Feminist bookshelf: We should all be Feminists

I’ve wanted to do regular book reviews for a while now, as I love to read (surprise!) and I paid £27,000 for the privilege. I mean I also got a degree out of it and wrote a few thousand words too, but essentially I paid a hefty lil sum to work my way through someone else’s book recommendations…

Anyhoo. As you can imagine, I now own a ridiculous amount of books. Not all of them are worth reading, so I’ll select my faves. They cover a wide variety of topics such as world politics, classics, history, lit theory, psychology, sociology, theology, science and I also have a considerable amount of feminist literature. Again, a shocker I know.

I thought I’d start with one of my earliest and shortest feminist reads off my lil feminist bookshelf, We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Chimamanda originally delivered this speech as a TED talk in 2012. The text is a transcript of this speech.

Born and raised in Kenya, Chimamanda discusses both the male and female treatment of her own sex. In certain clubs in Kenya women are not allowed entrance unless they are accompanied by a man. Once Chimamanda paid for dinner for herself and a male friend, and the waiter thanked her friend – the man. He assumed that the money she gave him had come from the man sitting opposite her. These experiences not only enlightened Chimamanda to feminism and the realisation that she was a feminist – however dirty the word may have seemed at that time to her – but they also educated progressive men around her.

Chimamanda shares many stories that shaped her feminism, all of which outline that men are treated differently – better – than women. If we want to achieve equality, Chimamanda states, then we have change the way we raise girls and boys as children. Boys cannot be told they need to be strong, and powerful, and successful, if girls are not told the same. Girls cannot be told to be likeable, polite, quiet, if boys are not told the same. Otherwise how will these boys and girls grow to become equals as adults when they have completely different values?

“We teach girls that they can have ambition, but not too much … to be successful, but not too successful, or they’ll threaten men.”

In a sense, from childhood a conflict is set out between what a woman and what a man should be. They don’t fit together according to Chimamanda; they cannot live harmoniously if they don’t treat themselves or each other equally.

Despite our cultural differences, I understood exactly how Chimamanda felt in each situation. In school the person who scored the highest on the test got to be register monitor, so, Chimamanda worked hard and scored the highest on the test. But the role was given to the person who scored the second highest, because he was a boy. The teacher had not told the class that a girl couldn’t take the role beforehand as it was meant to be implicit.

Sound familiar? That a hard working, smart woman would lose a promotion to a man? Just a tad.

It’s a refreshing, educational and relatable book that’s really worth a read.

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