At a Glance

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists was adapted from her popular TEDx Talk of the same name. In it, Adichie argues that being a feminist means understanding and acknowledging the fact that sexism exists.

  • Adichie begins her talk with a number of personal anecdotes about growing up in Nigeria. In one of these anecdotes, she recalls a male friend calling her a "feminist," clearly meaning it as an insult. In another, her teacher awards a coveted prize to a boy, even though he received the second highest marks on the qualifying test.

  • Adichie then focuses on the wage gap and on the gendered nature of economic power. In Nigeria, for instance, it's assumed that any woman with money has gotten that money from a man. In the workplace, women are expected to do the same work for less pay, and they learn not to speak up for themselves for fear of being called "aggressive."

  • Adichie concludes by saying that we do a great disservice to both men and women by teaching them to adhere to strict gender roles. We must all acknowledge that there is sexism, and we must all fight to fix this problem.



We Should All Be Feminists was adapted from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's popular TEDx Talk of the same name. The Talk was first delivered at TEDxEuston, which is held annually in Great Britain and features prominent leaders and thinkers speaking about issues relating to Africa. Adichie's TED Talk argues that "feminist" isn't a bad word and that everyone should be feminist. She begins with a brief anecdote about her friend Okoloma, with whom she grew up. Okoloma was a great thinker and enjoyed debating Adichie about anything and everything. One day, during a heated debate, he called Adichie a "feminist." She didn't know what the word meant at the time, but understood that it wasn't a compliment. In fact, Okoloma was criticizing her. She never forgot this incident.

Many years later, Adichie published her first novel, Purple Hibiscus. It's about a Nigerian man who, though a public hero, has violent outbursts at home and beats his wife so mercilessly that she finally resorts to poisoning him in order to escape the abuse. When the novel was published, some Nigerian men, all strangers, advised her that she should never call herself a feminist, because feminists are all unhappy and hate men (according to him). This didn't lead Adichie to abandon her feminism. On the contrary, she embraced it, adopting the tongue-in-cheek label of Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men And Who Likes To Wear Lip Gloss And High Heels For Herself And Not For Men (a label that pokes fun at the old stereotypes about feminists). Adichie now refers to herself simply as a feminist, in part to defy these stereotypes.

Adichie then offers another anecdote about her childhood in Nsukka, Nigeria. In primary school, the teacher gave the students a test, promising that the student with the highest score would be given the title of class monitor. Adichie got the highest score, but the title was given to the next highest scorer, a mild-mannered boy. Surprised, Adichie asked why, and the teacher said the title was always going to be awarded to a boy—the teacher had assumed this would be obvious to the students. Sometimes, what Adichie thinks is obvious isn't obvious to others, as when a brilliant male friend of her initially fails to understand that the valet who thanks him for the tip Adichie paid for is being sexist, because he assumes that any money Adichie has must come from a man. This is representative of traditional Nigerian attitudes toward gender and money. Men are presumed to be the breadwinners, and as such men hold all the economic power.

Nigeria isn't the only country where sexism and money are...

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