I had a hard time trying to narrow down what to discuss from Chimamanda Adichie’s new book, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. This was because there were so many profound and wonderful points that Adichie made about how society treats women and feminism. Adichie first rose to prominence via the feminist spectrum after a clip of her Ted Talk was sampled in Beyonce’s 2013 song “***Flawless”.
This book reads as a letter to Adichie’s childhood friend, Ijeawele, who recently had a daughter, and she wanted advice on how to raise her daughter as a feminist. Adichie gives Ijeawele fifteen suggestions. I will talk about my 3 favorite suggestions.
I loved the third suggestion which was to teach the daughter that the idea of “gender roles” is absolute nonsense. I loved this suggestion because I get sick and tired of always hearing “men should do this and women should do that.” It’s annoying and outdated. Another thing that struck me from this section was the story that Adichie told about going to the mall with a seven year-old Nigerian girl and her mother. The little girl told her mother that she wanted a toy helicopter and her mother said that she should get a doll instead. The little girl was upset and said that she didn’t want another doll. This stuck out to me because I wish that society wouldn’t try and force girls and boys to play with toys based on their gender. Girls and boys should be allowed to play with whatever toys they choose. One way that I feel the concept of “gender roles” is starting to making a change towards disappearing is that more STEM programs are being geared towards girls. I wish that this would’ve happened during my generation, so then maybe I wouldn’t have such a negative attitude towards math and science.
The seventh suggestion caught my attention as well, which was never speak of marriage as an achievement. I thought that this was wonderful because all women including myself are under a lot of pressure to get married by a certain age or else there’s something wrong with you. Society never likes to think that maybe some women don’t want to get married. Adichie also talked about how there’s pressure on women who do get married to men to take their husband’s last name. Adichie herself said that she didn’t take her husband’s last name because she likes her name and it’s the name that she’s had all of her life. Also, there’s a lot of work that goes into making that change. Personally, I always said that if I were to get married that I would hyphen my name so that way I could have my husband’s name and still keep my own. Women should have a choice whether or not they want to change their names, not be pressured into doing it.
The tenth suggestion was to be deliberate about how you engage with your daughter and her appearance. I thought that this was important because no matter what size and shape a woman is, she is under an enormous amount of pressure to look a certain way. One quote from this section that really made me think was when Adichie said “Never, ever link Chizalum’s appearance with morality. Never tell her that a short skirt is immoral.” I wanted to scream from the top of Mount Everest after reading this because a huge part of rape culture always blames the victim after she comes forward, and one of the first things that they ask is “What were you wearing?” It doesn’t matter if a woman has on a short skirt, a trench coat or even if she’s naked; a woman does not deserved to be raped.
Overall, I loved this book because even though it’s short it packs a punch and it really made me think. This isn’t Adichie’s first book about feminism. She also has written an essay that was published into a book called We Should All Be Feminists. My final thought about this book is that I wish that someone would’ve written my mother a letter about how to raise me as a feminist.
What suggestions would you have about how to raise a child as a feminist? Let us know in the comments below.
Are you raising a feminist?Request Dear Ijeawele
Kayla works at Squirrel Hill as a Clerk, so when you come up to the customer services desk you might see her face! When she’s not at the library she enjoys reading, watching TV & listening to music. You might also find her at your local Starbucks, because she loves her Frappuccinos.