I read We Should All Be Feminists while eating breakfast by myself at Zaftig's in Brookline. I was in Boston for a conference and relishing the chance to share a quiet meal with a book. Zaftig's is high on the list of things I miss about living in Boston – such indulgent breakfast and brunch. I had a breakfast sandwich so oozy and delicious that I had to take all my rings off. It was that drippy. I finished the book before I finished the sandwich. The essay was that good.
We Should All Be Feminists is based on Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TEDx Talk of the same name. It's been viewed more than three million times on YouTube (and I embedded it below). I hadn't seen the TEDx Talk prior to reading the essay. I don't watch TED Talks very often, to my own deficit. I highly recommend watching this one. Adichie is such an intelligent, relatable, powerful person. Just as much for her delivery, watch the video for the audience's reaction. TEDxEuston, which took place in London in December of last year, "celebrate[d] the diversity, vibrancy and potential of Africa as it reflects the ideas and inspired thinking of those who are committed to engaging meaningfully with the continent." Adichie, in a series of straightforward, personal, real-life examples, takes the audience by the hand and leads them – gently but surely – to their own conclusion that of course, everyone should be a feminist. She struck me as one of the most capable writers and speakers I've ever read or seen. Her essay, her argument, is crafted carefully. Every word, pause, and joke has a job – and does that job well. We can all learn from her delivery and passion. (As every 16-year-old in Sweden does.)
I read the whole thing again while riding the T to Government Center after breakfast. (I miss reading on trains.) It's a quick read, but it bears revisiting. Read it two times, even three. As I said before, Adichie's common-sense arguments are accessible and compelling to those exploring feminism. Already a feminist? This essay is a rallying cry for us. Commit a sentence or two to memory for future use in aiding the explanation of feminism to those who doubt its significance, its critical power. And let this essay help you remember that things are different all over the world. People approach the idea of feminism each holding different things – prejudices, hopes, challenges, opportunities, questions, frustrations. Think about intersectionality, and what it means for the way you practice feminism.
What I underlined:
"Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice."
"We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage."
"It is easy to say, 'But women can just say no to all this.' But the reality is more difficult, more complex. We are all social beings. We internalize ideas from our socialization."
"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. ...I was once talking about gender and a man said to me, 'Why does it have to be you as a woman? Why not you as a human being?' This type of question is a way of silencing a person's specific experiences."
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