Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and women who are truer to themselves.
I am a mostly passive feminist. I am definitely a feminist. I believe women have the right to equal rights and equal opportunities. I believe people should be able to be the people they are and not have to fit within prescribed cultural gender roles. What I don’t do is actively work on smashing the patriarchy most days. I spent many years and my professional career in Washington DC, an odd bastion of the patriarchy where a woman can get ahead so long as she adheres to traditionally masculine traits. If you are going to live and work in a patriarchal structure, it’s very hard to smash that structure and get ahead. I stopped thinking about feminism and gender issues. But there is one thing about which I will fight to the death, the value of feminism – idea, word and label. I will ruin a dinner party or make people super uncomfortable if they misuse or put down feminism or use feminist as a derogatory term. Nothing makes me cringe like a woman who claims not to identify as a feminist while also benefiting from over one hundred years of feminist struggle. Now I live in the more openly misogynist Texas and think about feminism and gender a lot more.
Anyway, since feminism was un-African, I decided I would now call myself a Happy African Feminist. Then a dear friend told me that calling myself a feminist meant that I hated men. So I decided I would now be a Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men. At some point I was a Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men and Who Likes to Wear Lip Gloss and High Heels for Herself and Not For Men.
Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists is the transcription of her 2013 Tedx Talk. It is short, but deeply personal and packed with her dream of a time when we are formed by our interests and abilities, not our gender. The challenge of feminism is to become intersectional and to reclaim the word feminist from it’s negative connotations. The challenge is to convince all people that they are feminists. Women of all cultures, nations, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual identities and birth genders have experiences with oppression specific to being a woman. Addressing the oppression of all women is what feminism is about.
I am what a feminist looks like and so are you.