No matter how much patriarchy tries to belittle or silence the feminist voice, feminist issues are important issues. Despite opinions that state feminism is not visible anymore and that problems are solved, we need to see that feminism is for everybody and improves all genders’ lives. That’s what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shows with the We Should All Be Feminists book. In this book club episode, we shared our feelings and impressions of the book, reflected on the gender biases’ impacts on daily lives, and looked at similarities in patriarchal manifestations over time and space.
“It’s not me, it’s society”, Debora Capoccia.
Words and books have the power to surface truth and build connections. They can function as pieces of evidence. For Debora, the book made the extent of gender roles and expectations visible. The fact patriarchy functions globally and the book succeeds in showcasing it raises awareness of feminism’s relevance. The conversation started years ago, but we still have a long road to reach as many societies and generations as possible. That’s what we did today. Coming from different cultural backgrounds, we saw that clothes, the ring, and behaviors are controlling tools used as well in Portuguese, Italian, Nigerian, Jamaican, and US societies. The author made us realize they are not that different in the way they work.
It’s the same case with time. Ana Catarina recalls memories of her grandmother teaching her not to sit with open legs and not to go in a cafe by herself. It made her understand the problem exceeds her family, and the reasoning had to be found outside. Gender performance is inherited, and the arguments pass subconsciously from generation to generation. For example, we don’t question the reasons we dress a certain way. The author tells the story of her first class and her worries over wearing a suit or skirt, makeup, or no makeup. She admits the expectations affected her job. Instead of focusing on work, she was consumed by how people will perceive her. Daily, we are put to choose between comfort, identity, societal pressure, and prejudices. Appearance comes to weigh more than abilities, and knowledge. Clothes ended up being associated with values.
How do I perform my gender today?
What’s interesting to analyze is how the patriarchal system plays on destabilizing its target emotionally and psychologically. That’s why we think we’re alone when feeling gender stereotypes. For Leah, the book reassured her that questions like Will I be taken seriously if I wear a skirt and heels? Is the uncomfortable suit what I want? are universal, and not just her gender performance.
In Italy, Debora narrates the time when she saw an elderly woman wearing pants for the first time and shook the portrayal with the skirt. It’s a good example of how we internalize these roles. On the same note, Leah thinks about how both men and women assign roles, “we teach each other how to be women, how to shrink, and how to perform.” It’s a cycle of adopting a role and passing it on to a daughter, friend, or mother.
Shanice reflected on the impacts on her family relations. Gender changed the way she saw her brothers and sisters and the expectations she put on them. But a book like We should all be feminists and discussions like the Pink Talks podcasts push us to unlearn and start learning better parenting practices. Do not let concepts like manly or feminine affect family relations and children’s identity!
Who could get enough of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s voice? That’s why you need to date her other books mentioned in the episode, as well as her inspiring TED talk. Take it as a get-to-know-yourself exercise where you put the question of identity and gender in your home, society, culture, and country. Listen to the full episode as guidance through questions and relatable experiences from the author and the readers.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. (2014). We Should All Be Feminists. Fourth Estate. We Should All Be Feminists: Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. (2017). Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. Knopf Publishers. Amazon.com: Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. (2009). The Thing Around Your Neck. Fourth Estate (UK), Knopf (US). The Thing Around Your Neck: Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. (2013). Americanah. Knopf Publishers. Americanah – Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi: Books