Feminism 101

I figure if a book is good enough for every 16 year old in Sweden, it’s probably worth my time. So after guiltily letting it decorate our coffee table for a couple weeks, I read “We Should All Be Feminists,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay (adapted from her 2012 TED talk) about the importance of the paleo diet. Just kidding. It’s about feminism, duh.

You might have heard the TED version sampled on Beyonce’s “Flawless.” But if you need any further convincing to check it out, read on.

In a quick and deeply relatable 64-page glimpse into her Nigerian upbringing, Adichie reminds us that feminism is a way of life, practiced on a daily basis in gestures big and small. Adichie’s humor and honesty make you cheer for her from the beginning. You’ll wince and smile along with her all-too-familiar struggles as a girl finding her footing as a woman.

And the takeaway is this — feminism is not a dirty word or an extremist movement. It is not a call for a hostile female takeover of the world, it is not something only defined by the fact “you don't wear makeup, you don't shave, always angry, you don't have a sense of humor.” Adichie defines a feminist as “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.” Much like the essay, this definition is simple and cuts through the politicization that can so often act as a barrier to understanding what it truly means to be a feminist. Sure, it’s not the most sophisticated essay on the topic, but that’s not the point. “We Should All Be Feminists” is reminder for us all to push for more, demand change and refuse to stop because things are “better.” Better is not enough.

I can only hope that when I pass the book onto my teenage niece (don’t worry, I’ll send her some chocolates, too), she gets the message. That she’s worth as much as any man, that she can be strong and feminine and confident and delicate and everything she wants to be. Adichie, the Swedes and her aunt are pulling for her.