During eighth grade in 2015, I presented an English paper on the gender pay gap. I did plenty of research on the historical significance and negative impacts of inequality. Being my first substantial research paper, I was very proud of my work. It was the first time I wrote about a topic I was truly passionate about. Since I was writing about equal rights, surely there would not be any backlash.
After presenting to the class, I asked if anyone had questions. A student raised their hand and asked mockingly, “Are you going to vote for Hillary Clinton?” The majority republican class boomed with laughter. Completely baffled by their response, I thought to myself, “Why are they talking about politics? I spoke about not being paid enough.”
I had no clue about the fight against feminism.
We Should All Be Feminists
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was an absolutely incredible book. Her thoughtful remarks help me recognize the behaviors I should accept in others. I have had instances where my thoughts were not equal to a man’s. Similarly, she grew up in an environment where misogyny was an inherent part of her culture. In Nigeria, she was not able to enter clubs on her own. Having no choice, she asked male strangers to link arms since she needed “help” to enter. Her culture’s definition of a feminist hates men, believing “women should always be in charge.” Equality was too much to ask for. If you fought against this rule, shame would follow.
Adichie summed up the progression of feminism in a way I had never understood before. A patriarchal society made sense one thousand years ago since “physical strength was the most important attribute for survival.” The most physically fit person led others because of the need for food and shelter. However, today’s world is not based on fight or flight.
“The person more qualified to lead is not the physically stronger person. It is the more intelligent, the more knowledgeable, the more creative, more innovative. And there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, innovative, creative. We have evolved. But our ideas of gender have not evolved very much.“
We are past the necessity of physical strength. The advanced mental capabilities of humanity set us apart. However, the modern world does not see that. When met with adversity, they respond in shock and distaste. Future generations have to learn that femininity does not equal weakness.
The blemish of anger
I grew up hearing the phrase “boys will be boys.” Fighting and outrage are expected of young men, but young women should be gentle in nature. When a boy bullied me in school, I was told to accept it because ‘it means that they like you.’ It is hard to recognize these discriminatory expectations when growing up with them. As Adichie stated, anger does not fit in “a woman’s touch.” A woman’s purpose in life is to be liked, but a man should never be told how to act. Any form of compromise or vulnerability is a weakness.
When a man uses passion in his position, he is powerful. But when a woman does the same, she is hard-headed and resentful. She is a bitch.
Even as I am writing this article, my inner voice tells me that I am too forward. I have a complete passion for gender equality, but I kept it to myself for quite some time. Judgment was (and is) my biggest fear. Now I understand that my likability was conditioned in me from a young age. I have to remind myself that anger is vital in addressing this issue. Anger is the tool to break that mold.
An accepting world
I would recommend this book to everyone. Adichie’s powerful, concise words are deeply impactful. She gave us tools to act against a patriarchal world from her experiences. After reading this book, I realized that Beyoncé’s song, Flawless, incorporated Adichie’s voice. I’ve listened to this song so many times and never connected the dots. This particular lyric always struck me to the core:
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. 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’.”
“Feminist: A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”
It is our duty to challenge a system focused on the achievement of men. For hundreds of years, society missed opportunities to learn from our intellect and ability. Adichie recognizes this loss. If we take her advice, we can move one step closer to a more benevolent world.