BOOK: Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
AUTHOR: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
PUBLISHER: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
RELEASE YEAR: 2017
Spanning an unintimidating 34 pages, Dear Ijeawele, sees the author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, share her fundamentals convictions on feminism. The book is a slightly expanded version of a letter she wrote as a Facebook post on October 12, 2016. It was written in response to a friend seeking advice on inculcating feminist values into her newborn daughter, Ijeawele. Owing to the short length of the book, I easily made quick work of it, anyone would. The brevity notwithstanding, Dear Ijeawele still manages to be comprehensive, helping to shine light and offer clarity on some issues. For a mind seeking to understand some grey areas as regards the topic of feminism, this was an enlightening read.
It’s no news that Chimamanda is a strong advocate of feminist values. With Dear Ijeawele, Chimamanda delineates the tracks on which the sort of feminism she advocates for runs. Acknowledging the diversifications that exist in the feminist school of thought, Chimamanda ensures to distinguish the feminist values she upholds. Citing strong and convincing influences that have, over time, strengthened her resolve on some of the suggestions in the book.
I should point out that, on moral and religious grounds, I didn’t particularly agree with every point in the manifesto. However, I respect how well laid out the suggestions were. The arguments, which were obviously drawn from a place of deep understanding and conviction, pulsate with intellectual dexterity. I honestly wish every other argument I would have to engage would be this intellectually sound and objective. But, then again, not everyone is, and not everyone will be Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Dear Ijeawele further reemphasizes how feminism shouldn’t be a construct driven by feminine angst and a need for retribution. I, not even for my gender privilege, would not deny that the patriarchal mechanism is manipulative, evil and oppressive. It is, indeed, a maleficent monster whose subtlety of operation only emphasizes the need for it to be tamed. But, as Chimamanda shows, the quest for equity needs to be driven by intellect and not mere emotions. Such overreliance on emotion is dangerous in the face of the systematic oppression that stems from the mechanism of patriarchy. Emotion is too fragile, also undependable, a weapon to be relied upon in fighting patriarchy and male chauvinism in society.
If we don’t place the straight jacket of gender roles on children, we give them space to reach their full potential.
Teach her that her standards are for her alone, and not for other people. This is the only necessary form of humility.
What are the things that women cannot do because they are women? Do these things have cultural prestige? If so, why are only men allowed to do things that have cultural prestige.
Teach her that if you criticize X in women but do not criticize X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women.