Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions is a letter written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to her friend Ijeawele. Her friend had asked her how to raise her daughter as a feminist, and she replied with 15 rules, making sure to state that even by following said rules, everyone is their own person and no one is perfect. The 15 steps to raising a feminist daughter range from the subject of sex and romance to being your own person. Before truly thinking about the deeper meaning behind each step, it seems as though someone with common sense would teach not only their daughter these things, but their son as well. But in actuality, feminism isn’t talked about much growing up, and very rarely is it taught to sons.
Chimamanda’s letter was so personal to her friend, yet it felt as though it could have been written directly to me, having gone through some of the things that she hopes to prevent for Ijeawele’s daughter. For example, in step 10, Ijeawele talks about quitting football due to her developing breast’s and just wanting to hide them. Growing up in competitive dance, our bodies were publicly shamed in front of other dancers, and our bodies were put on display for many others to see. With feminism, hopefully the mindset of being embarrassed about the female body will disappear and women will be able to embrace the wonders it can accomplish.
All of the suggestions that Ijeawele discusses have been preconditioned in today’s society. Our society has been conditioned over hundreds of years to see women as inferior, and that “parenting” is the mother’s role and the father should be praised if he decides to help with the care. It is so important to teach young women and girls to be their own person. That it is okay to not have a boyfriend, or want to get married, or that you should be ashamed of wanting to have sex. Women are everything a man is and Ijeawele beautifully described just how amazing women are.
List of Suggestions:
- Be a full person, don’t sacrifice your career
- Do it together, the father has every right to parent equally
- Gender roles are nonsense, encourage them no matter what
- Reject feminism lite, women are equal to men, always
- Teach her to read and love books, even if you have to pay her
- Question language
- Marriage is not an achievement, it’s okay to not want to get married
- Reject likeability, you have a choice to like someone
- Give her a sense of identity
- Be deliberate about appearance, natural hair is not messy
- Question culture’s selective use of biology for “reasons” for social norms
- Talk about sex and start early
- Let romance happen, and make sure she knows she can talk to you
- Do not turn oppressed into saints
- Teach about differences, everyone is different, its normal
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Dear Ijeawele: a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. New York: First Anchor Books Edition, 2017.