We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (4/5)

Recently, Adichie has come under scrutiny by the liberal feminist community over her statements about transgender women. Despite what might be said it would be insane to dismiss her work based on a single statement, which doesn’t actually convey the full spectrum of her beliefs. In a recent interview she made a point about how we use language and about the censorship we create when we insist on a specific sort of language:

“But because ‘cis’ is not a part of my vocabulary – it just isn’t – it really becomes about language and the reason I find that troubling is to insist that you have to speak in a certain way and use certain expressions, otherwise we cannot have a conversation, can close up debate. And if we can’t have conversations, we can’t have progress.”

We fail to progress when we approach tough discussions with a list of politically appropriate phrases and words. We fail because any deviation from this terminology can result in a valid statement or argument being dismissed as some sort of -ism or -phobia. Kindness and respect is always important, but so is the ability to express an idea in order to make progress or create change aimed at improving our collective lives. So with that in mind, I shall focus on the qualities of the work Adichie has created.

We Should All Be Feminists is not a groundbreaking work of feminist theory, in fact it is pretty basic stuff. It is a short and dirty introduction to feminism for someone who maybe hasn’t read any theory or doesn’t really understand the importance of the movement. For those of us who have delved a bit deeper into the literature, it is a reminder of the big picture. It reminds us to step back from the arguments we have over the tiniest theoretical differences within our own personal feminism. It is a quick and well written reminder of what it means to be a feminist and what feminism in non-western countries can do to improve the life of girls and women. It draws attention to the experiences we so easily forget when we focus on the individualism that mars the western world’s attempts at achieving equality. Individual success doesn’t produce collective success when we fail to help other women rise with us, our own entry into the patriarchy often lets us ignore the ideals we once held about equality.

I would recommend that all women, especially ones who still do not “understand” feminists to read this book. Its 50-something pages, with big text and a nice flow and it can be read in one sitting. It is worth the time it takes to read it and it might bring you back to center on what matters when it comes to improving the standard of living for women and men. I guess her title says just about everything, We Should All Be Feminists!

Up Next: Why I Am Not A Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto by Jessa Crispin

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