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Feminism is my buzzword. Say the “f” word once and I’m as alert as the dog from “Up,” and plaster it on anything I will scoop it up faster than ice cream. So it’s no wonder I showed no hesitation to pick up Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists,” adapted from her 2012 Tedx talk of the same name. What I found was a book on Feminist 101.
Adichie covers the main topics: the negative stereotypes that surround the word “feminist” and the gender roles and expectations that are associated with men and women. She uses personal stories from her experiences growing up in Nigeria, and although the book is centered around the issues with feminism in Nigeria, the content is widely relatable.
While I agree wholeheartedly with Adichie’s comments about the narrow definition of masculinity that society holds and how we need to raise both our daughters and our sons differently in order to get rid of these gender roles, the author’s thoughts are nothing out of the ordinary. As someone who likes to consider herself pretty well-versed on the basics of feminism, Adichie’s thoughts are all ones I’ve heard before. But for someone who is new to the concept of feminism, she sums everything up in a simple, concise and accessible manner.
What threw me off when reading Adichie’s book was her consistent use of heteronormative and cisgender language. She spoke of everything as men vs. women and relationships between men and women only, and didn’t take into account other genders. This rubbed me the wrong way, especially with Adichie’s recent comments about transgender women in the back of my mind.
In a recent interview with the U.K.’s Channel 4, Adichie said, “When people talk about, ‘Are trans women women?’ my feeling is trans women are trans women.” She went on to say, “I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man with the privileges that the world accords to men and then sort of change gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.”
The comments Adichie made are troubling because she is completely devaluing the experiences of transgender women. While maybe they were afforded some privileges before their transition, that doesn’t mean they didn’t endure struggles at all. I can only imagine how someone feels when they don’t identify with their gender given at birth and how they have to live with that feeling, especially if they are not able to afford gender reassignment surgery.
After hearing these comments and reading this book, I don’t feel that I can consider Adichie a true feminist. My definition of feminism is all inclusive of any race, religion, ethnicity, age, body type, and of course gender. My feminism is about equality of everyone, not putting your experiences above someone else’s and in turn invalidating others. While Adichie recognizes that feminism is about equality and it is everyone’s responsibility, not just one gender, to change societal norms, her personal definition of feminism needs some work if she truly believes that we should all be feminists.
With these recent comments of Adichie in mind, I can’t help but wonder: what would Beyoncé think?
Featured Image Source: Howard County Library System, Flickr