Arts + Culture,  Literature

Book Review: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. If you’re looking for a way to celebrate or spend some time reflecting on the achievements or cultural significance of why International Women’s Day is important, then look no further than Chimamanda Ngozi’s We Should All Be Feminists.

We Should All Be Feminists is a short, 52-paged essay adapted from the excellent TedTalk of the same name that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave in 2012. While an essay might be off-putting to some, We Should All Be Feminists reads as a conversation. It is filled with stories, observations, and other anecdotal accounts of Adichie’s own experiences growing up in Nigeria and her encounters with sexism and gender-based biases.

Adichie’s essay is a great introduction to feminism and topics in gender equality. It doesn’t point fingers or alienate audiences. Adichie doesn’t accuse men of creating or enforcing gender stereotypes, but instead refers to sexism as the product of how everyone, men and women, were raised. She presents carefully constructed arguments that propose how we can shift our perceptions to eliminate gender-biases. Her message in this essay is simple: we should all dream and work towards living in a fairer world where equality is the standard; we should all be feminists.

One of the most important, and I believe most relevant, experiences Adichie shares is her journey to accepting the feminist label and how others, both men and women, had warned her against doing so. Adichie takes the time in her essay to clarify what feminism fundamentally stands for—equality between sexes—and eloquently articulates why society will not fail if feminism is properly implemented, and even more so, why feminism shouldn’t be seen as a threat to men.

Adichie adopts a more somber, yet hopeful tone in her writing that encourages us to do better, and it left me feeling inspired when I reached the last page. She wants to see a better, different world and gives us the confidence needed to start asking questions and reflect on our own behaviours: “I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to remake themselves for the better.”

As an introduction to feminist topics, this isn’t a conclusive essay and doesn’t touch on intersexual and gender non-conforming individuals and the systemic discriminations they encounter every day. However, many of the arguments Adichie makes can and should be expanded to encompass gender as a whole, regardless of how one identifies with it. Although Adichie’s essay focuses on a heteronormative angle of gender, her arguments are universal in challenging how we perceive gender and how we continue to raise generations to adhere to the box of gender expectations we’ve forced upon young boys and girls for centuries. Her message should be shared widely and the format of the small sized, portable essay makes it an accessible and compact resource and an excellent way to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Book cover of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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