Yes, We SHOULD All Be Feminists

Sitting in for my second Fall For The Book at Mason, the first having been Congressman John Lewis speaking, I felt a different energy. The title of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book, which she was going to be discussing, is We Should All Be Feminists

If you do not know, Adichie, a Nigerian author, is known for her amazingly insightful, and viral, Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” and many novels. And it was no coincidence that the person interviewing her was another successful woman, Mason’s very own (first female!) president, and former Secretary of Education of Virginia, Anne Holton. 

To really enforce the idea that we should all be feminists, the forum was introduced by two women. The energy and anticipation of two women, successful trailblazers in their own right, sitting and talking in one room was exciting and empowering. 

The interview was a pleasant juxtaposition to watch, with President Holton’s slight Southern accent contrasting to Adichie’s Nigerian one. Even though there were many differences between the women, the fact that they were both women who are so successful in men-led fields united their experiences. The discussion truly illustrated that feminism is for all women and can be led by all women. It was a powerful message that did not need any words to explain and portray itself.

Related: Book Review: My Own Interpretation of We Should All be Feminists

Adichie discussed how she balances femininity and feminism, motherhood and career, and offered insight on how she believes feminism and general respect can be instilled in the new generation, regardless of gender. While I wish I could offer the same empowering energy given off during the interview, I can offer the next best thing, a recap. 

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Adichie began by mentioning how, “girls are socialized to need to be liked,” which boys are not necessarily taught. She went forward to explain how this leads to girls feeling a need to look nice and pretty, which she described as a double-edged sword. She elaborated that while she genuinely likes “girly” things like shoes, red lipstick, and dressing up with skirts and accessories, she found that she would not be taken seriously in the professional work field if she embraced her femininity, which she personally and simply enjoyed. While she, “came out” in all her feminine glory only after she was finally, “taken seriously,” she demanded to the audience and to all girls to, “Occupy space in the world and not apologize for it.”

President Holton prompted Adichie with a question on the topic of, “money and masculinity,” and how boys raised in a capitalistic society become men whose financial status is a large source of pride for them, to which Adichie let out an audible sigh. She very simply put that men have been trained to link their self worth to their wealth, and women have been generally conditioned to link theirs to marriage and children. She very bluntly explained that, “money is just money, not joy,” and that any parents should, with their children, “start early and consistently,” teach them this. 

President Holton then shifted gears a bit to discuss sexual violence against women. Adichie highlighted starting young and educating young boys, “to understand that women are autonomous beings, because you cannot abuse or assault a person you see as your equal, or even as human.”

Towards the end, President Holton asked Adichie about motherhood, which she was more than happy to discuss. This was a pleasant surprise because it emphasizes that women can be huge players in certain fields and still enjoy being mothers and part of their family. It really highlights that feminism is not for just empowering women in the workplace but in every aspect of what they want to pursue in their lives. Adichie explained that she is approaching raising her daughter as raising her as a person and allowing her to really explore the world she is living in and giving her that independence. She explains that while we might not be able to control nature, we can control nurture and that every small way we interact with children conditions them to some extent. Adichie uses an example where she has seen little toddler boys falling and being encouraged to, “smack their chests when they get up,” and not cry, but little toddler girls are allowed to cry and given more reassurance. She finishes off by mentioning that by parents restraining from, “imposing expectations on children,” we can allow them to thrive and grow up to all be feminists. 

Lastly, Adichie beamed as she declared that she was, “Happy GMU has a woman in charge,” and that she was in a space and time with, “Women that are doing things in the world.”

While I might not have had the best seats in the house, being in the same room as two powerful, successful and intellectual women was enough to inspire me and rekindle a sense of empowerment. While ideas on how to ensure further generations of feminists were shared, listening to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and President Anne Holton speak was enough to declare that we should all be feminists.