What does Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie say about gender in We Should All Be Feminists?

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caroline-harrison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gender is a major theme of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists. Adichie says that “gender as it functions today is a grave injustice.” She tells the story of one of her female American friends who had recently taken over a management position from a man. Though her predecessor was considered tough and talented, the employees working under Adichie’s friend quickly complained about her aggressive and difficult management style, saying that they were upset that she hadn’t brought a “woman’s touch” to the job. Another one of Adichie’s American friends called her after a meeting in which her boss ignored her ideas but praised her male coworkers when they said something similar. The woman wanted to take it up with her boss but was worried about coming across as too aggressive. Adichie discusses how important it is for women to appear “likeable,” and argues that we do not teach boys to worry about being “liked” in the same way. These gender expectations are internalized, resulting in a double standard where men are praised for being tough and aggressive while women who act the same way are criticized for being “unlikeable.” Adichie also points out that gender stereotypes hurt men as well. From a young age, boys are taught that they must fit into a very narrow definition of masculinity that does not allow them to express their emotions freely. Adichie argues that when we expect boys and girls to adhere to strict and confining gender roles, we stifle their interests, their talents, and their humanity; everyone loses.


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We Should All Be Feminists

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