Themes

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 595

In We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tackles many issues that she, as a Nigerian woman, has faced throughout her life. She recalls the word "femininst" being hurled as a childhood insult, being refused the role of "classroom monitor," having her existence unintentionally ignored by waiters, and having those she tips thank the males in her presence. She acknowledges that, while gender equality has evolved quite a bit over the last hundred years, there are still gaps in the expectations of men and women. Adichie also highlights that though "52 percent of the world’s population is female . . . most of the positions of power and prestige are occupied by men." Ultimately, she uses this statistic to argue that a cultural change is required in order to ensure gender equality. To achieve this, she focuses on the importance of individuality, confidence, and awareness of others.

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Valuing Individuality

Throughout We Should All Be Feminists, Adichie discusses the importance of maintaining and celebrating individuality. She argues that when a society assigns expectations on the basis of gender, it tells a person "how we should be rather than recognizing how we are." She illustrates this with an example from her own life: Women are taught cooking and cleaning skills from an early, while most men are not. Despite this emphasis on cooking and cleaning, one of Adichie's female friends always absolutely despised domestic work. This friend spent several years pretending to enjoy it; and, when she stopped pretending, her husband's family complained of how she changed. While growing up, the friend was never asked whether she particularly enjoyed cooking. Instead, it was assumed that she would be willing to perform this task, simply because she was a woman. Thus, for many years, she was being who everyone else wanted her to be instead of being true to herself.

Having the Confidence to Challenge Social Norms

Adichie argues that empowered and confident individuals are essential to the creation of new societal norms. To demonstrate this, she turns to a discussion on clothing. Society's expectations—both implicit and explicit—often dictate what women should and should not wear. For example, one of her friends who is not married deliberately wears a wedding band to professional meetings in...

(The entire section contains 595 words.)

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