Now more than ever is an important time in our country for women to build their own tribe. One of our most recent renowned authors is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who wrote We Should All Be Feminists. Her newest book continues on this theme and is titled Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. Chimamanda grew up in Nigeria, was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, and has emerged as one of the most prominent voices in African literature today.
Written and released prior to Mother’s Day this year, it was written in response to a friend who asked for advice on how to raise her (yet to be born) daughter as a feminist. The book is simple, elegant, and can be very easily read in a day. What I loved most about the book is that the themes discussed can be applied for women at any stage in life, regardless of motherhood.
Here are my 15 biggest takeaways from the book. It is enlightening, empowering and will want to make you share it immediately with all of the strong women in your life...perhaps some male allies as well.
- Feminism is contextual: it is not set in stone nor are rules written in black or white on how to be one.
- Women should say “I matter.” Full stop and without any conditions (ie “ I matter only if __ happens.”)
- Assigning gender roles restricts people from being a full person.
- Gender roles are difficult to unlearn so use language wisely as early on as possible: what you don’t say is just as important as what you do say.
- Everyone has an opinion about what you should do - what matters most is what you want for yourself.
- Give yourself room to fail.
- Stop conditioning women to see marriage as a prize or something to aspire to.
- Do not measure a girl on a scale of what she should be. Measure her on being the best version of herself.
- A girl’s job is not to be likable but to be her full self that is aware of humanity. Be honest, kind and brave.
- People will use tradition to justify anything.
- A girl is not an object to be liked or disliked, but a subject who can choose to like or dislike.
- Feminist and femininity are not mutually exclusive. A girl can choose to look feminine and also be a feminist.
- Don’t attach value to being different as we all will need to thrive in a diverse world. Don’t universalize your own standards: everyone is different which should be embraced.
- Women are not morally better than men. They are human and should not be seen any differently. Everyone makes mistakes.
- “Because you are a girl” is never a reason for anything.