Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: We should all be feminists
Inspired by Nigerian history and tragedies all but forgotten by recent generations of westerners, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels and stories are jewels in the crown of diasporan literature. Full bio
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about one of my greatest friends,
I would ask Okoloma's opinion.
Sosoliso plane crash
laugh with and truly talk to.
to call me a feminist.
we were at his house, arguing.
with half bit knowledge
particular argument was about,
that as I argued and argued,
"You know, you're a feminist."
to say something like,
what this word "feminist" meant,
to know that I did not know.
and I continued to argue.
I planned to do when I got home
"feminist" in the dictionary.
who among other things beats his wife
the novel in Nigeria,
to give unsolicited advice.
that my novel was feminist
sadly as he spoke --
call myself a feminist
are women who are unhappy
"a happy feminist."
by "Western books."
were decidedly unfeminist.
Mills & Boon romance published
struggled to finish them.
"a happy African feminist."
feminist who does not hate men
for herself but not for men.
with baggage, negative baggage.
that sort of thing.
that she would give the class a test
would be the class monitor.
the names of noisemakers --
a cane to hold in your hand
and patrol the class for noisemakers.
actually allowed to use the cane.
for the nine-year-old me.
to be the class monitor.
that the monitor had to be a boy.
to make that clear earlier
score on the test,
interesting about this
in patrolling the class with the cane,
is just as obvious to everyone else.
and he would tell me,
being different or harder for women.
could not see what seems so self-evident.
Louis and I went out with friends.
who are not familiar with Lagos,
who hang around outside establishments
"help" you park your car.
with the particular theatrics
a parking spot that evening.
I decided to leave him a tip.
that I had earned from doing my work,
very grateful and very happy,
I didn't give him the money."
dawn on Louis' face.
we have different sexual organs,
in general physically stronger than women.
than men in the world,
population is female.
and prestige are occupied by men.
the fewer women there are."
of the Lilly Ledbetter law,
alliterative name of that law,
being equally qualified,
because he's a man.
the most important attribute for survival.
was more likely to lead,
are physically stronger.
in a vastly different world.
is not the physically stronger person;
the more intelligent person,
for those attributes.
to be intelligent,
of gender had not evolved.
of one of the best Nigerian hotels.
but I thought I probably shouldn't.
and asked me annoying questions,
into a hotel alone is a sex worker.
focus on the ostensible supply
into many "reputable" bars and clubs.
if you're a woman alone,
a Nigerian restaurant with a man,
felt like, "Yes! I thought that!"
are more important than women.
don't intend any harm.
and quite another to feel it emotionally.
I feel invisible.
that I am just as human as the man,
that sting the most.
to be young and female in Lagos,
is a grave injustice.
of bringing about positive change;
I'm also hopeful.
in the ability of human beings
themselves for the better.
and because it is where my heart is.
and plan for a different world,
who are truer to themselves.
on how we raise them;
in a very narrow way,
of weakness, of vulnerability.
in Nigerian speak, "hard man!"
both of them teenagers,
of pocket money, would go out
would be expected always to pay,
to steal money from their parents.
was not "the boy has to pay"
of that historical advantage,
raising children differently,
of having to prove this masculinity.
that they have to be hard,
with very fragile egos.
the man feels compelled to be,
disservice to girls
to cater to the fragile egos of men.
to make themselves smaller,
but not too successful,
in your relationship with a man,
the premise itself?
be a threat to a man?
to simply dispose of that word,
I dislike more than "emasculation."
would be intimidated by me.
to me to be worried
be intimidated by me
I would have no interest in.
I'm expected to aspire to marriage;
that marriage is the most important.
and love and mutual support.
to aspire to marriage
who decided to sell her house
to intimidate a man who might marry her.
who, when she goes to conferences,
in the conference to "give her respect."
who are under so much pressure
even from work to get married,
to make terrible choices.
to see it as a deep, personal failure.
who is unmarried,
to making his pick.
just say no to all of this."
and more complex.
from our socialization.
and relationships illustrates this.
is often the language of ownership
a man shows a woman.
I'm very amused by --
that they should not be doing anyway.
in a kind of fondly exasperated way,
proves how masculine they are,
I can't go to the club every night,
I do it only on weekends."
"I did it for peace in my marriage,"
about giving up a job,
each other as competitors --
which I think can be a good thing,
cannot be sexual beings
knowing about our sons' girlfriends.
the perfect man to be their husbands.
we praise girls for virginity,
this is supposed to work out because ...
is usually a process that involves ...
was gang raped in a university in Nigeria,
both male and female,
in a room with four boys?"
the horrible inhumanity of that response,
to think of women as inherently guilty,
to expect so little of men
without any control
as though by being born female
who silence themselves.
who cannot say what they truly think,
we did to girls --
who have turned pretense into an art form.
that to be "good wife material"
to use that Nigerian word --
began to complain that she had changed.
our true individual selves,
of gender expectations.
undeniably different biologically,
exaggerates the differences
a self-fulfilling process.
to do the housework than men,
are born with a cooking gene?
socialized to see cooking as their role?
women are born with a cooking gene,
of the famous cooks in the world,
as men when she was growing up.
many more opportunities for women
during my grandmother's time
changes in law,
is our attitude, our mindset,
and what we value about gender.
we focus on interest instead of gender?
who have a son and a daughter,
the parents say to the girl,
for your brother."
particularly like to cook Indomie noodles,
to cook Indomie?
is a very useful skill for boys to have.
to leave such a crucial thing,
and the same job as her husband.
she does most of the housework,
changed the baby's diaper,
as perfectly normal and natural
care for his child?
many of the lessons of gender
in the face of gender expectations.
a writing class in graduate school,
about the material I would teach
what I enjoy teaching.
have to prove my worth.
that if I looked too feminine,
my shiny lip gloss and my girly skirt,
that when it comes to appearance
as the standard, as the norm.
for a business meeting,
about looking too masculine
for business meeting,
about looking too feminine
she will be taken seriously.
that ugly suit that day.
from my closet, by the way.
that I have now to be myself,
even more from my teaching,
be apologetic for my femaleness
in all of my femaleness
conversation to have.
to encounter almost immediate resistance.
are actually thinking,
actively think about gender
into a restaurant with a woman
part of a longer version of this talk.
a very uncomfortable conversation to have,
to close the conversation.
evolutionary biology and apes,
bow down to male apes
and have earthworms for breakfast,
"Well, poor men also have a hard time."
what this conversation is about.
are different forms of oppression.
about systems of oppression
to a black man about gender
'my experience as a woman'?
about his experience as a black man.
experience the world differently.
we experience the world.
bottom power is an expression
something like a woman
to get favors from men.
from time to time --
that somebody else is in a bad mood,
being subordinate to a man is our culture.
who are fifteen and live in Lagos.
taken away and killed.
it was our culture to kill twins.
preservation and continuity of a people.
in the story of who we are,
is not our culture,
who passed away in that Sosoliso crash
by those of us who loved him.
when he called me a feminist.
in the dictionary that day,
who believes in the social, political
from the stories I've heard,
she did not want to marry
the man of her choice.
of access, of land, that sort of thing.
did not know that word "feminist,"
with gender as it is today,
good-looking, lovely man,
ABOUT THE SPEAKERChimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Novelist
Inspired by Nigerian history and tragedies all but forgotten by recent generations of westerners, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels and stories are jewels in the crown of diasporan literature.
Why you should listen
In Nigeria, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel Half of a Yellow Sun has helped inspire new, cross-generational communication about the Biafran war. In this and in her other works, she seeks to instill dignity into the finest details of each character, whether poor, middle class or rich, exposing along the way the deep scars of colonialism in the African landscape.
Adichie's newest book, The Thing Around Your Neck, is a brilliant collection of stories about Nigerians struggling to cope with a corrupted context in their home country, and about the Nigerian immigrant experience.
Adichie builds on the literary tradition of Igbo literary giant Chinua Achebe—and when she found out that Achebe liked Half of a Yellow Sun, she says she cried for a whole day. What he said about her rings true: “We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers.”
(Photo: Wani Olatunde)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | Speaker | TED.com