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Feminists are not "Unhappy Man-Haters"

Date Created: March 12, 2017 12:48 PM
Author: Pat Mastors


Book Recommendation: The Women's Marches of recent weeks beg a second look at what it means to be a "feminist" today. One woman tells why she decided she had to call herself "A Happy African Feminist", in this gem of a little book, "We Should All Be Feminists"...
Feminists are not "Unhappy Man-Haters" Image
The author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, at TEDx Euston, from YouTube video
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Book cover image from Amazon
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I was cruising book recommendations on my iPad the other day and found We Should All Be Feminists, "a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name (almost 4 million views, watch it here) —by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun" (from the Amazon review). At 65 pages and less than a 30-minute read, I paid the $2.99 to download it on my Kindle, started reading...and was drawn right in.

From the Amazon review, "With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists."

Adichi's eye for the absurdity of our cultural divide over the word "feminist" is sharp...as when, after she was a successful author, she was talking with a close childhood friend from her native Nigeria: “…he told me that people were saying my novel was feminist, and his advice to me – he was shaking his head sadly as he spoke – was that I should never call myself a feminist, since feminists are women who are unhappy because they cannot find husbands. So I decided to call myself a Happy Feminist.Then, an academic, a Nigerian woman, told me that feminism was not our culture, that feminism was un-African…so I decided I would call myself a Happy African Feminist. Then a dear friend told me that calling myself a feminist meant that I hated men. So I decided I would now call myself a Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men and Who Likes to Wear Lip Gloss and High Heels for Herself and Not for Men.

"Of course much of this is tongue-in-cheek, but what it shows is how that word feminist is so heavy with baggage, negative baggage. You hate men, you hate bras, you hate African culture, you think women should always be in charge, you don’t wear makeup, you don’t shave, you’re always angry, you don’t have a sense of humor, you don’t use deodorant.”

Adichi's voice is rich with compassion, self-awareness and humor, as she makes her points through relatable anecdotes and an approachabe writing style. I heartily recommend this little book (for you or someone you know), or the TEDx Talk, if you prefer.

Meantime, are you a feminist? What's YOUR anecdote around describing yourslf that way (or hesitating to)?


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  • I believe, as bell hooks said, that "feminism is for everybody." An interesting debate has arisen recently due to Adichi's assertion that transgender women are not women. While her talks and writings are inspirational and provocative for many folks, I would like to see her (and other feminists and feminist movements) broaden her view to be inclusive of trans women. Trans activist Raquel Willis has posted a very thoughtful article about the intersections of cis/trans and racial identity in feminism here: http://www.theroot.com/trans-women-are-women-this-isn-t-a-debate-1793202635?utm_medium=sharefromsite&utm_source=The_Root_facebook/.

  • Interesting that this is Adichi's position...I did not know. Thank you for providing these links. We all benefit from an invitation to thoughtfully expand our thinking