FEMINISM 101: Notes we took from Chimamanda’s ‘Dear Ijeawele’
In "Dear Ijeawele" Chimamanda shares with us an email she wrote to her friend who was at the time expecting a baby girl and asked for her advice on raising a feminist daughter. I think in a world where feminist theory is shied away from because of its often ambiguous premise or language, ‘Dear Ijeawele’ is a simple and straight-to-the-point piece on basic feminist tenets and we highly recommend it for young adults and teenagers who are just starting on their feminist journey.
The book is quite a short read and easy to breeze through, but we decided to highlight some important quotes that sat with us and made us pick up our page markers and highlight pens, enjoy!
1. “...your feminist premise should be; I matter. Not ‘as long as…’ Not ‘if only…’ I matter equally”.
2. “...be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood”.
3. “...when we say fathers are helping, we are suggesting that child care is a mother’s territory, into which fathers valiantly venture. It is not.”
4. “The idea of gender roles is absolute nonsense. Do not ever tell her that she should not do something because she is a girl. ‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.”
5. “...if we don’t place the straightjacket of gender roles on young children, we give them space to reach their full potential.”
6. “We also need to question the idea of marriage as a prize for women, because that is the basis of these absurd debates. If we stop conditioning women to see marriage as a prize, then we would have fewer debates about a wife needing to cook to earn that price.”
7. “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 from the start. The girls grow up to be women preoccupied with marriage, the boys grow up ro be men who are not. The women marry those men, the relationship is automatically uneven because the institution matters more to one than the other.”
8. "Teach her to reject likability. Her job is not to make herself likeable, her job is to be her full self. A self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people.”
9. "Teach her that she is not merely an object to be liked or disliked, she is also a subject who can like or dislike.”
10. “Teach her that love is not only to give but also to take, we teach girls that a large component of their ability to love is their ability to sacrifice themselves, we do not teach this to boys.”
11. “Teach her to question men who can have empathy for women only if they see them as relational rather than as individual equal humans.”
12. “There must be more than male benevolence as the basis for a woman’s well-being”.
13. “Don’t just label something misogynistic, tell her why it is and what would make it not be. Teach her that if you criticise X in women but do not in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women. For X insert words like anger, ambition, loudness, stubbornness, coldness, ruthlessness, etc.”
14. “...it is of course true that men are in general physically stronger than women. But if we truly depended on biology as a root of social norms, then children would be identified as their mother’s because when a child is born, the parent we are biologically and incontrovertibly certain of is the mother.”
15. “...women must be covered up to protect men. I find this deeply dehumanising because it reduces women to mere props used to manage the appetites of men.”
16. “The shame we attach to female sexuality is about control. Many cultures and religions control women’s bodies in one way or another. If justification for controlling women’s bodies wew about women themselves, then it would be understandable.”
17. “Never link sexuality and shame.”
18. “Teach her to reject the linking of shame and female biology”.
19. “That a woman claims not to be a feminist does not diminish the necessity of feminism.”
In the author's words, the manifesto is to offer advice such as teaching a young girl to read widely and recognize the role of language in reinforcing unhealthy cultural norms.
"Dear Ijeawele goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century. It will start a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today," - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.