Summary of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We Should All Be Feminists by bestselling Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a prominent figure for social change, diversity, and global women’s rights, draws on her personal experiences growing up in Nigeria, as well as her thoughts on what it means to be a feminist, and how gender roles and norms are detrimental to both men and women.

The book begins with a brief introduction, in which Adichie explains that the vignettes were inspired by a lecture she gave during a conference focused on African culture and literature. Admitting that she knew her discussion of feminism and the stereotypes that accompany the word would be unpopular, she hoped that both the lecture and the subsequent book would lead to an important conversation about both African and global feminism.

The book then jumps into a series of vignettes, primarily about Adichie’s childhood in Lagos, Nigeria. In the first story, Adichie recounts a conversation with her friend Okoloma, who died in 2005. She and Okoloma, close friends, enjoyed debating with each other about challenging topics, including politics, books, culture, and religion. In a heated debate, Okoloma had called her a feminist — though Adichie admits she didn’t know what the word meant at the time, Okoloma had said it with malice, as one might say the word “terrorist.” Adichie never forgot that moment.

In another story from her childhood, she and a boy in the class were rivals for the position of hall monitor. Though Adichie received the best score in the class on the most recent test, the teacher selected the boy for the position. Although Adichie knew this was unfair at the time, she didn’t understand that the teacher’s choice came from his own familiarity with seeing men in positions of power. When Adichie finally asked the teacher why she didn’t get the position, the teacher said he thought it was obvious that the position would have to go to a boy. Adichie takes on other moments of sexism common in Nigerian culture when she writes about a male companion who didn’t understand why she was upset when a valet thanked him for the tip she paid. Adichie had to explain to him that despite the fact that she had given the valet the money, he assumed that Adichie’s money must have come from a man, and thus thanked her male companion.

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Discrimination is Everywhere

The #MeToo movement of 2018, which began as an outing of sexual harassment and sexual assault, cascaded into analysis of gender inequality in the workplace in 2019, encompassing not only pay inequity but also barriers to advancement and representation of women in leadership. In addition, several high-profile class action lawsuits have made pay equity a hot topic in executive boardrooms across the country. Our research shows that the uncontrolled gender pay gap, which takes the ratio of the median earnings of women to men without controlling for various compensable factors, has only decreased by $0.07 since 2015. In 2020, women make only $0.81 for every dollar a man makes.”

Sexist Stereotypes Create Social Snares

And if you choose not to have children, you haven’t escaped the struggle or the stigma — not by a long shot! That’s because sexism is notorious for creating impossible double standards. If you have children and you work, you’re a bad mother. If you don’t have children, you’re often belittled and treated like a second-class citizen because women are expected to be wives and mothers. No matter what you do, you can’t win! And even if these biases aren’t legally enforced, social stigma is a powerful threat that can make life unbearable for many women. Sexist biases also fail to consider a number of important factors like the fact that not every woman can have children. And likewise, even if they have the physical capability to give birth, many women simply don’t want to! Both of these are completely valid reasons for not becoming a parent and both should be respected. Instead of treating women like breeding stock, maybe we should consider the fact that every woman is a human being with rights, desires, and preferences of her own. And no woman was put on this earth for the sole purpose of giving birth!

Equity vs Equality

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Final Summary

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the author of novels, short stories, and non-fiction. She was born in Enugu, Nigeria. Her most recent novel is Americanah. She has won many awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship and a Women’s Prize for fiction.

Feminism has often been maligned and misunderstood. As women have fought for equality, they have been accused of hating men or attempting to create a society that privileges women over men. But nothing could be further from the truth! Rather, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, feminism is simply the belief that women should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as men. And if we were all feminists, we could end discrimination in society and in the workplace. We could cultivate a culture of equity that bridges the gap in gender equality and enables women to feel empowered, safe, and supported. That’s why we should all be feminists: because feminism simply makes the world a better place!

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