On a recent road trip, my wife and I read aloud Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new book Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, a collection of advice to Adichie’s childhood friend on how to raise her young daughter as a feminist.
This is a small book — just 63 pages — but don’t confuse it with Adichie’s OTHER small book on feminism, the 2014 We Should All Be Feminists, which was based on a public talk of the same name. The first book is the what (be feminist!) and the second book is the how (15 suggestions!).
This is a readable, thought- and discussion-provoking collection. Each suggestion is followed by a few pages of discussion, which is where the richness lies. Suggestion #6, for example, is “Teach her to question language. Language is the repository of our prejudices, our beliefs, our assumptions.” But here’s how that plays out concretely in the discussion: “Teach her that if you criticize X in women but do not criticize X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women. For X please insert words like ‘anger,’ ‘ambition,’ ‘loudness,'” etc.
Here’s another: Suggestion #4 is “Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite,” which is the idea of “conditional female equality,” which gives rise to ideas like “men are naturally superior but should be expected to ‘treat women well.’ No. No. No. There must be more than male benevolence as the basis for a woman’s well-being.” Yes! Yes! Yes!
I didn’t agree with every idea, but each was well argued such that I couldn’t dismiss it without careful consideration.
Obviously I could just quote the whole book. But I won’t. Go read it yourself. It won’t take you long, but you’ll be thinking about it long after, and — if you’re like me — encouraging others to do the same.
Fun fact: The book describes some sexist attitudes in order to combat them. Our 12-year-old son — listening to snatches from the backseat — commented that the book sounded pretty sexist to him. Correct on the passage but not on the book as a whole, son: Context!