We Should All Be Feminists
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Authored by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 'We Should All Be Feminists' is a brief, sharp, and to some extent, successful exposition around gender. Gender, a social construct about which numerous individuals have an erroneous idea, is a socially organized guideline for males and females to become masculine and feminine respectively.
Many people have a flawed idea about 'feminism' as well. Feminism, according to Cambridge Dictionary, is the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state.
The book, if comprehended properly, can help people realize why feminism is necessary. Written in an eloquent and conversational tone, the book limns many instances delineating how society suppresses women. She makes a plethora of interesting and thought-provoking points throughout the book. A reader who acknowledges the fact that misogyny still prevails, despite multiple social reformations the world has gone through, would reflexively nod to the points made. Most of the points are easy to relate to even in Bangladeshi cultural context as well. For example, I could not agree more with the example along with a hypothesis mentioned in the book - "In secondary school, a boy and a girl go out, both of them teenagers with meagre pocket money. Yet the boy is expected to pay the bills, always, to prove his masculinity. (And we wonder why boys are more likely to steal money from their parents.)"Instances of this type being written in easy and expressive words would help readers question the stratifying cultural norms, or, at least be aware of those. Hopefully, that would lead them to reassessing the misogynistic cultural traits, instead of subscribing to those and the conventional values being cajoled by ethnocentrism.
On and off, many people come up with questions like "Why not humanism? Isn't that a more inclusive version?"
With a view to answering those questions on behalf of many, the writer has put in the book the answers and explanations in straightforward words. Answer to the question in the author's words: "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 should acknowledge that."As to the emergence of such questions, ignorance, along with providing people with a sense of peace regardless of the reality, plays a huge role in making people confident enough tovoice such rhetoric. Secondly, not being able to unlearn the norms they have gradually internalized- and eventually started viewing those as normal- has made it hard for them even to consciously question those or pinpoint the problematic factors, let alone strive to reform. Also, not many people understand that just because they haven't encountered problems in their social sphere does not imply that the problems are entirely inexistent.
As an emerging feminist myself (a youngster trying to know more about feminist movements and different waves of feminism, unlearning sexist norms which I considered rational, consciously striving to be aware of male privileges that I have been receiving and at some juncture took for granted), in a few places of the book I felt a necessity of explanation of cultural context and clarification of author's personal stances regarding topics which are not the same universally. For example, at the end of the book she introduced her brother as the best feminist she knows and described him as a 'verymasculine young man'. In my opinion, what her idea of masculinity is should have been expounded, given that throughout the book she criticised the traditional idea of masculinity. Therefore, what, according to her, makes a masculine young man admirable is something I am still curious to know. Apart from the vagueness what else I disliked is the hetero-normative approach towards a certain idea. Virginity, the way she described, is a process that requires two people of opposite gender.
The point she tried to make here, I presume, is that the virginity of a girl is a marker of her character, whereas the boy, despite being an active part of the process and practically losing the same thing as the girl did (if not first time, obviously) is not castigated or looked down upon as much. I cannot but agree to the point as I have seen such idea being practised and patronized in the society which I live in although I did not admire the hetero-normative tone.
The reviewer is a student and studying in Singapore