It’s been a few years since I listened to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx speech on why “We Should All Be Feminists.” As most people know, Chimamanda is a world famous author and feminist. I like her writing and that she is an advocate for feminism. It’s just recently that I purchased the little book based on the speech. As I read it, I highlighted my favorite parts of the speech. I want to share with you the parts of the speech I liked and the reasons why. If you don’t have a copy of the speech, you can watch the video below.
Is it Wrong for Women to Be Angry about Gender Injustice?
“Not long ago, I wrote an article about being young and female in Lagos. And an acquaintance told me that it was an angry article, and I should not have made it so angry. But I was unapologetic. Of course, it was angry. Gender, as it functions today, is a grave injustice.”
That statement reminded me of the university days. I decided to add women studies as a minor concentration that I wanted to study. I felt a bit insecure about it initially because I knew the misconceptions that people would have. This was confirmed when I was speaking to a female student about possibly adding the minor. She scoffed as she said “women studies, don’t they just sit around and complain about things..what’s the point?”
I felt embarrassed then and just smiled. Now, I wished I would have said something more. It was common for people to see discussions on women issues as being about anger and complaints. But don’t we have a right to discuss issues that affect us? Don’t we have a right to be angry?
When the news broke that Boko Haram had kidnapped young school girls in Nigeria, I was angry. That is an injustice that we should complain about. We should talk about these things. We should advocate against injustice because that’s the only way that change will come about. There is nothing wrong with being “angry” about gender injustice. We have a right to be angry and that anger should be used to fuel change.
Is Marriage Used as A Tool to Label Women as Worthy?
“I know an unmarried woman in Nigeria who, when she goes to conferences, wears a wedding ring because she wants her colleagues to according to her- give her respect. The sadness in this is that a wedding ring will indeed automatically make her seem worthy of respect….and this is in a modern workplace.”
I was not surprised to read this statement above. It has become a common thing in Nigeria that we use marriage as a way to judge women. What saddens me is how open and free we are to use it. The question that is commonly thrown around to single women is “when are you getting married?”
There are two instances of this that I want to highlight. I was in a taxi. While in the car, the taxi driver was chatting with me. He asked me “Am I married?” I told him no. He then asked me, why? That, it’s time. This is a random stranger that knew nothing about me but because I’m a single woman with no ring in my hand, that’s not okay. I told him that when the time is right, I will be.
Another instance was at a visit to the eye doctor, I remember the doctor saying he knows people he can set me up with. I didn’t tell him that I was looking to be in a relationship. He just didn’t see a ring on my finger so he assumed, I need to be set up.
We use marriage in Nigeria to define women. It’s as though women have to be married. To be single is not alright. I have no problem with marriage but I have a problem with the pressures that we associate with a woman needing to have a man by her side to be respected or seen as the norm.
Why are Women Questioned Accusingly When it Comes to Sexual Assault?
“Recently a young woman was gang-raped in the university in Nigeria, and the response of many young Nigerians, both male and female was something like this: “yes, rape is wrong, but what is a girl doing in a room with four boys… these Nigerians have been raised to think of women as inherently guilty. And they have been raised to expect so little of men that the idea of men as savage beings with no self-control is somehow acceptable.”
We question the woman aggressively when it comes to cases of sexual assault. We think it must be something that the woman has done wrong.
During my NYSC year, there was a discussion on rape among us ladies and men. We were talking about who’s to blame? I remember this boy stood up proudly and said, “if I see a woman wearing skimpy clothes around me in a close corner, I have no other option. Of course, then I’ll rape her.” People clapped for him. They actually clapped for him. I was furious at that moment and wanted to say something. A girl stood up and said the boy’s statement was terrifying and shocking.
It is terrifying and shocking for people to make excuses for why the rape had to happen. We often justify that it’s ok for the man to be a “savage.” We have to look at the woman as a human being. No one would ask to be harassed or harmed. After all, if a man walks around with a singlet and shorts, is he asking to be harassed?
Why Being a Feminist and Feminism Matters
“Some people ask why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights or something like that? Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is of course, part of human rights in general but to choose to use the vague expression of human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender.”
This might have been my favorite part in Chimamanda’s speech. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to use the word feminism and feminist because it calls attention to the fact that there is a gender divide. There is a gender problem that is specific to a woman and as feminists, we are here to address it.
How Can We Stop the Gender Injustice?
“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”
We each have a role to play when it comes to the issues that affect women and girls. I think that culture in Nigeria does play a role. We should not accept a culture that degrades or suppress women. If the culture says a woman is in second place to the man, we have to question that. If the culture emphasizes that the woman should not aspire to her own ambitions, we have to question that.
What do you think about Chimamanda’s speech and the role of women in Nigeria or in your country?