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.”
“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.”