Summary of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Discrimination is Everywhere

If you’re unfamiliar with feminism, you may find yourself approaching this book with questions like, “Why do we even need feminism now?” or “Don’t women have it pretty great?” And on the surface, that might appear to be true. After a long history of sexist discrimination, women now have the right to vote, to own property, and to work outside the home. In many cases, women also have the freedom to own their own bodies by having access to abortion, birth control pills, and the freedom to wear what they want. So, given the existence of these multitudinous rights, why do we still need feminism? What else do we need to fight for? The author observes that there are actually a number of areas in which women still face discrimination. The workplace is one of the primary arenas in which inequality is blatantly displayed. For example, many people are aware that the gender pay gap exists. But a recent study conducted by the popular website PayScale has shed some new light on the subject. PayScale’s Gender Pay Gap Report for 2020 reports that “recently, pay equity has been thrust under a glaring media spotlight.

Sexist Stereotypes Create Social Snares

Unfortunately, these are just some of the tactics that are used to hold women hostage. In the previous chapter, we mentioned that women are often penalized in the workplace if they have children. But working mothers are also subjected to a number of social penalties. For example, everyone understands and agrees that a child needs to spend time with their parents. But no one complains when fathers work long hours, miss school plays, or fail to be there for their child. By contrast, when a working mother is running late or brings a store-bought snack to soccer practice instead of a home-made option, she is criticized as a bad mother or accused of prioritizing her job over her child. These criticisms all stack up to solidify the impression that a woman’s place is in the home and that women should devote their lives to being mothers and homemakers. As a result of this unfounded and sexist prejudice, many working mothers and career women lack the support they need

Equity vs Equality

Through the course of the previous chapters, we’ve examined a few of the reasons why feminism is necessary and why women still face discrimination. But now it’s time to take a look at some answers. If everyone was a feminist, what would that mean for our society? How would our lives change? The author posits that the answer lies in differentiating between equity and equality. The Equality and Inclusion office at Winston Salem University provides a helpful explanation of these differences when they assert that: “the terms equality and equity are often used interchangeably; however, they differ in important ways. Equality is typically defined as treating everyone the same and giving everyone access to the same opportunities. Meanwhile, equity refers to proportional representation (by race, class, gender, etc.) in those same opportunities. To achieve equity, policies and procedures may result in an unequal distribution of resources. For example, need-based financial aid reserves money specifically for low-income students. Although unequal, this is considered equitable because it is necessary to provide access to higher education for low-income students.” When applied to feminism, this principle would mean that we strike a balance between equity and equality with regard to our treatment of men and women. For example, we could acknowledge that men and women are different, both physically and mentally, and that we should address their differing needs. This might mean that we make appropriate allowances for working women who have children and might need such accommodations as paid maternity leave, child care, etc. Likewise, our society might put an increased emphasis on safety and equality for women that would help to shift our perception of women’s rights. By eliminating victim blaming and slut shaming, we could begin to end rape culture and help women to feel safe, go out, and enjoy themselves without the fear of being objectified or sexualized by men.

Final Summary

Ultimately, Adichie examines how gender roles and gender norms in Africa and beyond are detrimental not only for women but for men as well — by limiting the roles that each gender can play in society, everyone loses. She makes a plea at the end of her book for everyone, no matter gender, country of origin, race, religion, or sexual preference, to embrace feminism. She encourages men to consider how sexism has forced them to avoid being vulnerable, and how it forces women to appear weak. At the end of the essay, Adichie defines feminists for herself, saying that in her mind, feminism is the act of admitting that there is something wrong with gender as it stands in the world today; feminists are the people who are invested in talking and doing something about it.

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