...I would like to ask that we should begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.
Have you ever been called a feminist? I have, on multiple occasions. And, not once was it meant as a compliment. Even the closest of my male friends began warned me about openly declaring my feminist views. One even joked that he would sever all ties with me if I ever wrote a feminist post (This came from a writer friend who constantly badgered me into writing!) So, here I am risking my good friendship and writing about something I dearly feel for- Feminism.
So, for the record, I don’t hate men, I love them. I don’t burn the bra, I wear them. And, I also wear makeup; red lip, pink lips, and all the myriad colours besides and between them I adore. I also enjoy dressing up. Neither do I think that women should always be in charge nor am I constantly in a state of rage. Does any of this not make me a “feminist”? I think not.
Feminists, according to social norms, the author observes, are “women who are unhappy because they cannot find husbands”. So, like her, I too decided to call myself a “Happy Feminist”; a happy feminist who loves heels, makeup, fashion and isn’t aways angry. This book resonated with me on so many levels that I shall now begin to explain. Like the author here, ‘classic feminist texts’ did always bore me. But that doesn’t mean I will not take part in gender discussions that need to be had. As a young girl, I was opinionated and bold enough to speak up about my views. Growing up I believed in the ideal world where opportunities were equal for all genders.But slowly and steadily my experience taught me that it was not just as easy as I believed it to be. Agreed, that I have always enjoyed a freedom that wasn’t always associated with my gender. But most of it was because of the way I was raised, and I have only my parents to thank for it. Not every girl I know is raised to think likewise.
Many have asked me if I think men and women are equal. This question here is supposed to be the first counter-attack to feminism. And, no, I don’t believe that men and women are equal. I believe that men and women are complementary to each other; man and woman are ying and yang. Here Adichie explains how men and women are “different”. It is true that today the world that is driven by intellect, innovation, and creativity, than physical strength, which both genders may possess because “there are no hormones for those attributes.” But have our ideas of gender evolved?
Don’t we still not teach our girls to be ‘likable’? We need them to be likable to neighbors, teachers, and the entire society. They need to walk, talk, dress and behave a certain way. Do we tutor our boys to such a stringent moral code of conduct? Yes, we teach our boys to a different moral code. To not cry, or be emotional and to mask their true selves; to “be afraid of fear, of weakness, of vulnerability.” And, in the end of it, we leave the boys with “fragile egos” that we expect the girls to cater to. We overwhelm our boys and girls with the gender expectations of our society. I believe in a society where man, woman, or otherwise, can be their true selves and live a life of love, dignity, and honour.
What this book slates to do is to urge us to unlearn our archaic gender roles to suit the new world. It calls on to both, men and women, to do their part in discussing gender; not just the female gender issues, but the male gender issues too. It opens the gate to a conversation surrounding gender stereotypes and gender dynamics all the while putting out the negativity surrounding it.
This book is a modified version of a talk Adichie delivered at TEDxEuston in December 2012 and was aimed at highlighting the stereotyping of the word feminism. The talk closed to a standing ovation giving her hope that the discussions may continue.
Rating : 4/5
Verdict: A must-read for people of all genders. As simple as that.