A friend of mine works for the parent company of Penguin Random House. Every month he gets a very long list of books from every genre possible genre and he can order anything he wants. For free. I only recently found out about this a few weeks ago at lunch, he will likely regret telling me.
I didn’t want to go overboard, so I only asked for one book this go around, We Should All Be Feminists. It is a short essay written by the esteemed author of Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It was originally delivered as a TedTalk and has since been turned into a book.
I would really love to list some quotes here, but I seriously run the risk of typing out the entire essay. It is all so relatable and well written. If you would like to hear the talk, you can find it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_we_should_all_be_feminists?language=en
Adichie talks about the negative connotations associated with the word “feminist.” She discusses the inequalities and injustices that she and her friends face every day. She calls everyone to action to start raising our sons and daughters differently.
I am a proud self-proclaimed feminist. I can’t relate to everything Adichie talks about since Nigerian women face even greater challenges with sexism, but I hear her.
At one point in her talk, Adichie relays a conversation with her friend, Louis. She describes him as a brilliant, progressive man, however, he is blind to sexism today. He believes that “everything is fine now for women.” He admits it was bad in the past, but is also naive enough to think that it has vanished altogether. It may be nearly one hundred years since women were granted the right to vote, but the fight is far from over.
In any case of inequality, we do ourselves no good by comparing today to the past. Progress should be expected. Just because things are better for you than your ancestors, does not mean it’s time to be complacent. I can be thankful for the women from the women’s suffrage movement, but still angry, bitter, and fed up that nearly one hundred years later we have still not voted for a female for president (well, the majority did I suppose…). I hope to God that if I ever have children, they will look at this time in history and be appalled. The injustices will seem so far beyond anything they have to experience. And yet, I hope they keep fighting. Their injustices may be lesser than mine, just as mine are lesser than the women from the suffrage movement, but we can’t let that detract from the fact that injustices remain. And as long as they remain, we fight.
I was just out with colleagues this week and got into a debate about gender. Irish bar, five people: myself, another woman my age, and three men in their 40-50s. One of the men started listing off things that happened to his wife years ago in the workplace. He flat-out said, “you don’t have to deal with those things, you’ve never dealt with sexism here.” He immediately dismissed anything that has ever happened to me in my career because they could not possibly be worse than what has happened in the past. Not to mention, he was sitting there talking over my every word, yelling to “let him finish” whatever BS he was spewing. Yet, when his dear 40-year-old male colleague wanted to talk, all ears. I kid you not, textbook sexism. But yes, I’m so incredibly thankful that men aren’t touching me in inappropriate ways at work. And because of that, please sir, don’t let me get a word in edgewise. Go on, tell me how my first few years on the job have been. Please, continue.
I am a female in the software industry. I will not pretend that sexism does not exist. I have been immediately dismissed as a technical resource for no quantifiable reason. I have been told to sit in a certain seat in a meeting because I had a dress on that the sales rep thought the customer would like. This sales rep was a woman, by the way. Men are not the only sexists. I will attend our annual organization’s kickoff in one month and be reminded that nearly our entire leadership team is comprised of men. And if I make any comment about this to my male colleagues, I am an annoying, ungrateful, millennial feminist. (I, of course, will respond with, “Why thank you.”)
Adichie does an excellent job of capturing the myriad of injustices that women face. She counters the arguments against feminism and puts forth her ideas for progressing forward. And it all starts with changing our culture and the way we raise our children.
It is past 1am and while I am feeling very heated about this topic, I think it’s best if I call it a night. Adichie’s critically acclaimed book, Americanah, has been on my list for a while now, but now it has moved to the very top. Between the holidays and my trip to Alaska, I can’t imagine I will finish it before the year ends, so with that, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!