Today, in honour of International Women’s Day, I wanted to speak about feminism.
I am my father’s daughter, which means that anything I fear, I research. Anything I don’t understand, but want to, I will Google. I have been burned before for having an opinion on something I didn’t fully understand, and when I began encountering the word “feminism” I decidedly kept quiet with my opinions. I kept quiet because I wasn’t sure what my opinion was. I grew up with a mother who holds a managerial position, who commands respect with her attitude, posture and strength. I never saw opportunities of mine given away simply because I was female. I can’t say that I thought critically about the word feminism at all, until this year.
My best friend is a huge fan of Caitlin Moran, and when Moran gave a talk at the Toronto Public Library, she asked me to go. Despite being recommended Moran’s book a few times, I had decided I wasn’t interested. After hearing Moran speak, however, that changed. She spoke passionately about girls and the gender inequalities they face in many aspects, but her talk centred mostly on sexuality as it was the basis of her debut novel How to Build a Girl. After the presentation, I read Moran’s How to Be a Woman. My mind bubbled with new ideas, some of which I agreed with, and others I didn’t.
I began doing some research on feminism and on Moran herself. I found an article written by Roxane Gay. Gay is a novelist and essayist who speaks passionately about many subjects, but feminism is a huge one. Her book Bad Feminist has been everywhere since it’s publication last year. In the article, Gay picks out many flaws in Moran’s writing. Flaws I could not deny. I felt conflicted. Both of these women had great arguments, and also ones I disagreed with. My stance on feminism was still undecided. I knew I was a feminist, because by now I had researched the word and based on the fundamental description of it (“the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary), of course I was.
Then, a few weeks ago, a tiny volume was handed to me. We Should All Be Feminists is a 64-paged book adapted from a TEDx talk given by the wonderful Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie delivered the address in early 2013 to a lively crowd. The speech is documented (and I will link it at the bottom of this post) and has now been bound into a beautiful package by Random House. Anyone who loves Beyonce will have already heard bits of this speech, spoken by Adichie herself, in the song “Flawless”. I took the book home, devoured it in a half hour and the next day, watched the speech.
Thanks to Ms. Adichie, I now have a fundamental stance on feminism.
We Should All Be Feminists is a brilliant delivery. It is compassionate, strong and persistent. Adichie speaks about feminism throughout the world: her upbringing in Nigeria, her experiences there, and her experiences in America. She talks about how she came to the word “feminism” and how she relates to it now. The thing that I love most about her ideas is that she addresses the effects of feminism on women AND men. She speaks in defence of men and how we raise our sons to be “hard” and masculine; how men’s egos become fragile when they are constantly pressured to be super masculine.
She covers powerful ground with simple ideas. What if women weren’t afraid to be “girly” and knew that they would be treated the same if they showed up to a meeting in a floral dress as they would if they were in a suit? What if men weren’t expected to pay for dinner on dates? What if “feminism” stopped being considered a term that only referenced “angry women who hate men”?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke about feminism to me in a way that I could digest, develop and understand in my own mind. I have not gone a day without thinking about her words since I closed that book over two weeks ago. I hope that her message will grow and reach others, all over the world, men and women alike. I hope that, like she says, we will raise our children differently. Where before, I was ignorant on many of the topics of feminism, now I am hopeful. And I think that is a huge step in the right direction.