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52 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 2012
Not long ago, I wrote an article about being young and female in Lagos. And an acquaintance told me that it was an angry article, and I should not have made it so angry. But I was unapologetic. Of course it was angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. I am angry. We should all be angry.
We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage.
EDIT: Because I have so many people constantly arguing that I'm in the wrong for being concerned about this author's intentions, I did some Googling, and found out that this author publicly supported JKR's anti-trans essay. Adichie also continues (at the time I'm editing this) to stand her ground on her opinion that trans women do not deserve the same support as cis women. If you can read the article I just linked, read this review, and read this essay, and still think Adichie is an inclusive feminist, I don't know how to help you see otherwise.
You can also read here about how Adichie demanded that her name be pulled off of Akwaeke Emezi's works after Emezi called her out for her transphobia — this is not an isolated incident.
"My own definition of a feminist is a man or a woman who says, 'Yes, there's a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.'
All of us, women and men, must do better."
"Feminists are women who are unhappy because they cannot find husbands."
"An academic, a Nigerian woman, told me that feminism was not our culture, that feminism was un-African, and I was only calling myself a feminist because I had been influenced by Western books. (Which amused me, because much of my early reading was decidedly unfeminist).
Anyway, since feminism was un-African, I decided I would now call myself a Happy African Feminist. Then a dear friend told me that calling myself a feminist meant that I hated men. So I decided I would now be a Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men. At some point I was a Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men And Who Likes To Wear Lip Gloss And High Heels For Herself And Not For Men."
"But I was female and he was male and he became class monitor. I have never forgotten that incident.
If we do something over and over again, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over again, it becomes normal. If only boys are made class monitor, then at some point we will all think, even if unconsciously, that the class monitor has to be a boy. If we keep seeing only men as heads of corporations, it starts to seem 'natural' that only men should be heads of corporations."
"Louis looked at me, surprised, and asked, 'Why is he thanking me? I didn't give him the money.' Then I saw realization dawn on Louis's face. The man believed that whatever money I had ultimately came from Louis. Because Louis is a man."
"The late Kenyan Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai put it simply and well when she said, 'The higher you go, the fewer women there are.'"
"In the recent US elections, we kept hearing of the Lilly Ledbetter law, and if we go beyond that nicely alliterative name, it was really about this: in the US, a man and a woman are doing the same job, with the same qualifications, and the man is paid more because he is a man."
"Each time I walk into a Nigerian restaurant with a man, the waiter greets the man and ignores me. The waiters are products of a society that has taught them that men are more important than women, and I know that they don't intend harm, but it is one thing to know something intellectually and quite another to feel it emotionally. Each time they ignore me, I feel invisible. I feel upset. I want to tell them that I am just as human as the man, just as worthy of acknowledgment. These are little things, but sometimes it is the little things that sting the most."
“One said they had expected that she would bring a ‘woman’s touch’ to her job, but she hadn’t.”
"What struck me – with her and with many other female American friends I have – is how invested they are in being 'liked'. How they have been raised to believe that their being 'likable' is very important and that this 'likable' trait is a specific thing. And that specific thing does not include showing anger or being aggressive or disagreeing too loudly."
"A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.
What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender?”
"What if both boys and girls were raised not to link masculinity and money? What if their attitude was not 'the boy has to pay', but rather, 'whoever has more should pay'? Of course, because of their historical advantage, it is mostly men who will have more today. But if we start raising children differently, then in fifty years, in a hundred years, boys will no longer have the pressure of proving their masculinity by material means."
"We say to girls, 'You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but
not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man. If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate him.'
What if we decide to simply dispose of that word – and I don't know if there is an English word I dislike more than this – emasculation."
"The sadness in this is that a wedding ring will indeed automatically make her seem worthy of respect, while not wearing a wedding ring would make her easily dismissible – and this is in a modern workplace."
"Our society teaches a woman at a certain age who is unmarried to see it as a deep personal failure. While a man at a certain age who is unmarried has not quite come around to making his pick."
"I know a woman who hates domestic work, but she pretends that she likes it, because she has been taught that to be 'good wife material', she has to be – to use that Nigerian word – homely. And then she got married. And her husband's family began to complain that she had changed. Actually, she had not changed. She just got tired of pretending to be what she was not."
“Take cooking, for example. Today, women in general are more likely to do housework than men – cooking and cleaning. But why is that? Is it because women are born with a cooking gene or because over the years they have been socialized to see cooking as their role? I was going to say that perhaps women are born with a cooking gene until I remembered that the majority of famous cooks in the world – who are given the fancy title of 'chef' – are men."
“ Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem should acknowledge that.”
“Some men feel threatened by the idea of feminism. This comes, I think, from the insecurity triggered by how boys are brought up, how their sense of self-worth is diminished if they are not 'naturally' in charge as men"
“We have evolved. But our ideas of gender have not evolved very much.”
“The language of marriage is often a language of ownership, not a language of partnership.”
We teach girls shame. “Close your legs. Cover yourself.” We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up — and this is the worst thing we do to girls — they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form.It is sad to think these are the lessons learned from common interaction with society.
And then we do a much greater disservice to girls, because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man. If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate himI find that the concept of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl to be one of the most damning motifs we find in entertainment art forms. This whole idea that a man can tame some wild girl and save her from herself is disturbing. Why can't we have the Well Adjusted and Well Read Dream Girl? The Independent and Business Minded Dream Girl? Another motif in entertainment is that white (male) knight that is the only thing that can save the girl (look at 13 Reasons Why, which is hugely problematic on countless other levels as well, but perpetuated the idea that all of society fails this girl and only the white male love interest can save her but just happens to be too late. Bleh.). We need to teach our children to be strong, to be kind, to be themselves and to see that gender norms are damaging to both themselves and others.
"Anger, the tone said, is particularly not good for a woman. If you are a woman, you are not supposed to express anger, because it is threatening."I'll add : because if you're angry people say that you're "making a scene", and god forbid you answer when you're insulted! Earlier last week my little sister was publicly insulted in broad daylight because she was wearing a dress. She called me, baffled to see that nobody reacted and that people told her to calm down because "it was how things were" when she answered angrily in a situation where she had every right to be mad. Don't tell me it's not true that we women are supposed to be kind and pleasant : it stays, in 2015, how most people think, and you're quickly called a - sexually frustrated - bitch when you dare to say that no, thank you, I don't want to be insulted for no reasons.
"We teach females that in relationships, compromise is what a woman is more likely to do.
We raise girls to see each other as competitors - not for jobs or accomplishments, which in my opinion can be a good thing, but for the attention of men."
"What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender?"