This sneaky little volume has crept into a very quiet month of reading. I’m afraid I have abandoned Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and I think that unless I have a really strong desire to write a blog post about the books I don’t finish, I’m simply just putting them aside. What is reading if you don’t enjoy it hmm?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a name that has been on my radar for a while. I recently met someone who is very interested in African literature and it is something that I have been readying myself to explore a little. We should all be Feminists is an adaptation of Adichie’s Tedtalk on the topic which can be found: here!!! The Tedtalk is about half an hour and the published volume that accompanies is very slim and pocket-sized. I read it in about an hour. But do not be fooled, it may be small, but it is mighty.
I am a big fan of feminist texts. I am a big fan of any text that underlines the importance of gender construction and how damning it can be culturally. As you can imagine this is a text that does just this but it is closely interwoven with Adichie’s personal experiences from Nigeria. Too easy in the west I believe we forget that gender expression is very ridged in other parts of the world.
However, We should all be Feminists can be universally understood regardless of where you are in the world. It begins with Adichie’s first encounter with the word ‘feminist’, flung at her as an insult, with a tone implying being such was akin to being a terrorist – this is something I have encountered recently and it never fails to amaze me when it happens. A ‘feminist’ is someone to avoid and that ‘feminist talk’ will ruin your marriage if it gets in your head. Adichie describes a much stricter social landscape than the one we are used to in the west, women are not greeted when they enter a restaurant with a male counterpart. It is assumed that women alone are prostitutes when they try to enter a hotel without a male companion and bars and clubs will not let women in alone unless they are with men.
It’s chilling. Gender expression is something that has actually been at the forefront of my mind recently. I have been debating with myself how easy it is for human beings to pressure one another into labels and in to social behaviours to define themselves and others. How in doing so they are comfortably aware how their world is built, how they fit within the society puzzle, and how others do also. But also in defining yourself so strictly you also open yourself up to limiting the potential of who you are and who you can be. You are instead actively limiting your behaviours and internalising repression.
Which is, in part, something relatively central to this text. I would also like it to be added to the record that this text is not only a comment on how women move in Nigerian society, but is also how men are expected to perform within a very narrow definition of what masculinity is. The Hard Man, as Adichie puts it, the pressure to be masculine, not cry, not be sensitive and to be physically impressive is certainly a concept that I think is easily recognised without much difficulty in the west.
The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognising how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations. – We are all Feminists, Adichie, p.35.
I really enjoyed this text, it is not overly complicated, and it is a very broad but concise snapshot into gender construction within Nigeria and of course, why we should all be feminists.