In today's world, one cannot talk enough about feminism and its importance. The ideology has developed a lot from the time when women were demanding their right to vote. We are in a time when feminism demands rights not just for the fairer sex, but treats all genders as the same, as equals.
It is important, hence, in this era to understand the ideology and to implement it in our lives. It is the duty of parents to show their children the way to a better, or rather, an equal world with the help of feminism, because it is only feminism that teaches one to respect equality and difference in all of us.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche sets out to do exactly that in her book Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. Adiche was asked by a friend of hers what to do to bring her daughter up as a feminist. In reply to that question Adiche wrote down 15 suggestions.
Adiche, a black woman who has experienced her own share of racism and gender discrimination, delivers through Feminist Manifesto a book for any one, not just mothers, who wants to follow feminist ideology.
She insists that it is important for the mother too to embrace feminist ideals for her daughter to learn them. An important factor to understanding feminism are the two premises Adiche details. The premise that “I matter. I matter equally. Not ‘if only.’ Not ‘as long as.’ I matter equally. Full stop.” For this, there is no debate.
While Adiche could end her entire manifesto right there, she adds her second tool: the answer to the question, “can you reverse X and get the same results?” This is a test asking whether one gets the same result in any scenario when genders are switched. When a girl is told not to do something "because she is a girl", is the boy too told not to do the same thing "because he is a boy?" If the result is not same then there is discrimination based on gender roles. These are the two basic principles of feminism, that Adiche wants her readers to follow.
Adiche also gives a fair warning to her friend that no matter what you do, "life will do its thing" and that the child will turn out to be different from what the mother hoped. It is this nod to reality that makes the book all the more riveting.
Though her learnings are based on her own life as an Igbo woman, the book proves that the issues women face are the same all around the world. The issues of strict gender roles, harassment, oppression, social norms are all universal. She successfully challenges prejudices of gender roles and expectations in Feminist Manifesto with her suggestions that seem quite personal and intimate. She narrates her own and her friends' experiences and to get points across.
Adiche calls attention to the fact that domestic duties and care giving should be handled gender neutrally. Adiche does not see marriage as an achievement, a long espoused point my many feminists. She tells Ijeawele to teach her child to "reject likeability" and to accept "differences".
A very important point for any mother is to teach their child about sex and to start early. She encourages her to address our private parts with their original name—penis and vagina.
There are versions of feminism and Adiche calls out loudly the supporters of feminist lite. To her, being a feminist is like being pregnant, "You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of women, or you do not.” Conditional equality, just like gender roles, is absolute BS.
None of the suggestions are new or coined by Adiche herself, but they are strong and powerful and is typical of her style—clear and concise. The book, an extension of a Facebook post, is just 62 pages long with each suggestion serving as a chapter. It is the best crash course one can have on the topic.
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
Published by Harper Collins
Price Rs 250; pages 62