Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally.
If there’s any writer who can write hard-hitting essays as persuasively and compellingly as novels and short stories and make them utterly readable it is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. To say, I have read all her work would be an understatement. I have devoured each one of her work and cannot quite point which one I like the best; hence it was natural that I added Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions to my Chimamanda collection.
This book is a quick read with 15 actionable steps to raise a strong and empowered daughter. It shines with Chimamanda’s characteristic warmth and forthrightness but is deeply personal. According to Chimamanda, her friend Ijeawele wrote to ask how she should bring her baby daughter up a feminist, and in response, after the right hesitations – “it felt like too huge a task”– Adichie made this list of 15 suggestions.
I would say that this book should be an essential read to women (and men) everywhere and not just mums with girls—because it would help us to develop more empathy and fine tune our mind on how patriarchy catches up—often unaware. And yes it would help us to raise stronger girls and wiser boys.
For eons, women (and men) have been taught how we need to behave. Girls should be softer and men should be more aggressive. And no matter what women have been taught to be more likable (or risk being tagged Nasty woman, cue Hillary V/S Trump). But this book helps us to identify these unconscious biases and give it a massive f*** you. It also tells us how to defy the societal norms and standards to become your own person.
I wrote about the infamous Nasty Woman episode, a few lines ago. Why? One of the advice in the book is to reject likeability. Easier said than done, I painfully learn even now. I have never been the cool, popular kid, never been the one to succumb to peer pressure and in the face have rejected likeability but even today in moments of honest introspection—I often wonder if I am liked enough by my set of girlfriends, my colleagues, even my family for that matter. See, how unconsciously these societal standards affect us?
Human beings are cultural beings, consistently shaped by ideas and values around us. Throughout history and even in art and culture, we see likeability a major factor (especially for women). Women are unconsciously raised to become people-pleaser. And we need to stop doing this to ourselves and our future generation because as another wise woman said, “Well-behaved women, rarely made history”.
The other suggestions in the book– about marriage, motherhood, and reading as well as the often told ‘because you are a girl’, is never a reason for anything” also make equal sense and they all come with personal anecdotes.
I repeat this book is an essential and urgent read. Why? Because to raise feminist daughters (or sons), mothers must take pleasure and pride in their own achievements, follow both the challenges and delights of life and give themselves room to fail. Because ultimately, as