Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Imagine how much happier we would be...if we didn't have the weight of gender expectations

"We Should All Be Feminists" is an essay version of Chimanda Ngozi Adichie's TEDx and it is great. It's also super short (about 60 pages) so there really isn't much of an excuse for people to not read this.

It is, as the title suggests, her reasons why everyone should be a feminist and how gendered expectations can hurt both men and women and wouldn't it be swell if things were actually equal? And of course it's done with Adichie's skill.

I'm not particularly concerned if feminist writing is a bit angry towards dudes, but I understand that being nice is a far better strategy and Adichie takes the route of not blaming people or an entire gender but focusing on the way society has set up the divide. She calls herself the "Happy Feminist" after a journalist told her she should "never call [herself] a feminist since feminists are women who are unhappy because they cannot find husbands." This was later expanded to "Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men and Who Likes to Wear Lipgloss and High Heels for Herself and Not For Men" which is a mouthful but maybe if people did have such (stupid) notions on what a feminist needs, it wouldn't be needed.

She illustrates her points with stories from her life, such as the time in school she had the highest score on a test, which was supposed to come with an award of class monitor. Except the teacher decided that the class monitor had to be a boy and so the person with the second-highest score was put in charge.
If we do something over and over, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over, it becomes normal. If only boys are made class monitoring, then at some point we will all think, even if unconsciously, that the class monitor has to be a boy.
I should point out that while this essay does not come off as angry, this does not mean that Adichie is not angry or that being angry about injustice is a bad thing. She does talk about how women expressing anger is typically seen as a bad thing and how women are conditioned to be so concerned with being "likeable" that they're punished when they're angry or aggressive, or other traits that boys are praised for. Of course, expectations on boys to be tough and strong and that weakness and vulnerability are the worst possible things are hurting them as well.

She makes the argument about why "human rights" or "equalist" or whatever other term people have come up with to avoid "feminist" is ridiculous.
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. 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 acknowledge that.
 Take that.

This is wonderful and a quick read so everyone, get on that.

Gif rating:
Title quote from location 202

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. "We Should All Be Feminists." Vintage, 2014.