This brief - less than 100 pages - treatise by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an adaptation of a very popular TED talk that she gave by the same name. It is an insightful exploration of what it means and doesn't mean to be a feminist. She explores her topic with humor and eloquence and without pressuring her listener/reader to agree with her. Still, her argument is very persuasive and it is hard to see how any person with a clear and open mind could possibly disagree.
The writer speaks of her experience with sexism primarily in regard to her growing up in Nigeria. She reveals how that has shaped her and affected her life. Even though her experience was Nigerian in origin, I can easily visualize women right around the world nodding as they read her descriptions of what happened to her.
Adichie goes on to discuss misconceptions about feminism and not just misconceptions but outright lies promulgated by misogynists in an attempt to discredit the whole idea of feminism. Some of the more humorous lies about feminists, for example, are such things as they never wear bras or they hate wearing bras; they never shave their legs or underarms; they wear ugly, mannish clothes; they don't wear makeup or deodorant; and, of course, the big one, they hate men. None of this is true of feminists or feminism as a whole, although any one of the statements could potentially be true of an individual feminist. But feminists are as varied and diverse in their opinions and beliefs as any other group of people.
In fact, one of the diversities that is seldom acknowledged by feminism's enemies is that feminists come in all genders. A man can as easily be a feminist as a woman. One of Adichie's arguments is that we should take care in raising young children, especially young boys, to give them a gender-neutral entry into the world. Girls and boys should be offered the same opportunities to find their natural interests and the things in life at which they can excel.
For the past several decades, misogynists have worked hard to blacken the meaning of the word feminist, making it something to be denied and avoided. And they have done a damned thorough job of it. Thus, it is not unusual to hear a woman today saying, "Oh, no, I'm not really a feminist."
What??? You don't think a woman is a human being entitled to the same rights and privileges as men? You don't think women should be paid the same for doing the same work as men? You don't think a woman has an inalienable right to control her own life and her own body? Because all of that is exactly what it means to be a feminist. It's not about subjugating anybody else; it is about freeing women to be fully themselves, without shame.
This little book is a perfect introduction (for anyone who needs one) to the concept of feminism. It would be a excellent gift for a teenager or young adult who may need guidance on the subject. I can think of a few people of my advanced age who could benefit from reading it, too!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars