“Everybody will have an opinion about what you should do but what matters is what you want for yourself and not what others want you to want.”— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
On that very hard-hitting truth of self-worth, we take flight into this brilliant essay by Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I wouldn’t say I have read many essays, especially one on the subject Chimamanda explores in this book but if I am asked–and if my opinion weighs a ton—I would say this is one of the best—if not outrightly the best—essays there is on feminism, more so, on how to raise a child to be a feminist.
Dear Ijeawele is Adichie’s letter of response to a letter she received from a childhood friend, a new mother who wanted to know how to raise her baby girl to be a feminist. This letter—a form of writing that usually doesn’t appeal much to readers—was luminously written in a way that Adichie was able to write a modern, susceptible and a reflective essay on feminism.
Although this letter was written for a girl (not to say that feminism is only for women or girls), as a guy I learnt a lot for myself. There are a lot of issues the author raised in the essay, I found myself nodding at its candour, nodding to how relatable it was, how practical, at how I agreed with the suggestions Chimamanda made. Yet, I am not sure I would call myself a feminist. I just respect what feminism is and I love what it stands for. And that is one magic the book possesses—it makes you “understand”. It makes you know that yes, equality is the way to go. However, that is a discussion for another day.
I believe that, more than anything else, what made me agree to all the suggestions was how successfully Adichie made me wonder, at the end of the book, why feminism isn’t called “humanity” because, in my opinion, I think what feminism fights for is humanity—ensuring all humans are treated equally, that the female gender doesn’t endure inhumane act from society. If this isn’t a fight for humanity, I don’t know what else is.
This book I would say was a book about equality — a symbol for equality. This is why any human being could read it, regardless of your gender, identity (female, male ) or non-binary, feminist or not. It is just an eye opener.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the parts that really spoke to me.
“Teach her that 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.
‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything.
“Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Teach her not to attach value to difference. And the reason for this is not to be fair or to be nice but merely to be human and practical. Because difference is the reality of our world. And by teaching her about difference, you are equipping her to survive in a diverse world.
She must know and understand that people walk different paths in the world and that as long as those paths others, they are valid paths that she must respect.”
“So instead of teaching Chizalum to be likeable, teach her to be honest. And kind. And brave. Encourage her to speak her mind, to say what she really thinks, to speak truthfully. And then praise her when she does. Praise her especially when she takes a stand that is difficult or unpopular because it happens to be her honest position. Tell her that kindness matters. Praise her when she is kind to other people. But teach her that her kindness must never be taken for granted. Tell her that she, too, deserves the kindness of others. Teach her to stand up for what is hers. If another child takes her toy without her permission, ask her to take it back, because her consent is important. Tell her that if anything ever makes her uncomfortable, to speak up, to say it, to shout.”
There are many more really! Do get yourself a copy of this book and find more of these words of wisdom from Adichie.