Feminist · Nonfiction

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

All I can say is that I regret that it took me this long read anything by Adichie. And now that I have started, I won’t be stopping any time soon. I think her ability to express herself and her feminism in words is unparalleled (in my limited, but growing, feminist reading experience). I envy her strength of conviction and hope that I can learn to cultivate something similarly impressive for myself. Just amazing.

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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“I loved everything about this. Even just after the introduction, the tone and feel was amazing – the friendliness and warmth simultaneously came through with the passion and truth of the voice. Before we even get to the 15 suggestions, I love the presentation of Adichie’s two “Feminist Tools.” First, her feminist premise: that “I matter equally,” full stop, no exceptions or qualifications. Second, her question “Can you reverse X and still get the same results?” – any decision or choice can be feminist, no matter what it is, if it’s made with the knowledge that if it was reversed (applied to a man instead of a woman) it would be the same. Those are two tools that I will, forever more, carry with me as a basis for my own feminism. They are simple, clear, and impressive in their depth.

In fact, that about sums up this entire essay: simple, clear, and impressive in its depth. This is a publication of a letter that wrote to her friend, Ijeawele, on the occasion of her  Ijeawele becoming a mother and asking Adichie how she would recommend going about raising her daughter as a feminist. Each of her 15 suggestions gives its example and makes its point concisely, and the personal tone is the perfect extra touch. Covering topics from the contrived nature of “gender roles” to the need to reject “likability” as a primary quality for women to the importance of speaking openly and truthfully about relationships and sex, Adichie skillfully handles so many difficult and controversial points in this mere 63 page mini-book. In addition to those topics and her related child-rearing suggestions, she makes many other important distinctions as well. In particular, touching on the power of alternatives (the innumerable different options and paths in any given situation – there is no one “right” way ever) and the need for compromise and rejecting “all or nothing” viewpoints (you can have pride in and celebrate the positive aspects of a culture, while also recognizing the negative aspects; understanding that you can embrace the good and reject the bad while remaining true to the essence).

If you are looking for a short summary of how to raise, or just be (or change) for yourself, the best feminist you can, this essay is exactly what you need. In fact, I feel like this should be required reading for everyone. Adichie points out what should be obvious in a refreshingly straightforward and uncompromising way that doesn’t insult. It just pulls you along and makes you want to read more. She uses the simplest language and examples, that can be universally recognized and understood, to convey her thoughts. Yet there is more heart in her simplicity than in most other more complex pieces on this same topic. Absolutely elegant. I cannot recommend this essay highly enough.

As an extra note, I both listened to this as an audiobook and read it in print form. It’s amazing both ways. But I definitely would like to note that the narrator did an amazing job. Honestly, it’s likely one of the most emotionally-read (in the sense that there was great intonation in the voice, not at all flat or monotonous) pieces I’ve ever listened to and I wish more “readers” would put that much feeling into their narration.”

5 thoughts on “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

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