What does Adichie say about the word “feminism” in We Should All Be Feminists?  

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caroline-harrison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Adichie begins We Should All Be Feminists with a story about how, when she was fourteen, her good friend Okoloma called her a feminist. Adichie didn’t know what the word meant, but she could tell by his tone that it wasn’t meant as a compliment. When she looked it up later in the dictionary, the definition she saw was “feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” Several years later, Adichie published a novel and frequently received “advice” from strangers that she shouldn’t call herself a feminist because feminists are unhappy, unmarried, un-African, and man haters. Adichie tells these stories to demonstrate how much baggage the word feminist carries. Adichie’s point is that there are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be a feminist. Many people wrongly associate feminism with man hating, which is especially unfortunate because it would benefit people of all sexes to believe in the ideals of equality that feminism promotes. When people ask Adichie why she doesn’t simply call herself something less controversial, such as a humanist or a supporter of human rights, Adichie responds that it would be dishonest. While feminism certainly falls under the broader umbrella of human rights, to replace feminism with vague and general terms like humanism or human rights is to deny the existence of the gender-related issues that women face. As Adichie says, “For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that.” Ultimately, Adichie believes that being a feminist means acknowledging the existence of gender-based problems in the world and believing that everyone must work to fix these issues. 

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We Should All Be Feminists

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