If you’ve been following my reviews, you’ve seen how head-over-heels I was (still am) for We Should All Be Feminists by this author.
And my feelings for that book haven’t changed. I still maintain that it’s the most articulate primer on Feminism that I have come across. But this book, Dear Ijeawele – A Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions is something else altogether.
So here I am, sharing my thoughts on it and some of the Best Quotes from Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Adichie.
Two Books on Feminism by Chimamanda Adichie
Right from the intro, you might have guessed that on a rating scale, both these feminist books are 5/5 glowing stars for me.
But if you ask me what does that even mean, in this particular case, I’ve to say, not much. Not when I feel the way I feel about these books. Because both these books mean so much to me that a numerical rating could never do them justice.
Though admittedly, one of the reasons why I feel strongly about these books is because I feel strongly about the causes that they represent.
And this is not to undermine the sheer brilliance of the manner through which Adichie communicates her message. Because she excels in packing a very effective, very hard-hitting punch in very few, super articulate words, all the while keeping the tone light and conversational.
And this book is especially more conversational (though no less thought-provoking) because it was inspired by a letter the author wrote to her friend, who at that time, was a new mother to a baby girl, who sought Adichie’s advice on ‘How to raise her girl as a Feminist‘.
This book is essentially Adichie’s response to her friend, sharing her 15 suggestions on how to raise a feminist.
But let me tell you, it’s no ordinary letter.
It’s a letter that should be laminated/framed, and passed on to the future generations. In-fact it’s a letter that should be made mandatory reading for everyone (yes, for everyone – girls and boys), right along with We Should All Be Feminists.
Because if We Should All Be Feminists was the best, most concise and articulate primer on Feminism, this is one on Parenting with respect to Gender Equality.
Which is why it’s a MUST READ for EVERYONE.
And I keep emphasizing everyone, because I read somewhere that this is a ‘Must Read Book for Girl Moms’, and I was like no, no, NO!!
This book, feminism, gender equality is not just for girl moms, it’s for boy moms, it’s for parents of all humans, which includes dads too, btw.
However, that being said, I personally feel like you don’t need to be a parent to read this book. We, as a society have had centuries of terrible conditioning that needs to be challenged/reversed/set right.
Which is why I highly recommend both these books to every one.
Start with We Should All be Feminists, but then pick this one up right away.
But if you could read only one, make it this one.
You can get these books on here – We Should All Be Feminists / Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions
With that, I hope I have made my case well for you to pick up this book, but in case you need more convincing, I’m sharing some of my favorite lines/quotes from the book.
Which I have to tell you took me a long while to narrow down, because I had quite literally highlighted 90% of the entire book!!
But worry not, I have limited myself to sharing only 10 ideas /quotes from the book that really spoke to me, and had me nodding my head till my neck started hurting. No, really!
Dear Ijeawele – Best Quotes by Chimamanda Adichie
1. What is your premise? Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally. Not “if only.” Not “as long as.” I matter equally. Full stop.
2. Do it together. Remember in primary school we learned that a verb was a “doing” word? Well, a father is as much a verb as a mother. Chudi should do everything that biology allows—which is everything but breastfeeding. […]
My friend Nwabu once told me that because his wife left when his kids were young, he became “Mr. Mom,” by which he meant that he did the daily care-giving. But he was not being a “Mr. Mom”; he was simply being a dad.
3. 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. Ever. […]
Gender roles are so deeply conditioned in us that we will often follow them even when they chafe against our true desires, our needs, our happiness. They are very difficult to unlearn, and so it is important to try to make sure that Chizalum rejects them from the beginning.
4. Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite. It is the idea of conditional female equality. Please reject this entirely. It is a hollow, appeasing, and bankrupt idea.
Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women or you do not. […]
Feminism Lite uses analogies like “he is the head and you are the neck.” Or “he is driving but you are in the front seat.”
More troubling is the idea, in Feminism Lite, that men are naturally superior but should be expected to “treat women well.” No. No. No. There must be more than male benevolence as the basis for a woman’s well-being. […]
Feminism Lite uses the language of “allowing.” Theresa May is the British prime minister and here is how a progressive British newspaper described her husband: “Philip May is known in politics as a man who has taken a back seat and allowed his wife, Theresa, to shine.” Allowed.
Now let us reverse it. Theresa May has allowed her husband to shine. Does it make sense? If Philip May were prime minister, perhaps we might hear that his wife had “supported” him from the background, or that she was “behind” him, or that she’d “stood by his side,” but we would never hear that she had “allowed” him to shine. “Allow” is a troubling word. “Allow” is about power.
5. Teach Chizalum to read. Teach her to love books. The best way is by casual example. […] Teach her to question language. Language is the repository of our prejudices, our beliefs, our assumptions.
But to teach her that, you will have to question your own language. A friend of mine says she will never call her daughter “princess.” People mean well when they say this, but “princess” is loaded with assumptions, of a girl’s delicacy, of the prince who will come to save her, etc. This friend prefers “angel” and “star.”
6. Try not to use words like “misogyny” and “patriarchy” too often with Chizalum.
We feminists can sometimes be too jargony, and jargon can sometimes feel too abstract. Don’t just label something misogynistic; tell her why it is, and tell her what would make it not be.
Teach her that if you criticize X in women but do not criticize X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women. For X please insert words like “anger,” “ambition,” “loudness,” “stubbornness,” “coldness,” “ruthlessness.”
7. Chizalum will notice very early on – because children are perceptive – what kind of beauty the mainstream world values. She will see it in magazines and films and television. She will see that whiteness is valued. She will notice that hair texture that is valued is straight or swingy, and hair that is valued falls down rather than stands up. She will encounter these values whether you like it or not.
So make sure that you create alternatives for her to see. Let her know that slim white women are beautiful, and that non-slim, non-white women are beautiful. Let her know that there are many individuals and many cultures that do not find the narrow mainstream definition of beauty attractive.
You will know your child best, and so you will know best how to affirm her own kind of beauty, how to protect her from looking at her own reflection with dissatisfaction. […] I cannot overstate the power of alternatives. She can counter ideas about static “gender roles” if she has been empowered by her familiarity with alternatives.
8. Teach her to question our culture’s selective use of biology as “reasons” for social norms. […]
We often use biology to explain the privileges that men have. The most common reason being men’s physical superiority. It is of-course true that men are in general physically stronger than women. But if we truly depended on biology as the root of social norms then children would be identified as their mother’s rather than their father’s.
Because when a child is born, the parent we are biologically and incontrovertibly certain of is the mother. We assume the father is who the mother says the father is.
9. In teaching her about oppression, be careful not to turn the oppressed into saints. […] Female misogyny exists, and to evade acknowledging it, is to create unnecessary opportunities for anti-feminists to try to discredit feminism.
I mean the sort of anti- feminists who will gleefully raise examples of women saying “I am not a feminist”, as though a person born with a vagina making this statement somehow automatically discredits feminism.
That a woman claims not to be feminist does not diminish the necessity of feminism. If anything, it makes us see the extent of the problem, the successful reach of patriarchy.
It shows us, too, that not all women are feminists, and not all men are misogynists.
And finally the line she chose to end her letter..
10. Do you have a headache after reading all this? Sorry. Next time don’t ask me how to raise your daughter feminist.
It made me giggle, while feeling a little sad at the same time.
Final Thoughts on Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions
Pick up this book. Read it. Share it. Gift it to every single new parent, who is receptive to it!
That’s all from my end, folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Have you read this book? Did you love it as much as I did? If not, then have I rambled on long enough to convince you to get it? 😀
On a more serious note (not that I wasn’t serious before 😛 ) – after reading these two amazing books by the author, I am now curious about her fiction books to see if the clarity of thought and her crisp communication style carries over to the other genre. Have you read any of her fiction books that you recommend?