ARTICLES / CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE ON WHY IT HURTS TO BE A GIRL

When I started this website and told my mom about it, her first response was, “That’s good. I just hope it’s not too feminist.”

Hurt. Betrayed. Shocked, I defensively asked, “Well, what does feminist to you mean exactly?” Silence. “If it’s content by women, for women, does that make it feminist?”

And if it is, why is that bad? Why is that negative? These questions follow me daily. I feel trepidation before posting anything “too feminist”. Then I found Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist, nonfiction writer and short story writer. A MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, Adichie has been called “the most prominent” of a “procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors that is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature.”

Her most important accomplishment, in my eyes, is her fearless to call herself a feminist in a world (and country) that denies and abhors the word.

Adichie wrote an article in The Guardian about the reactions she received on the promotion of her 2003 novel Purpule Hibiscus. She stated, “An academic, a Nigerian woman, told me that feminism was not our culture, that feminism was un-African and I was only calling myself a feminist because I had been influenced by western books.”

She goes on to explore the uncomfortable stance women take when declaring themselves “feminist”. In an ironic twist, it’s as uncomfortable a word to describe yourself as “whore.” But why?

In 2013, Adichie explores this question in a TEDx talk titled: “We should all be feminists.” She shared her experiences of being an African feminist, and her views on gender construction and sexuality. If you don’t have time to watch the TEDx talk, take a moment and read some of the best quotes from it:

“We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case. We don’t teach boys to care about being likable. We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons. All over the world, there are so many magazine articles and books telling women what to do, how to be and not to be, in order to attract or please men. There are far fewer guides for men about pleasing women.”

“A woman at a certain age who is unmarried, our society teaches her to see it as a deep personal failure. And a man, after a certain age isn’t married, we just think he hasn’t come around to making his pick.”

“We teach girls shame. “Close your legs. Cover yourself.” We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up — and this is the worst thing we do to girls — they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form.”

“I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.”

“The late Kenyan Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai put it simply and well when she said, the higher you go, the fewer women there are.”

“And then we do a much greater disservice to girls, because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man. If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate him.”

“We praise girl’s for their virginity. But we don’t praise boy’s for their virginity. And it always made me wonder how this is suppose to work out.”

“A Nigerian acquaintance once asked me if I was worried that men would be intimidated by me. I was not worried at all—it had not even occurred to me to be worried, because a man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.”

4 THOUGHTS
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