Wow. What a good time for me to read this. Because right now in our country we are doing the most to “other” women. That somehow women are less than at all times. There are more women in the world, yet how many women are CEOs of fortune 500 countries? How many women are current leaders in government? How many women have become President of these United States? You would think at times that the U.S. for being that shining light in the darkness would be leaps and bounds above other countries, however, reading Adichie’s essay about feminism shows me we are not. We still expect women to be the nurterers, to give up their dreams in order to be that support for their husband and children. Is it any wonder that many states in the United States are rolling back women’s rights? That women are still not paid the same amount of money when compared to a man? That even between women the pay is still not equal depending on your race? We should not be surprised by this considering that feminism is still seen as a dirty word in 2019.
I loved how Adichie breaks down stereotypes between what is expected of boys and girls and then what is expected between men and women. She provides insights into what she has seen and experienced as a woman that makes no bones about being a feminist. She gets a bit into race, but does not deep dive on that. This is a very good essay if you want to just dip your toe into Adiche’s writing.
“Take my dear friend Louis, who is a brilliant, progressive man. We would have conversations and he would tell me: “I don’t see what you mean by things being different and harder for women. Maybe it was so in the past but not now. Everything is fine now for women.”
You sweet summer child.
“If you are a woman, you are not supposed to express anger, because it is threatening. I have a friend, an American woman, who took over a managerial position from a man. Her predecessor had been considered a “tough go-getter”; he was blunt and hard-charging and was particularly strict about the signing of time sheets. She took on her new job, and imagined herself equally tough, but perhaps a little kinder than him—he didn’t always realize that people had families, she said, and she did. Only weeks into her new job, she disciplined an employee about a forgery on a time sheet, the same thing her predecessor would have done. The employee then complained to top management about her style. She was aggressive and difficult to work with, the employee said. Other employees agreed. One said they had expected she would bring a “woman’s touch” to her job but that she hadn’t”
I just had to give mid-point feedback today for two employees and the feedback that I was given back by one of them is that I am unapproachable at times because I am too busy sometimes it seems. It took everything in me to not go, would you say that to a man? Cause I have noticed it’s fine when the men in our office are too busy to talk or look at something. Due to me being a woman I am supposed to stop what I am doing, SMILE, and ask them what can I do for them? It’s fine though. I was also told once a upon a time that it’s great that I am knowledgeable, but it makes people feel bad when they ask questions that I answer them back right away since it makes them feel stupid.
“We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case. We don’t teach boys to care about being likable. We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons. All over the world, there are so many magazine articles and books telling women what to do, how to be and not to be, in order to attract or please men. There are far fewer guides for men about pleasing women.”
“Because I am female, I’m expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Marriage can be a good thing, a source of joy, love, and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage, but we don’t teach boys to do the same?”
Being a single black woman in this day and age is painful. My family acts at times like I am just picky and should accept anyone to just say that I got married. One time one of my brothers said I was too selfish to have kids because I was actually focused on getting promoted at my job at the time. Are men selfish when they focus on work? Are men selfish when they delay marriage and children? Heck I don’t think marriage is for me because too many men I have dated have shown me who they are. They have made me think that I should be kissing their feet for the privilege of dating them. One guy had the nerve to tell me that I made him too happy and it confused him.
“We teach females that in relationships, compromise is what a woman is more likely to do. We raise girls to see each other as competitors—not for jobs or accomplishments, which in my opinion can be a good thing—but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way boys are. If we have sons, we don’t mind knowing about their girlfriends. But our daughters’ boyfriends? God forbid. (But we of course expect them to bring home the perfect man for marriage when the time is right.)”
I loved my mother (continue to love her) but she just made me feel bad about being a woman. I was told to hide my body at all times around my brothers. That my period was dirty and shameful. And she was disappointed that by the time I graduated college I didn’t have a boyfriend or was engaged. She talked about being a grandmother all the time. And when she talked about it, she was talking to me.
“We teach girls shame. Close your legs. Cover yourself. We make them feel as though by being born female, they are already guilty of something. And so girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. Who silence themselves. Who cannot say what they truly think. Who have turned pretence into an art form.”