I cannot take any credit for this. These words are from the mighty pen or keyboard of the critically acclaimed Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Probably best known for her fantastic novels Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, Chimamanda penned the essay, ‘Dear Ijeawele or a Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions.”
It is powerful. It’s a manifesto to bring up daughters and sons by.
You can read the full manifesto here.
Thank you, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS
First Suggestion: Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood.
Second Suggestion: Do it together. A verb is a ‘doing’ word? Well, a father is as much a verb as a mother.
Third Suggestion: Teach her that ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense. Do not ever tell her that she should do or not do something ‘Because you are a girl’ [this] is never a reason for anything. Ever.
Fourth Suggestion: Beware the danger of Feminism Lite. It is the idea of conditional female equality. Reject this entirely. It is a hollow, appeasing, and bankrupt idea. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of women, or you do not.
Fifth Suggestion: Teach her to love books. The best way is by casual example. If she sees you reading, she will understand that reading is valuable.
Sixth Suggestion: Teach her to question language. Language is the repository of our prejudices, our beliefs, our assumptions. But to teach her that, you will have to question your own language.
Seventh Suggestion: Never speak of marriage as an achievement. Find ways to make clear to her that marriage is not an achievement nor is it what she should aspire to. A marriage can be happy or unhappy but it is not an achievement.
Eighth Suggestion: Teach her to reject likeability. Her job is not to make herself likable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people.
Ninth Suggestion: Give her a sense of identity. It matters. Be deliberate about it. Let her grow up to think of herself as a proud woman.
Tenth Suggestion: Be deliberate about how you engage with her and her appearance. Encourage her participation in sports. Teach her to be physically active. Take walks with her. Swim. Run. Play tennis. Football. Table tennis. All kinds, any kind of sports.
If she likes makeup let her wear it. If she likes fashion let her dress up. But if she doesn’t like either let her be. Don’t think that raising her feminist means forcing her to reject femininity. Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive. It is misogynistic to suggest that they are.
Never ever link her appearance with morality. Never tell her that a short skirt is ‘immoral.’ Make dressing a question of taste and attractiveness instead of a question of morality.
Eleventh Suggestion: Teach her to question our culture’s selective use of biology as ‘reasons’ for social norms.
We often use biology to explain the privileges that men have, the most common reason being men’s physical superiority. Because social norms are created by human beings, and there is no social norm that cannot be changed.
Twelfth Suggestion: Talk to her about sex and start early. It will probably be a bit awkward but it is necessary.
Thirteenth Suggestion: Romance will happen so be on board. Teach her that to love is not only to give but also to take. Teach her that to love she must give of herself emotionally but she must also expect to be given.
Fourteenth Suggestion: In teaching her about oppression, be careful not to turn the oppressed into saints. Saintliness is not a pre-requisite for dignity. People who are unkind and dishonest are still human and still deserve dignity.
Fifteenth Suggestion: Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Teach her not to attach value to difference. And by teaching her about difference, you are equipping her to survive in a diverse world.
We should all be feminists
In 2013 Chimamanda delivered this TED Ex Talk. I love it. Please take the time to watch it.
Her talk has since been adapted into the essay: We Should All Be Feminists.
Photo credit Pocket Shop AB courtesy of Flickr
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