and reading it.

Number six is about teaching her to question language. There are certain words attached to women that go along with stereotypes of a helpless woman. Words like “princess” and “dainty”. Instead, women should associate with strong words like “confident” and “smart”

The next one suggests never speaking of marriage as an achievement. “We condition girls to aspire to marriage and we do not conditions boys to aspire to marriage, and so there is already a terrible imbalance at the start” (30). As little girls, we are given baby dolls to take care of and fake kitchens to clean. We are taught to play house and take care of the children while the husband is away at work. So many people look at being married as completing a milestone in their lives; as if it is a requirement at some age.

The eighth suggestion is about learning to reject likability. You cannot change how other people perceive or feel about you. The only thing you can do is be yourself and be a kind, brave, and honest person. If someone does not like you, it is not your job to change how they feel.

The ninth suggestion is about helping her achieve a sense of identity. Introduce your child to their culture. Show them how beautiful and unique their background and family history is. Show them the cultures values and traditions. My family is Russian Orthodox and every Russian New Year sine I can even remember, we would take a shot of vodka and eat a clove of garlic to cleanse for the new year. This will be a tradition I will pass down to my family one day.

Number ten is be deliberate about how you engage with her and her appearance. Expose her to everything you can and let her decide what she does or does not like Be open and accepting of trends and phases she wants to go through. Let her know that she is beautiful and unique.

The eleventh suggestion is to teach her to question our culture’s selective use of biology as “reasons” for social norms. “We often use biology to explain the privileges that men have, the most common reason being men’s physical superiority” (49). However, in our society today, there is no reason why a man being physically superior to a woman means anything other than that they the bigger one.

Number twelve is about talking to her about sex early on. Be one from the beginning and let her know that she can come to you about anything. I am so lucky that I have such an amazing mom; she has always encouraged me to come to her with any questions and I know I can be honest and straightforward with her. I think the reason our relationship is so open is that she never made me feel ashamed for anything I said, no matter what it was.

For number thirteen, the suggestion is to be on board when romance happens. This goes back to having an open and strong relationship between the mother and daughter. I felt very comfortable talking to my mom when I got my first boyfriend. She was there to answer any question I had when I was learning all this new stuff out.

The second to last suggestion is about teaching her about oppression, and to be careful not to turn the oppressed into saints. I love this one and specifically when she said “people who are unkind and dishonest are still human, and still deserve dignity” (59). It is really hard to have respect for someone who has done bad things. It is important to realize though that just because someone has done something wrong does not mean they are destined for a life of tragedy and hurt.

The last suggestion involves teaching her about difference. Especially in high school, it is so easy to just want to fit in and get through it without being judged too much. I remember in high school hating the way I dressed but being too scared to wear what I actually wanted in fear that I would be made fun of. It is so interesting when you grow out of that and think about all the outfits you missed out on wearing because you were too afraid of how someone would look at you.

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