I am so inspired by Chimamanda. These are favorite passages from her speech at the TedxEuston, I did my best to transcribe them. Everything written below was said by the amazing Chimanda Ngozi Adichie.
[ Friend ] “You know you’re a feminist?”, It was not a compliment. I could tell from his tone, the same tone that you would use to say something like: “You’re a supporter of terrorism.”
[A man] He said “Feminists are Women who are unhappy because they cannot find husbands”, so I decided to call myself a happy feminist. [..] At some point I was a happy African feminist who does not hate men, who likes lipgloss and who wears high heels for her self but not for men.
One evening Louis and I went out with friends. [A man helped them get a parking space]. So I was leaving, I decided to give the man a tip. I opened my bag, put my hand inside my bag, brought out my money, that I had earned from doing my work and I gave it to the man. And HE, this man who was very grateful and very happy, took the money from me, looked across at Louis and said THANK YOU SIR!
[Waiters in Nigeria. Example of gender discrimination].
Each time I walk into a pub with a man, the waiter greets the man and ignores me. The waiters are products of a society that taught them that men are more important then women. And I know the waiters don’t intend any harm; but it is one thing to know it intellectually and quite another to feel it emotionally. Each time they ignore me, I feel invisible. I feel upset. I want to tell them that I am just as Human as the man. That I am just as worthy of acknowledgment. These are little things, but sometimes, it’s the little things that sting the most.
[About raising boys and girls]
We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them, we stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity becomes this hard small cage and we put boys inside the cage. We teach boys to be afraid of fear, we teach boys to be afraid of weakness, of vulnerability, we teach them to mask their true selves, because they have to be, in Nigerian speak, ‘Hard man’. […] The more ‘hard man’ a man is compelled to be, the weaker his ego is. And then we do a much greater disservice to girls because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of men.
I know young women who are under so much pressure from family from friends, even from work, to get married. And, they are pushed to make terrible choice. A woman at a certain age who is unmarried, our society teaches her to see it as a deep personal failure. And a man at a certain age who is unmarried, we just think he hasn’t come around to making his pick. It’s easy for us to say, “Oh but woman can just say no to all of this”. But the reality is more difficult and more complex. We’re all social beings, we internalize ideas from our socialization. Even the language we use in talking about relationships illustrates this. The language of marriage is often a language of ownership rather than a language of partnership. We use the word ‘respect’ to mean something the woman shows the man but often not something a man shows the woman.
Now when a woman says I did it for peace in my marriage, she’s usually talking about having given up a job, a dream, a career. We teach women that in relationships, compromise is what women do.
Recently a young woman was gang raped in a university in Nigeria. The response of many young Nigerians, both male and female, was something along the lines as this. “Yes rape is wrong but what is a girl doing in a room with 4 boys?” These Nigerian have been raised to think of women as inherently guilty. And, they have been raised to expect so little of men that the idea of men as savage being without any self control is somehow acceptable.
We teach girls shame, close your leg, cover yourself. We make them feel as if by being born female, they’re already guilty of something. And so girls grow up to be women who cannot see that they have desires. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up, and this is the worse thing we do to girls, they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form.
The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be, rather then recognizing how we are. Now imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer, if we didn’t have so much weight on gender expectations.
Boys and girls are undeniably different biologically but socialization exaggerates the differences and then it becomes a self fulfilling process. Now take cooking for example. Today women in general are more likely to do the house work then men, the cooking and cleaning. But why is that? Is it because women are born with a cooking gene? Or because over years they have socialized to see cooking as their rule. Actually, I was going to say that maybe women are born with the cooking gene, until i remembered that the majority of the famous cooks in the world, who we give the fancy title of “chefs”, are men.
What if in raising children we focus on ability rather then gender? What if in raising children we focus on interest instead of gender?
[..] I have chosen no longer to be apologetic about my femaleness and my femininity. And, I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.
Gender is not an easy conversation to have. For both men and women to bring up gender is to almost encounter an immediate resistance. [..] Many men do not actively think about gender or notice gender, it’s part of the problem of gender. That many men say, like my friend Louis, that everything is fine now. And that many men do nothing to change it. If you are a man and you walk into a restaurant with a woman, and the waiter greets only you, does it occur to you to ask the waiter: Why haven’t you greeted her?
So, some people will bring up evolution and biology. How female apes bow down to male apes, and that sort of thing. But the point is, we’re not apes! Apes also live on trees and have earth worms for breakfast and we don’t.
Gender and class are different forms of oppression. Gender matters. Men and women experience the world differently. Gender causes the way we experience the world. but we can change that.
Sometimes people will say that a woman being subordinate to a man is culture. But culture is constantly changing. I have two beautiful nieces in Nigeria that if they would have been born 100 years ago in Nigeria, they would have been killed because it is the part of culture. So what is the point in culture? Culture is really about the preservation and continuity of people. Culture does not make people, people make culture. So if it is in fact true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we MUST make it our culture.
Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
My own definition of feminist is: A feminist is a man or a woman, who says, YES there’s a problem with gender, as it is today and we must fix it. We must do better.