Inspiring Person Series: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I decided to come up with a series of blog posts discussing inspiring people that I found throughout my life. Today I would like to introduce to you (who doesn’t know her already), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She was born in Nigeria and is the fifth children in her family. She is now a well-known feminist author. She has award-winning and bestselling books such as Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun. First time I heard about her is actually quite cliched, as I came to know her from Beyonce’s single ‘Flawless’ in which samples of her speech are being used as part of the song.

“Because I am a female, I am expected to aspire to marriage, I am expected to make my choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?”

“We say to girls, you should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten The Man.”

It is amazing how such speech can be applicable to situations in many countries, including Indonesia. Girls are being raised with the intention that someday they have to be able to get married and acquire the standards needed to get there (such as the ability to cook, etc). The newest book from Adichie that I read is Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. It is a small book that attempted to answer a question on how to raise a girl to be a feminist in the future (from a friend). I like how she starts to answer the question. She mentioned that feminism for her is always contextual and there is no ‘set-in-stone’ rule except two things. A feminist premise: “I matter. I matter equaly. Not “if only.” not “as long as.” I mater equally. Full stop.” and a question: “Can you reverse X and get the same results?“.

She goes on explaining fifteen suggestions she has for her friend:

  1. Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do nor define yourself solely by motherhood.
  2. Do it together. This means husbands’ and fathers’ need to have a part in the home work too. Do not diminish husbands’ or fathers’ roles.
  3. The idea of “gender roles” is absolute nonsense. Do not ever tell her that she should or should not do something because she is a girl.
  4. She also mentioned that ‘Feminism Lite’ is dangerous. You either are feminist or you are not.
  5. Teach her to love books. We all know what we can gain from books, let daughters know that.
  6. Teach her to question language. For example, people used different words to describe women and men in positions of power. Help her questions those.
  7. Never speak of marriage as an achievement. Marriage can be wonderful or not, but it is never an achievement in someone’s life.
  8. Teach her to reject likeability. Girls are trained from when they are still very small that they should make other people like her. Let her be someone she likes.
  9. Teach the child to have a sense of identity. If she is Indonesian, tell her why she should be proud to be part of that culture.
  10. Be deliberate about how you engage with her and her appearance. Be considerate when talking about how she looks and how we are commenting on the way she dresses.
  11. Teach her to question our culture’s selective use of biology as “reasons” for social norms. Even if it’s true that men are physically stronger, it shouldn’t be a reason for discrimination against women.
  12. Talk to her about sex, and start early. It will probably be a bit awkward, but it is necessary. Tell her sex is much more than a controlled act of reproduction, teach her to say no.
  13. Romance will happen, so be on board. Be her friend when she is ready to talk about love.
  14. In teaching about oppression, be careful not to turn the oppressed into saints. Women are not always morally better and kinder than men. Both are human.
  15. Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Equip her to meet many kinds of people, equip her to live in a diverse world.

What do you think of these fifteen suggestions? Is there anything you would like to add/ not agree with?

Below are some of the best speeches that she has done. I am sure you will learn a lot more about her by watching. Enjoy!

“We Should All be Feminists” at TEDxEuston

The Danger of a Single Story by TED


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