By Sourya Majumder:
Nigerian author and feminist icon Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently created waves, when her 2012 TEDx talk “We Should All Be Feminists” was published as a book – so much so that every 16-year-old in Sweden will get a copy of it (in this writer’s opinion, everyone should). The speech has even been sampled by Beyoncé for her song “Flawless”! Also well known for her novels “Half of a Yellow Sun” and “Americanah”, Adichie has written extensively on feminism, gender issues within the Igbo community, and being a black woman in an increasingly westernized world.
With her reputation amongst the global feminist community, it’s no wonder that her friend Ijeawele asked Adichie for advice on how to raise her newborn daughter. Adichie, who has recently became a mother herself, penned an eloquent and moving letter in response, laying out an extensive, honest and personal “manifesto” on how to raise one’s daughter feminist. At an impressive 9200 words, the letter is a lengthy read. “Do you have a headache after reading all this? Sorry. Next time don’t ask me how to raise your daughter feminist,” Adichie cheekily remarks herself, at the end of the letter.
But not only is the letter not headache-inducing (unless you happen to be a meninist, of course) – these 15 suggestions together form an important addition to the current discourse on how the next generation should be raised. It reminds us how important it is to teach our children to recognise and question social norms that constantly advantage men over women, and understand their own importance and agency in the world.
Here are some highlights from the letter:
1.“Tell her that some people are gay, and some are not. A little child has two daddies or two mommies because some people just do. Tell her that some people go to mosque and others go to church and others go to different places of worship and still others don’t worship at all, because that is just the way it is for some people.”
2. “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.” ‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.”
3. “Teach her to question men who can have empathy for women only if they see them as relational rather than as individual equal humans. Men who, when discussing rape, will always say something like ‘if it were my daughter or wife or sister.’ Yet such men do not need to imagine a male victim of crime ‘as a brother or son’ in order to feel empathy.”
4. “Tell her that women actually don’t need to be championed and revered; they just need to be treated as equal human beings. There is a patronizing undertone to the idea of women needing to be ‘championed and revered’ because they are women. It makes me think of chivalry, and the premise of chivalry is female weakness.”
5. “Be deliberate also about showing her the enduring beauty and resilience of Africans and of black people. Why? Because of the power dynamics in the world, she will grow up seeing images of white beauty, white ability, and white achievement, no matter where she is in the world. It will be in the TV shows she watches, in the popular culture she consumes, in the books she reads. She will also probably grow up seeing many negative images of blackness and of Africans.”
Read the full letter, which talks in detail and with nuance and empathy about the intersectionalities of sex and race, the need to counter benign sexism and ‘feminism lite’, the need to reject gender roles and expectations, and many other things, here.