This month, we publish Chimamanda Adichie’s Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, a remarkable new book where she goes right into the heart of the sexual politics in the twenty-first century.
To celebrate the occasion, we bring you some of Chimamanda’s most brilliant quotes that have appeared in her books and been heard as part of her speeches at global fora like TedX.
‘If she likes make-up, let her wear it. If she likes fashion, let her dress up. But if she doesn’t like either, let her be. Don’t think that raising her feminist means forcing her to reject femininity. Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive.’
‘Show her that she does not need to be liked by everyone. Tell her that if someone does not like her, there will be someone else who will. Teach her that she is not merely an object to be liked or disliked, she is also a subject who can like or dislike.’
‘We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.’
‘The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.’
‘I’ve been a feminist since I was old enough to think, really. I’ve always been the kind of person who thinks that men and women are equal, full stop.’
‘In the recent US elections we kept hearing of the Lilly Ledbetter Law. And if we go beyond the nicely alliterative name of that law, it was really about a man and a woman doing the same job, being equally qualified and the man being paid more because he is a man. So, in a literal way, men rule the world. And this made sense a thousand years ago. Because human beings lived then in a world in which physical strength was the most important attribute for survival. The physically stronger person was more likely to lead. And men in general are physically stronger; of course, there are many exceptions. But today we live in a vastly different world. The person more likely to lead is not the physically stronger person, it is the more creative person, the more intelligent person, the more innovative person, and there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, to be creative, to be innovative. We have evolved, but it seems to me that our ideas of gender have not evolved.’
‘I would often think to myself, “Why are women and girls made to care about people who they genuinely don’t care about?”‘
‘Teach her that if you criticize X in women but do not criticize X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women. For X, please insert words like anger, ambition, loudness, stubbornness, cold-heartedness, ruthlessness.’