…Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions.
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I know… I know, I’m letting on that I am in fact jobless, by doing such constant book reviews. Or am I jobless? Hmm….
I finished ‘Dear Ijeawele’, my first book in October within minutes. It’s a little book consisting of 53 pages and a rather flow-y message such that you can’t really pause to read later.
In fact, Dear Ijeawele was initially a letter written by Chimamanda to her friend who had asked her to advise on how to raise her daughter (Chizalum) to be a Feminist.
I believe it also serves as a little handbook/guide for feminists. It might also be a message to non-feminists about feminism.
To be honest, I didn’t buy this book. I was given. I don’t think that I would have bought the book if I wasn’t given. I have been in too many conversations where I make an assertion or shake my head at a statement and I am immediately attacked with the all too popular question (which usually sounds like an accusation really): ‘You are a Feminist shebi?!’
Chimamanda in this book says that when you come across women who say they aren’t feminists, you see a perfect example of the successful reach of patriarchy. Well, my reply to people when they ask if I’m a feminist is to either say an unsure ‘Ehhhh….’ or an outright ‘No‘ depending on how confused I am about what feminism really is.
It was so then that I intentionally picked this book to get a clear picture of the stance and claims of Feminism and align with or dissociate myself from the concept.
Before I give my opinion on the book, let me give a run down: Dear Ijeawele gives 15 broad suggestions to anyone who wants to raise their children as Feminists or who wants to be a feminist.
In summary they are:
1- Don’t define yourself solely as a mother.
2- Don’t think your husband is helping you by raising the child along with you.
3- Don’t think any role (or color or toy or activity) is peculiar to any gender.
4- Don’t be a conditional feminist. You are or you aren’t. Conditional feminism=no feminism
5- Don’t be ignorant; read.
6- Don’t use words loosely (e.g calling your child ‘princess’, or using ‘misogyny’ too much)
7- Don’t think marriage is an achievement you should be proud of.
8- Don’t try to be likeable.
9- Don’t shut yourself out of your African identity.
10- Don’t shy away from being deliberate about how you look.
11- Don’t think biology is a justification for any social norm such as ‘A father own the child’
12- Don’t associate sex with shame.
13- Don’t think love is only about giving, it’s also about taking (lol)
14- Don’t think that being a ‘saint’ is a prerequisite to being treated with dignity
15- Different is normal.
I wish I can say that I’m a feminist after having read this book, but I can’t say so. Too many things were jamming with my Christian values and principles as I read this book. At some point, I closed the book and just said ‘really?’
A lot of the problems highlighted by Chimamanda in this book border on a bigger problem of identity. How I really wish that all people; men and women come to know Christ and understand that our identity is in His finished work.
I know this sounds so motivational and surreal, but a lot of societal wrongs and a lot of these things that feminists fight against would be nonexistent if we all treat each other like people who God shed his blood for; like priceless people.
As I read the book, I also realized that at the expense of canvassing for gender equality, Chimamanda neglected the obvious difference between both sexes. Are we really going to deny that men and women are mostly wired differently? Are we going to say that there aren’t idiosyncrasies peculiar to men/women? You can’t take a one-size fits all standard, hold the human race against it and say that it’s equality. It isn’t. Let me tell you what that is – it’s needlessly trapping yourself.
The aim of the book, I suppose was to talk about women’s freedom and rights but I ended up feeling like all the rules and regulations, Dos and Do Nots were in fact constraining. Maybe I misunderstood her. Maybe.
This is why I cannot but talk about my Christian faith in addressing this matter. As Christians we do not tackle issues like this as the world does. We do not inform our husbands to ‘let us both adopt a new surname upon marriage because why must I be the only one to change my surname?‘. We do not say ‘husband, you are not the head of the house. We are both equals. Two heads.’ We do not teach our children that ‘your body is your own. You may have sex at anytime but try to wait till you’re 18‘ We really also do not say ‘Love is about taking and not only giving.’ These are some Feminist assertions that I cannot boldly align with. My being aligned to Christ cannot permit me. You see, don’t get it wrong, the Bible says in Christ there is no male or female (Galatians 3:28); no favoritism for gender. Jesus did not cry out with a loud voice on the cross saying ‘Oh that the male gender be the first partakers in my work of salvation! Leave some remnants for the damsels!’ He died for all people.
But there are scriptural instructions regarding marriage from the One who created marriage. Shouldn’t we listen to Him? The husband is the head of the family, He says. And if I cannot deal with that, then I still have an issue understanding that my husband’s position as the head of the family does not impliedly define me as less priceless, or less than who I am already. Like Pastor Laju Iren says, ‘Buhari being the president does not make you less Nigerian’
Anyway, I guess this is a topic I can continue to talk about until I run out of steam. Here’s what I can say anyway:
Women are not inferior to men in anyway. We are not to be relegated, cheated on or looked down upon because we are perceived as less important – we aren’t less important. This is for sure.
But do I agree with everything in Dear Ijeawele? Nah… I don’t. Truth is that I hold people to an even higher standard of love and mutual respect.
A. Chimamanda’s writing skills. Of course! Am I mad? It is trite that she’s a beautiful writer
B. The obvious mental dedication put into writing this letter. Especially since I don’t think there’s a similarly existing and concise material on said subject matter, I think it was a bold step she took in doing this.
A. Well, re-read my review…
Do I recommend it? Eh… I don’t know. I recommend that you know your worth in Christ. Any other thing is bants.