I can honestly say that this book almost entirely sums up my views about and surrounding feminism.
I was surprised by how tiny this book was – I didn’t realise it was an essay! – but I’m so glad I bought this. Just a few days before I sat down and read this, I had been having a discussion with a friend about feminism. They don’t consider themselves a feminist, due to the negative preconceptions surrounding the label. My friend is, in fact, a feminist, in the strict etymological sense of the word. He believes that women should be equal to men socially, economically, and intellectually, yet he will not call himself a feminist.
This negativity surrounding feminism is the main issue which Adichie addresses. She speaks of how, in her experience, she was warned off writing and lecturing in the style that she did (and still does), because she sounded like a feminist. Feminism often connotates anger and aggression, which in Adichie’s native Nigeria is not conducive to finding a husband. It is also the case in places like Nigeria, Adichie explains through anecdotes, that men are still in a far higher position than women. They are seen as being the earners, the ones with the money and power, in general and in relationships. This pervasive stereotype means that women are ignored, belittled, and often pressured into acting in a certain way in order to find a husband. They are treated this way due to the traditional alpha male role, which has been the case all over the world. The difference is how far forward different places and cultures have come, and the difference between most Western countries and somewhere like Nigeria is palpable.
However, as I mentioned earlier, the real message behind Adichie’s work is that the stereotypes surrounding women and feminism need to be altered. She states that we need to start bringing up our children differently, getting both men and women to think differently. Sexism and misogyny exist through a continuous cycle of action and stereotype, which has to be broken, or feminism will remain a misunderstood concept which few find themselves comfortable enough to assimilate with.
I genuinely think that this will be a relatable book for most. If you believe that men and women should be fundamentally equal, then there is much in Adichie’s work to think on and often agree with. This is not feminism as most people see it – crazy, aggressive, man-hating women who would gladly replace men in top positions with women, regardless of their ability and suitability for the job. This is feminism in its true form, the simple belief that women should be given the same respect as men, should be paid the same on a job for which they are both equally qualified, and shouldn’t be treated fundamentally differently purely because of their gender. There is, of course, much more that can be said on this issue, but I think Adichie covers the basic elements and issues of the concept quite concisely.