At 13, feminists to me were angry women in baggy jeans with cropped hair sporting oversized shirts and no bra underneath. Imagine my horror then, when my friends and close family members pointed out that I had feminist features. Yikes! I certainly did not see or foresee myself as that kind of female (even though I was somewhat tomboyish).
Chimamanda’s book ‘Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’ should have been published 10 years earlier.
You see, this book, which reads like a letter in Chimamanda’s compelling yet humorous voice, should be made standard reading for adolescent boys and girls alike. And I mean, incorporated into Junior Secondary curriculum with tests and grading as toppings.
Before I gosh my guts out in praise of this book, let me attempt to distill this already distilled 63-page book which echoes the feminist mantra of the 60’s and 70’s.
Therefore, Dear Ijeawele, Bukola, and Andikan…
- Do not define yourself by Motherhood.
- Allow parenting, loving, ‘marriaging’ or whatever you find yourself doing with the opposite sex, to be done equally.
- NEVER assign gender roles to your children.
- Avoid ‘feminism lite’. You are either for or against feminism. No in-betweening *straight face*
- READ. (This is probably my favourite because I cannot imagine a world without books).
- Before you use a word or phrase in reference to a particular gender, pause, think and evaluate if you would have used it for the other. If not, take it out of your vocabulary…completely!
- Never speak of marriage as an achievement… ’nuff said.
- It is not your responsibility to be likeable. Rather, it is your responsibility to be honest, kind, and brave.
- Love yourself. Love your identity. Love your heritage.
- Feminism doesn’t equal rejection of femininity. You have a choice of being feminine or not, feminism is not a tool to license either. Feminist male and female role models are also essential to your life.
- Social norms can always be changed and biology should never be an excuse for male or female privilege.
- Let’s talk about sex and for once, not link it to shame.
- “My money is my money, and his money is our money” is utter rubbish.
- Female misogyny exists. Oppression and suffering should not be glorified to sainthood status.
- Difference is inevitable. Difference is necessary. Difference is good. Respect difference.
In 15 suggestions, Chimamanda so simply explores some of the deepest issues women face in society and I hope that every Ijeawele, Bukola, and Andikan gets to read this book.
Thank you Chimamanda for writing.
Thank you Ijeawele* for asking.
Thank you Chizalum* for being born, because without you, this book would probably not have been written.
*If you are wondering where all these strange names are coming from, you should read the book. *ink out*