by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published March 7th 2017 by Knopf
“The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina.”
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions is a reply to a letter sent to Adichie from a close friend. The friend, Ijeawele, has just given birth to a daughter and is looking for some guidance on how to raise her a feminists. In response, Adichie gives her fifteen suggestions on how to do so without coming off too strong. I enjoyed this book but it felt like she just repeated the thoughts she had in We Should All be Feminists. But that did not take away from her brilliant writing skills.
“Never speak of marriage as an achievement. Find ways to make clear to her that marriage is not an achievement, nor is it what she should aspire to. A marriage can be happy or unhappy, but it is not an achievement. We condition girls to aspire to marriage and we do not condition boys to aspire to marriage, and so there is already a terrible imbalance at the start. The girls will grow up to be women preoccupied with marriage. The boys will grow up to be men who are not preoccupied with marriage. The women marry those men. The relationship is automatically uneven because the institution matters more to one than the other.”
There were parts I totally agreed with and other parts that made me feel like she was not coming off the right way. That is common with short books and this was just a letter to a friend. Some things were complex but were made to sound as if they were so easy to get over when in reality they are not. But as I said, it was a short letter and she could not fit everything she wanted to explore in it otherwise it would be too long and end up tiring the recipient.
“Never ever link her appearance with morality. Never tell her that a short skirt is ‘immoral’… Because clothes have absolutely nothing to do with morality.”
But even with my hang ups on some of the things she talked about, I find everything she speaks of relatable because she is an African woman and I am too. She speaks of things that make sense to me because with western feminists, the arguments are based on what I feel to be unreachable things. They fight for equal pay and things like the pro-choice movement. While those are problems that affect African women, there are others that have not been tackled yet.
“It is funny ,in the way sad things are funny, that in 2016 we are still talking about cooking as some kind of ‘marriageability test’ for women.”
For instance, the issue of men not dealing with women because they don’t consider them to be on the same intellectual level is ridiculous but it’s something that is so common in this corner of the world. The craziness of being an unmarried woman and being pressured to get married before your ‘time is up’. Or that bullshit of being a good cook because you cannot get a husband if you don’t cook. I hate cooking and trust me my parents keep telling me I’ll never get a husband because of that. Is that all I am worth? A good cook and baby popper?
“If she likes makeup, let her wear it. If she likes fashion, let her dress up. But if she doesn’t like either, let her be. Don’t think that raising her feminist means forcing her to reject femininity. Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive.”
Don’t go into this expecting something deep about feminism. It’s something so simple and something I would encourage people who are iffy about the whole feminist movement to read. Such a short and precise read but We Should All be Feminists still remains my favorite mainly because it changed my whole perspective about the feminism.
And as always, I attach videos that I think are relevant to the book. Take a look at this short film if you are interested.