Why We Should All Be Feminists A Book Review of ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

By: Courtney McLarnon

“A feminist is a man or a woman who says: yes there is a problem with gender as is and we must fix it, we must do better”

The short, flawless book, ‘We should all be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is not new – nor are the Feminist theory-backed concepts it presents. It was originally presented in the form of a TED Talk in 2013. The TED Talk and the book to follow are fantastic. But they are not new. But the cultural take on feminism, paired with personal stories and insight into her experiences in Nigeria, Adichie elevates the importance and relevance of feminism and intersectionality now more than ever. Her testimonials are as approachable as they are transformative.

TIME Magazine placed her in the list of The 100 Most Influential People, describing her greatest power as being “a creator of characters who struggle profoundly to understand their place in the world”. This concept of a profound struggle is easily expanded to explain the seemingly never-ending movement for gender equality. The fight for women to have equal place in politics, adequate economic access and empowerment and to see their social rights fulfilled is nowhere near over—despite progress. This is why the remarkable Adichie argues; we should all be feminists.

This talk and subsequent book liberates discourse while presenting some basic arguments in Feminism through a straightforward culturally-sensitive lens. It is providing the exact thing some of us need to just get it. Adichie successfully releases the word “feminist” from the pounds of negative baggage it has carried for decades. In doing so, she challenges the assumption that feminism is ‘unafrican’, something that is seemingly obvious. She argues that many men do not actively think about gender – some believing that things have changed dramatically, but reminds us better is not good. She address some major themes, such as; rigid traditional/cultural norms, the socialization of children and youth, concepts of masculinity and femininity, shaming of sexuality and self, nepotism and of course, the omnipresent power structures in favour of men.

The approach Adichie takes is so fundamental because she accounts for the inescapable reality; one where gender matters. Men and women experience the world differently, and gender colours the way we experience the world, but Adichie asserts that change is crucial. Some recommendations are simple while others complicated, but they all help guide us in addressing the pervasive inequities that prevail.

Here are some quotes to illustrate the sheer power of words Adichie displayed in this talk.


1. “If we keep seeing only men as heads of corporations, it starts to seem ‘natural’ that only men should be heads of corporations” p. 13.

2. “In the US, a man and a woman are doing the same job, with the same qualifications, and the man is paid more because he is a man. So, in a literal way, men rule the world.” p.17

3. I am angry. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change. But I am also hopeful, because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to remake themselves for the better.” p.2.

4. “We don’t teach boys to care about being likeable. We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons.” p.24

5. “This is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.” p.25

6. “We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man. If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate him’.” p.27-28

7. “We police girls. We praise girls for virginity but we do not praise boys for virginity.”… “We teach girls shame. Close your legs. Cover yourself.” p.32-33

8. “Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.” p.46

9. “I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femininity. And I want to be respected in all my femaleness. Because I deserve to be.” p.39

10. “The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognising how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.” p. 34.

This book should be on every coffee table, in every corner of the world. Adichie is celebrated as a critically acclaimed author and named a phenomnenal African feminist. It’s no wonder then that she is being praised for bringing feminist activism into mainstream pop culture. Not to mention, she has been described as Béyonce’s favourite feminist, and has been featured in Vogue magazine, proving her almost revolutionary presence in mainstream pop culture as a powerful Feminist figure. She is praised for dismantling the notion that Feminism is bad – proving instead its universality. This talk and the transcribed coffee-table book successfully open discussions over what a Feminist is. Ultimately reminding us that there are no wrong versions of Feminism simply wrong perceptions of Feminists. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is contributing fiercely to fill a needed void for a strong vocal culture-relevant feminist delivering the simplistic truth; we should all be feminists.

You go girl.

You can find Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on twitter @ChimamandaSays


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