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A feminist manifesto in 15 suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A feminist manifesto in 15 suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Posted on November 12, 201637 Comments

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.

And her words have travelled far, sampled in Beyonce’s track Flawless, and every Swedish high school student has been issued with a copy of the essay. My daughter (and son) is getting a copy too.

Photo credit Pocket Shop AB courtesy of Flickr

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I want you to know that I only affiliate link to products I use, love, adore and want myself. Any money made will probably go towards my chocolate and red wine habit!

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37 thoughts on “A feminist manifesto in 15 suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  1. These are really great lessons. I havent read either of her books but have heard so many good things about them so will add them to my reading list. I think I’ll start by watching the TED talk first. I love her thinking 🙂 Thanks for sharing this on #MarvMondays. Emily

    1. Ohh should read her books. They are fantastic. Do watch the TED talk she is such an inspirational speaker. Hope you love her as much as I do.

    1. Print it off and stick it on the fridge, I’m thinking about putting it on my bedroom mirror a bit of feminist inspiration every morning.

    1. I loved Amaericanah,and I really love Chimamanda’s powerful writing. I’m doing the same with my daughter, even more so now, let’s hope we have a new generation of strong-willed forthright women! We need them!

    1. Thank you, Chimamanda is such a powerful writer, I just love this manifesto, I really think something like this is needed more than ever!

    1. I loved that book too. If you haven’t you must read Americanah – it’s a brilliant read. She’s an amazing writer, so articulate and spot on with her Feminist Manifesto.

  2. I agree with this list and think there’s some great ideas, but I think a lot of it also applies to boys. By teaching both my children there’s no such thing as gender roles for example, means my son is less likely to act upon them or reinforce them when he’s grown up. Feminism is the responsibility of all the sexes and should just be out on our girls!
    Laura recently posted…Style: Girl’s outfits for A/W16My Profile

    1. Thank you. I’m starting to wonder what sort of future my daughter will have, looking at present day rhetoric, so women’s voices like that of Chimamanda is so important.

    1. It was a lot harder when the kids were younger, so even sneaking off to have a read, with a cup of coffee was great. Now they are older it’s much easier. And yes – it had to be planned / scheduled / pre-booked – that is so true. I do hope you manage to get some ‘me’ time.

  3. I was watching Chimamanda on the news the other night and was struck by her beauty, poise and words. I loved Half of a Yellow Sun which I read when I was much younger. I wasn’t aware of her work in this area and it’s something I’ll certainly be watching out for- have saved her video to watch later. The manifesto is fantastic – everything I’ve thought but probably not been able to put into words, so eloquently!
    Nicola Cassidy recently posted…19th century brought to life at Johnstown Castle, WexfordMy Profile

    1. If you loved Half a Yellow Sun then you must read Americanah – she is such a beautiful writer. She has so much grace and poise, and she’s almost a decade younger than me – such wise words from someone so young, she is so awesome!

  4. I love Half of a Yellow Sun. What a great novel. I agree with the point about identity – everyone needs to learn to be themselves and to make a mark for themselves and not feel that they need to follow others which today’s society often implies.

    1. Ooooh if you love Half a Yellow Sun then read Americanah – I loved that too. I love her Manifesto -it’s so brilliant, so apt, so needed for today.

  5. As the mother of ten year old I devoured all these suggestions with interest. I like to think I do my best to instil all these in her, both by words and example. One thing though, I don’t understand how clothes and cosmetics = femininity. They’re just packaging and paint – surely femininity is demonstrated through actions?
    Elizabeth recently posted…Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon, Leeks and PeasMy Profile

    1. I’m trying to instill the same in my daughter (and son too!). I understand the clothes / cosmetics, my understanding was linking that with morality, but agree femininity is about actions. Anyhow, she is a powerful writer, and given what’s going on at the moment, strong feminist words are needed more than ever!

    1. I agree, motherhood can really consume one’s identity – try and remember the woman you were before because she is still there! Give her a voice too!

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