At 9 years old, young Chimamanda Adichie was denied being the class monitor of her class despite having the highest score in a test which was the prerequisite to holding the post.
The position was given to a boy who wasn’t even interested in being the class monitor.
And when she asked her teacher, she said she had forgotten to mention it because she felt it was obvious that it had to be a boy.
Young Chimamanda never forgot that experience. She said:
“Then it was a very striking moment for me and I’ve never forgotten it. Because its not to say that I haven’t observed before the ways in which the world doesn’t extend the same practices to girls as it does to boys. I remember thinking I’m so angry that I can’t be what I want to be because I’m a girl.”
In an interview at the Women in the World Summit in New York City, Chimamanda shared her thoughts on the new wave of feminism – even in the Trump era.
On rejecting likeability
There’s a terrible, dangerous, cultural mindset that says to women, ‘You need to be liked.’ I think it’s nice to be liked, we all like to be liked, even men, everybody. But it is women who are raised with that and we internalize it and so it ships everything we do. The same reason I think many women who are truly assaulted sometimes hold back from speaking out, women who are in positions that they find difficult and uncomfortable but they are still worried about the likeability, they are still worried about “how can I tell this subordinate that he or she isn’t doing something right but still be liked?” And I’m just thinking, just be yourself and do your job, somebody is going to like you.
On what feminism lite is
Feminism lite is the idea of conditional female equality. It’s the idea that you are not equal to a man but a man has to treat you nicely. But for me, it’s deeply dehumanizing because it suggests that a woman’s well being depends on the benevolence of a man and I think in some ways its even more dangerous than simply not being a feminist.
I’m really tired of men being thanked for things they should do anyway.
Change the way we think about masculinity
We need to deconstruct the way we think about masculinity and femininity. Feminism is for men, too. Masculinity is also a cage that limits men — what if we raised them to think of masculinity as very different? What if we raised them to be ashamed of macho behaviour?”
Teach your kids to stand up and fight
Feminism cannot be a passive identity. It has to be something we stand up and fight for.