mostly books

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is one of those posts that aligned beautifully. Beautifully in that at the time of reading Chimamanda's latest offering Dear Ijeawele, so much other stuff was going on, that reminded me why this book is  so hardhitting,  so important and still so so necessary. What was not so beautiful was what was actually going down. I'll get to that.

'Dear Ijeawele' came about after Chimamanda's friend had just had a baby and asked her how she may raise her to be a feminist. She responded with this long ass email with fifteen suggestions and decided to share it!

<3 p="">In this short book, she boils feminism down to its bear essentials. These 15 pointers manage to perfectly capture the essence of what feminism is and its digestible. I've heard people say its "too simple", "it's for a new feminist" not for us, we're quite advanced thank you very much. And I think as someone who follows a lot liberal feminists on social media (after all you tend to follow people you agree/identify with), it's so easy to forget that a. a lot of people aren't feminists, b. a lot of people have  just hopped on the very popular feminist bandwagon without understanding what it means and c. you're not a perfect feminist and you don't know everything.

What sets Dear Ijeawele apart from other feminist essay collections, is that it constantly challenges sexist/misogynist rhetoric I'm going to be bold and say, that she sees in her Nigerian culture. And there's certainly stuff she calls out on, that I've heard/said/seen as a Ghanaian. 

She writes with such bold and unapologetic clarity and it reads so seamlessly. How simple it is I think adds a certain weight to what she's saying because it is so clear but we/society seem to have forgotten or just don't know.

"Teach her to reject likeability. Her job is not make herself likeable, her job is to be her full self."

"People will selectively use 'tradition' to justify anything."

"Sadly, women have learned to be ashamed and apologetic about pursuits that are seen as traditionally female such as fashion and makeup. But our society does not expect men to feel ashamed of pursuits considered generally male."

"I mean the sort of anti-feminists who gleefully raise examples of women saying 'I am not a feminist' as though a person born with a vagina making this statement somehow automatically discredits feminism. That a woman claims not to be a feminist does not diminish the necessity of feminism, If anything, it makes us see the extent of the problem, the successful reach of patriarchy. It shows us, too, that not all women are feminists and not all men are misogynists."

"Teach her never to universalise her own standards or experiences. Teach her that her standards are for her alone and not for other people."

"The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina. Cooking - domestic work in general - is a life skill that both men and women should ideally have."

"Troubling is the idea...that men are naturally superior but should be expected to 'treat women well.' No. No. No. There must be more than male benevolence as the basis for a woman's well-being."

"Teach her that if you criticise X in women but do not criticise X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women. For X please insert words like 'anger,' 'ambition,' 'loudness,' 'stubbornness,' 'coldness,' 'ruthlessness'."

"Tell her that women actually don't need to championed and revered, they just need to be treated as equal human beings."
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At the time of reading this, Ghana's gender minister Otiko Djaba advised secondary school girls, to not wear short dresses because it can attract someone "who would want to rape or defile you". Sigh sigh sigh. Obviously, this is not the first time I've heard this and I think I'm so tired of it that if you asked me what I thought, I'd probably just roll my eyes and get on with my day. But I started thinking about this properly. About what it actually means to rape someone? And I quickly realised my go-to reaction is simply not good enough. The actual act of violating another human being's body is horrendous enough and to do it in such an intrusive and obscene way?! And then for the gender minister of an entire country, to not recognise this and spend her time telling young women that rape happens because we don't "take responsibility for our own actions". It's not even just problematic its dangerous that someone so influential doesn't understand that rape is not logical, it is an act of violence. And while it happens to both men and women, men are statistically more likely to be the perpetrators of rape; because we've conditioned men into thinking that they have power over our bodies and our sexuality and women into thinking that all we should and can do, is protect ourselves.

This is like, really obvious basic stuff but clearly, we don't all understand.

Again as I was reading this, my flatmate and I heard what we thought was a woman being violated , in some capacity I don't know, and screaming out for help. We called the police who was, I kid you not, the chillest policeman ever considering the circumstances. He firstly suggested we go downstairs and have a look and after we flatout refused because um no not tryna get raped and die in the French countryside thank you sir (maybe we should've gone down but we were quite scared); he's said something along the lines of,"don't worry about it it's probably just a couple having an argument. You did the right thing to call ... have a nice evening." This was the first time I'd ever called the police and I was just so appalled that another woman's life meant so little to the authorities. It still blows my mind.
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<3 p="">I say all this to say, we can dress feminism up as much as we like but there's still a case to be made for simple digestible feminist literature. We still need to be  armed with basic yet sharp arguments so because I want to be ready and bold when responding to some of the misogynist sexist shit happens around and to me everyday.
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