9 Nuggets from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists

Sunday, 27 November 2016

I love small, easily digestible books that, despite their short length, can still stay with you for weeks. I finally read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists, on my way to and from the Leadership Summit for Women, an annual intergenerational community-wide event that aims to create a safe space for the diverse voices of women, trans* individuals and our allies. It is presented by YWCA Hamilton, McMaster University, and the McMaster Students Union. It was obviously a perfect read during an inspiring and rousing day.

I jotted down my favourite quotations from We Should All Be Feminists. It's a book I encourage everyone to read. Thankfully, many teenagers will have the opportunity. 

Ngozi Adichie on what we teach girls ...
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”

“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.

“We teach girls shame. “Close your legs. Cover yourself.” We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up — and this is the worst thing we do to girls — they grow up to be women who have turned pretence into an art form.”

Ngozi Adichie on gender ...
“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.”

“What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender?”

“If we keep seeing only men as heads of corporations, it starts to seem "natural" that only men should be heads of corporations.”

“Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. I am angry. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change. In addition to anger, I am also hopeful, because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to remake themselves for the better.”
Ngozi Adichie on femininity ...
“I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.”

Ngozi Adichie on being a feminist ...
“My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.”

Review: Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

Sunday, 20 November 2016
"Badasses are rampant in fiction, but they're not as rare in real life as one might believe. They know how to do everything, or at least are confident and knowledgeable enough to give people that impression. They don't worry about having to please everybody, because they make the right people happy without trying, and don't care about the rest. They are loved and feared. They exude confidence and bleed bon mots. They learn from their mistakes and take their shortcomings in stride. Even if they're short, they stand tall. Even if they aren't beautiful, they are sexy in their own way. It's impossible to surprise or shock them: they are ready for anything." — Mara Wilson, Where Am I Now?  
I was introduced to Mara Wilson as most children of the late 80s and early 90s were — her roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Matilda, and Miracle on 34th Street. I was reintroduced to her a number of years ago when I stumbled upon her Twitter account where she has gained a reputation for fiercely funny one-liners. (See Buzzfeed's article 23 Times Mara Wilson Was The Comedy Queen Of Twitter.)

Wilson very quickly became one of my favourite feminist voices online, so when I heard she was publishing a book, it climbed to the top of my to-read list. Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame is partly a witty account of a child navigating the very adult world of show business; however, it's so much more. Through moving and insightful essays, Wilson explores growing up in a household of boys after her mother's death, puberty as a child actor, mental health, sexuality, and finding one's voice.

It won't come as a surprise, but my favourite part of Where Am I Now? happens when Wilson pens a letter to a fictional character I'm quite fond of — Matilda, who Wilson famously played in the 1996 film adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic. "Your book was my favourite," she writes. "There weren't many other girl characters I could look up to." The film premiered, gaining a cult following, around the same time Wilson lost her mother to cancer. The raw essay, simply titled "a letter", illuminates the ways in which Wilson was shaped by both her mother and Matilda.

You don't have to be a fan of Mara Wilson's filmography or follow her on Twitter to enjoy Where Am I Now? Wilson's universal struggles — love, loss, family, and friendship — make her immediately relatable (and likeable). Heartwarming and heartbreaking, Where Am I Know? might just be my favourite memoir of the year so far (and it's already November!).

Telling Tales 2016

Tuesday, 15 November 2016
Telling Tales is a yearlong reading campaign dedicated to promoting literacy and inspiring a love of reading. If you know anything about me, and my career so far, you'll know that both of these things are monumentally important to me. Each September, Telling Tales culminates in a one-day festival that brings thousands of young book lovers and their parents to Westfield Heritage Village. If you haven't been, Westfield Heritage Village is "a living history museum with over 30 historic buildings surrounded by 324 acres of woodlands and meadows with several well-marked nature trails." Owned and operated by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, Westfield has, among its many highlights, a church, a general store, a blacksmith's shop, and a number of homesteads.

I've blogged about Telling Tales before, but because it is so special to me, I thought it deserved a revisit. We're incredibly lucky to have this unique literary festival in the Greater Hamilton Area. You don't have to be a kid (or have kids) to enjoy it — and I'm the perfect example of that.

Here are a few of my Telling Tales highlights, among them a performance by Hamilton Youth Poets.

Hamilton Haunts: Ottawa Street

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Somehow it's November and I've yet to post photos from the blogger tour I was invited to by the Ottawa Street BIA back in the summer. Highlighting some of Ottawa Street's shops and restaurants, the tour took local bloggers — and a few from Niagara — to one of #HamOnt's most unique streets, giving us the chance to talk to shop owners and learn a little bit about Ottawa Street's past. 

Petal to the Metal was making its market debut at the Ottawa Street Farmers' Market on the day we visited. They're Ontario's first mobile flower shop, and I've seen them popping up all over the city, most recently at the Hamilton Flea. 

AllSorts Gallery
Sadly enough, AllSorts Gallery is somewhere I've just never visited in nearly a decade in Hamilton. A local artists co-op, it sells local, handmade, and unique artistic gifts. I'll definitely be back in mid-to-late December when I inevitably realize I need to start my holiday shopping!

Antique Avenue
At 8000 square feet, Antique Avenue has been my go-to for unique antiques and reasonably priced records for the past few years. They've recently rid themselves of their incredible vintage book collection, but I won't hold that against them. There are so many other things to keep you busy in Antique Avenue for hours.

Antiques Unlocked
"Hey, Jes. Is that 'not your typewriter?'" Yes, bloggers. Yes, it is.

Remember When Antique Emporium 
The former Avon Theatre opened as a 770-seat theatre called the Avalon in 1941. It became the Avon in 1969 and ceased to be a theatre in 1985. Today it houses Remember When Antique Emporium.

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