WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS

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In this essay -- adapted from her TEDx talk of the same name -- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author's exploration of what it means to be a woman now -- and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

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(996 ratings; 4.3)

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LibraryThing member tootstorm
Feminism is a hard topic to talk about. It only takes two seconds for me to start rambling an incoherent mess without a point, without an argument. The underlying social issues are complex, and the complexity is so ingrained throughout every aspect of our culture that it feels impossible to tackle;
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how can focusing on a single aspect -- a single page, a single frame, a single pixel -- reflect the greater picture?

It’s impossible; it’s infuriating; it’s stupid.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay, ‘We Should All Be Feminists,’ is a wonderfully-written, level-headed introduction and summary of what -- apparently not just American or Western -- modern cultures interpret as The Trouble With Feminism. I don’t know when I became a feminist. I used to not be. In high school, I held the same gross views as many men’s rights activists, and even had a pick-up artist phase (to my great embarrassment). If I were to try rationalizing a story-book history, I might say it was a combination of my higher education (and the role-models that came with it), a period of confused identity (incl. gender), and, through that difficult period, having only women as friends (many of them gay). I also grew up in Texas, where masculinity is, in particular, venerated as the ultimate tradition. But now I’m a feminist, or try to be, for whatever that’s worth.

Chimananda’s important essay has its faults, and those faults almost exclusively relate to: a) Its short length, b) its being based on a 2012 speech, and c) it might just be preaching to the choir -- her arguments may be safe and ‘obvious.’

Without question, sexism / feminism cannot be distilled down to a 45-page argument. At this length, things are kept simple, arguments are backed up using generalizations and anecdotal experiences.

Being based on a TED Talk she delivered in 2012, the unique cadence and language of a speech persist into the essay. It’s better to listen to than to read.

The last one obviously depends on the audience reading Chimamanda’s speech. Some of her arguments were obvious to me before reading -- that, e.g., men still overwhelmingly lead our society because it’s tradition; because physical strength was more important than intelligence when these foundations were set -- and others were only obvious after I read them -- that, e.g., preference for the broad term human rights is an exclusionary tactic (however unintentional) meant to diminish and deny feminist debate.

No matter how obvious they might be, however, that’s not an awareness we execute moment to moment when unconscious tradition rears its ugly, traditional head. For example, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has an American friend -- she has a lot of friends in this essay -- who took over a managerial position only to be criticized by her employees for being tough and not bringing a ‘woman’s touch’ to a position that didn’t ask for one. I also have friends -- I suspect we all do -- in academia, who face similar discrimination from students and faculty. (Luckily, the discrimination tends to be correlated with age.) It’s an unconscious expectation from everyone, even feminists, because that division of masculinity and femininity, of logic and emotion (e.g., hysteria), is the normal expectation for our culture. & it’s rationalized away as a product of something like biology, thus applying the appearance of legitimacy and research.

Chimamanda also relates a story of a young woman being gang-raped at a Nigerian university. The response was quick to shift towards blaming the victim because she was a woman, and something in her behavior or attitude or personality must have called the incident down on her as punishment. (The men being men was forgivable.) It’s hard to pretend this is geographically-unique -- that it doesn’t happen in America, where Asking For It is a go-to stereotype from young men (and women) in the comment section of any relevant story or video.

Again, it’s infuriating, all the stigmas being bred by this persistent discrimination. But a feminist can’t get angry, because to get angry diminishes the rationality of your argument, or because women can’t be angry or threatening and be taken seriously. But it’s an angry issue, as Chimamanda argues -- we need to be angry at the grave injustices of the world. Being angry and being outspoken is sometimes a necessary means to facilitate a positive social change, and we need those changes to occur now, not tomorrow, not next year, and not for the next generation.

‘We Should All Be Feminists’ is an excellent introduction or refresher to necessary ideas. It may not distill it to a perfect argument for many people -- and its hopeful tone may not be particularly realistic -- but it’s a 30-minute expression of one of the most important social justice issues frustrating the world today.

’Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.’
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LibraryThing member kidzdoc
This outstanding work, which was based on a 2012 TedxEuston talk given by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, provides a redefinition of what feminism should be in the 21st century in Africa and the rest of the world, when most women in developing and developed societies continue to experience external
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gender discrimination and internal self doubt and feelings of diminished worth based on cultural expectations and limitations placed on them. It's a short work that can be easily read in 1-2 hours, but its observations and ideas deserve to be frequently re-examined, particularly when the rights of women are being threatened and curtailed in the United States and elsewhere by men in elected and appointed positions of power.
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LibraryThing member aznstarlette
Very short read - less than sixty pages long - since it is a modified version of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TEDxEuston talk. If you have not watched it yet, I highly encourage you, man or woman, to do so. Eloquent. Simple. But so powerful. 'We Should All Be Feminists' also inspired Beyonce's
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'Flawless' - the full version directly features Adichie.
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LibraryThing member AR_bookbird
This is a Vintage Short. It is a modified version of of a talk the author gave in 2012 at TEDxEuston. It is short but very powerful! Feminism is described in terms of human rights and how, if we can all make small but powerful modifications in our way of thinking we can make the world better for
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everyone!
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LibraryThing member Petroglyph
In this essay/talk, Adichie sets out what I think is a basic. all-round case for feminism: if you think women and men ought to be treated equally, and if you think that sexism and patriarchal structures present obstacles, then you are a feminist. It's astonishing how popular such a basic statement
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of intent is: none of it should be controversial, but apparently it still is.

Part of that is perhaps that it's easy to affirm basic moral principles without then also taking action. Part of it is, perhaps, a measure of virtue-signaling. Then again, freedoms and ideals are always under threat, and efforts to preserve any gains that may have been won are at least as important as the effort spent in acquiring them in the first place.

So yes, it's sad that basic texts like these are still necessary, but it's a good thing that people keep putting them out there.
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LibraryThing member jmchshannon
If you have not had a chance to read this short little gem of a book, then you need to drop what you are doing right now and read it. Its message of true gender equality and what that means is so simple and yet so profound. Ms. Adichie strips away the negative connotations from the word
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“feminist” and shines a light on its true meaning. She does so in a placatory manner, showing through her words and her mannerisms that being a feminist does not mean being a bra-burning, hate-spewing radical. Her frank speech is refreshing in not only its message but its encompassing nature. We Should All Be Feminists should be a mandatory reading assignment for every man, woman, and child on this planet.
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LibraryThing member Erika.D
Excellent book! I have always wanted to read something by this author and this was perfect for my first one. Well written, engaging, thought provoking and interesting. I felt like Adichie was sitting with me just talking and sharing her thoughts. Highly recommended!
LibraryThing member breic
While I largely agree with Adichie, I can't say that I found anything new here (except for a few Nigerian twists). Maybe it is more inspirational as a TED talk or audiobook.
LibraryThing member KLmesoftly
succinct but powerful, both as manifesto and as personal memoir. great feminism 101 tract.
LibraryThing member bragan
This small, slim volume contains one essay, based on a TED talk the author did in 2012. In it, she talks about the unfair assumptions about and expectations of women in her home country of Nigeria and in the US, why the gender-based attitudes we raise our kids with are harmful to both girls and
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boys, and why "feminist" is not and should not be a dirty word.

This is a topic whose discussion can and does fill a small library's worth of books, but Adiche pares the whole thing down to its essentials. The things she has to say are, at heart, pretty simple, but they're simple things that need saying, and she expresses them well. Definitely worth reading, whoever you are and whatever your thoughts about feminism.
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LibraryThing member Sheila1957
I found this book interesting but way too short. While I liked her idea of teaching our children on respecting and valuing women, I would like to have had examples on how to do it. I would have liked to see success stories of women being valued and respected. This is a very timely book.
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Unfortunately we have not come as far as we think and hope.
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LibraryThing member sturlington
An essay based on a TED Talk given at a conference with an African focus, this rallying cry feminism is aimed primarily at Nigerian or African audiences who do not share the history of Western feminism. To readers who have been steeped in feminist theory for decades, it may seem a bit basic, but it
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is clearly and strongly written and would make a good gift for young women who may not know what feminism really means. I especially appreciate how Adichie tackles the negative connotations associated with the word "feminist" and her use of anecdotes to support her points.
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LibraryThing member Narshkite
A tiny book with large print, this would be a 15 page essay if it were in standard form. This is basic information about feminism, and a good start if you know people who do not understand the meaning of that word. The slightly different pov coming from Nigerian culture were interesting. However,
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there is an antiquated view of gender which permeates every page. I have concerns that the idea that there is one way to be a man or woman leads some people to unhealthy decisions, rather than being a butch woman of femme man, but that is beyond the scope of this essay. Within the scope is the unfortunate choice to dwell on the characteristics that define the two historical genders, and the implicit message that binary gender is biological fact rather than a social construct. All in all a well spent half hour or so, but much of the essay rests on a flawed definition of gender.
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LibraryThing member flydodofly
A short essay, to the point and on a very important topic, from yet another angle of an author from Africa. Yes, we should all be feminists, because the gender problem is still with us, it is not solved yet, and it needs every help it can get.
LibraryThing member bell7
In an essay expanded from her TED talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gives an impassioned plea for equality and taking the word "feminism" back from its layered and not always pleasant meanings. Excellent writing that's at once thought-provoking and a call to action.
LibraryThing member quiBee
This was a superb essay written in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's unique style. It was intelligent and well reasoned. She talks about discrimination both institutionalized and unrecognized.
LibraryThing member lycomayflower
Slim (adapted from a TED Talk) discussion of feminism. An excellent distillation of what ought to be self-evident about women in the world but isn't. I especially enjoyed her points about why we should think about gender, about why saying things like, "but I don't think about gender at all" is not
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helpful.
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LibraryThing member ASKelmore
This tiny little book contains more within its 50 pages that many longer tomes. It is simple and to the point. The title is not just a refrain; it’s an obvious statement of fact. Women should be feminists. Men should be feminists. We should all want the social, political and economic equality of
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the sexes.

This booklet is based off of a TEDx talk Ms. Adichie gave in 2012. You may have heard her previous talk about stories; if you haven’t, check it out online. I had heard great things about this one, and finally purchased it last week. Of course, if I were a 16-year-old student in Sweden, I would have already received it.

In such a short book she manages to address issues of culture, of normalizing men in positions of power. She also points out the ways in which gender inequality harms men. It’s not just a problem for us ladies; toxic masculinity and the pressures men face to ‘be manly’ are outcomes of gender inequality as well. In my favorite passage she smacks down those annoying comments calling for feminists to instead talk about human rights instead of gender rights. “Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender.”

That actually got me thinking a bit about this political cycle in the U.S., and even more so when she speaks later about the need to also understand that class is an issue, but that even poor men still have privileges over women even if they do not also have wealth. I keep thinking about Bernie Sanders and what I’ve been seeing as his attempt to whittle everything down to class. There are intersections of which class is hugely important, but looking at class alone is totally insufficient to address the problems many people face. We need to look at racism. We need to look at sexism. And we need to look at class. I’m having a hard time being able to support him (in the primary) because I think he genuinely believes that if we fixed income inequality, all these other problems would disappear, and I just don’t agree.

Before I wrap this up, I do want to point out something. I know that there are many women that I would otherwise classify as feminists who hate the term because of its association with White Feminism™ and the type of privileged white women who ignore intersections of race and gender, and class and gender. And I totally get that. But I still think the premise Ms. Adichie shares holds: we should all (men and women alike) seek gender equality.
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LibraryThing member klburnside
This book is a modified version of a TED talk Adichie gave regarding the importance of feminism. It was nothing new or earth shattering for me, but important nonetheless.

I will say it feels like cheating to add this to my list of read books, since it only took ten minutes to read.
LibraryThing member hemlokgang
Ms. Adichie, as always, writes clearly and well. Given the current status of women in Nigerian culture specifically, and cultures at large, it would be interesting to know more about her personal path in life. This essay on feminism does not necessarily reveal any new, earth shattering sociological
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information, yet I set it down feeling that this is an excellent primer for young people, boys and girls. I will acknowledge that I had fallen into the habit of thinking of myself as a humanist, wanting equal rights for all. However, using the author's cited definition: "a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes", I am a feminist. Adichie notes that as long as significant inequalities persist, this term remains relevant. Sold!
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LibraryThing member scott.r
Easy to breeze through, to accept the premise, to appreciate the flow, to understand why. Not much harder to poke holes, to get particular, to feel defensive. She's aware of this and addresses it reasonably, but in so doing falls to generalizing, which is what has put us in this predicament.
LibraryThing member bness2
Short and right on target. The title says it all. We should all be feminists, because inequality between the sexes hurts both sexes. It is about time we recognized that and did something about it.

Notable quote from the book:

"Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the
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full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture."
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LibraryThing member BenKline
This is a very quick (obviously) read, based on one of her TEDx talks. (It reads exactly like a talk, so I can see how this was taken from a conference talk).

While I absolutely agree with her main idea and issue (gender equality, etc.), and I find myself agreeing with many of her points, there are
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a few (very few) that I do disagree with. I also find the talk/book to be.... interesting in that it is very (very) heavily anecdotal. No stats are given, no real "news/sources/information" is given. Its (nearly every new section starts this way) very "I have a friend who" or "I know someone who" or "this one girl told me" or "this one woman wears a wedding ring BECAUSE" and some of that.... is problematic. Especially for instance, the story of the woman who wears a wedding real _because_ __SHE__ feels that its the only way to get respect. Which, COULD very well be... but we don't know for SURE that thats true. We're not told (IF) if she ever tried NOT wearing the ring to see how people would take her. And its then a bit disingenuous now on that woman's part, because if any person attempts to have conversations with her (she wears the ring at her workplace to appear more credible), say about marriage, married life, her husband (not to be exclusionary, or her wife), she has to either lie then, or come clean that she only wears the ring for a purpose, which predisposes people then to view her in a different light.

While much of her points are very good, and I agree with them. Things like that are a bit skewed and bias driven. Also, the one anecdote of the two colleagues who are married; they have the same degree, same job, and are married to each other. But that when they get home, the woman is assumed to do all of the house work, (ie. cleaning/cooking/etc.). Now, this anecdote is brought up to point out how they both work and have the same job and money, but the woman is made to do the extra work of the cleaning/house work. No talk of how much work the man does as well. Which presumably is, yard work, car maintenance, general "fix-this" around the house stuff. Which she might even take, to her point of how women are brought up to do house work and men are not, which if thats the case, and the two are obviously educated colleagues/spouses working together, isn't it just as much on that wife to not assume she has to do the housework and he has to do the fix-this masculine tasks of the house? Whose to say maybe he wouldn't bestow her the housework if she didn't assume it? Or isn't it presumptuous to assume he should do the yard-work, fix-this chores? Again, who knows, for all I know, the guy could come home from work, veg out in front of the TV and drink. But we're not told anything other than 1) they both work together at the same job, with the same degree, and everything is the same, 2) they come home, she has to do housework. That's all we're told, and then we're told why this is wrong. Nothing else, and all very vague and generalizations. (Obviously so this fits in with her theme, and the biasness there-in).

But like I said (and not to nitpick or over-critique minor things) much of her points are definitely things I agree with (especially as a husband and father of three daughters), but just reading this, it comes across as overly anecdotal and that is a bit off-putting. It seems well presented outside of the anecdotal-ness to it, and I will definitely have to search YouTube for the actual talk clip to watch, to see if there's more she let out (or visual presentations as well).

Still definitely worth the read, and makes me even intrigued to read her fiction works.
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LibraryThing member FiLoMa
I first saw the TEDx talk video on YouTube so when the book came up as a special on Kindle Daily Deal I thought I'd grab the ebook. This short story is the exact same content of the TEDx talk and I enjoyed revisiting the information. It is very wise words that she shares and is a must read for
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everyone.
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LibraryThing member porch_reader
This is a beautifully written essay by Adichie, adapted from her TED talk. In it, she unpacks all of the baggage that comes with the word feminist and eloquently argues that despite this, we must all be feminists. We must change culture to ensure the social, political, and economic equality of the
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sexes.
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Language

Original publication date

2014

ISBN

9781101911761
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