Image: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie / John D. MacArthur, Catherine T. MacArthur / Wikimedia Commons
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an unapologetic feminist – that’s in addition to being an acclaimed author, one of the New Yorker’s 20 most important fiction writers today under 40 years old and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012 – and I love her for that.
Adichie’s 2013 TEDx Talk We Should All Be Feminists immediately resonated with viewers worldwide. Its runaway success saw it published as a novella and led Beyonce to choose to feature a part of it in her song Flawless.
Still not convinced of how amazing Adichie’s Ted Talk is? Here are five reasons why it should be required feminist viewing.
1. “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. 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.”
When asked why I am a feminist, I have adapted Adichie’s answer because it is spot on. Yes, I care about the wellbeing of men as much as I do women, but it is the latter who due to continued institutional sexism tend to be oppressed on a more frequent basis.
2. “Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?”
The double standard surrounding marriage is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to relationships. Despite the fact that we live in the 21st century, women are still discriminated against for enjoying themselves sexually while many men are not. The labelling of women as “sluts” for dressing in a way that makes them feel empowered and confident when going out to enjoy themselves for the night, for flirting and for having casual sex are just a few examples of the double standards that still exist in our modern society.
3. “We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case. We don’t teach boys to care about being likable. We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons.”
According to the psychologist Dr Susan Newman, women generally worry more about being likeable because they are socialised to be more caring than men. In fact, “for some women this becomes a habit, or even an addiction.” Valuing being likeable over voicing our thoughts is not the message that we should be sending the new generation of young women. Instead, we should be teaching both girls and boys that being passionate in their beliefs is just as important as being kind to one another.
4. “I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.”
Right on Adichie! As someone who adored dresses growing up, but was nervous about wearing them because I didn’t want to seem too ‘girly’ to my peers, I fully support this. Research has shown that wearing what makes you feel good increases self-confidence. So put on that gorgeous dress, bust out your pink shoelaces or whatever works for you. Wear them with pride!
5. “And then we do a much greater disservice to girls, because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man. If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate him.”
Sometimes society needs a damn good reminder that women can be just as, if not more, successful than men in the workforce. If women do not flaunt their achievements at their jobs in the same manner that many men do how else is this outdated gender norm going to be defeated for once and for all? We shouldn’t have to diminish our ambitions and achievements; we worked hard to obtain.
The undeniable success of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk proves that her no nonsense manner of spouting hard-hitting truths about the ridiculousness of pre-empted gender roles is resonating with its viewers.
And if you’re ever in any doubt… there’s always Queen Bey’s seal of approval to reassure you.