First off, I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The books I have read by her, so far, have had a huge influence on the way I think about feminism and intersectionality. On top of that, she writes with such a powerful voice and makes the imagery she describes, jump off the page. I always looking forward to reading her work.
This reading ultimately made me think about growing up in my home and all the many gender charged situations that took place. After my parent’s divorce (I was six at the time), my uncle moved in. My mother couldn’t have possibly paid for the rent on her own—she was only a sewing operator at a factory. My uncle on the hand, was a barber and made significantly more than my mother would ever make. For eleven years, my mother, my brother and I lived in a two bedroom apartment with my uncle. Throughout those years it was obvious that everyone had specific roles to fulfill. Aside from her job, my mother also had to do the cleaning, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping and any other errand that involved our home. My uncle on the other hand, worked and alleviated some of the financial stress. What my brother and I ended up learning was there was a distinction between man and woman.
I learned to be docile, obedient and quiet. My brother learned that it was okay for him to be a little more aggressive, disobedient and louder in some cases. Saturday mornings I woke up early to help my mother clean the house. He got to sleep in. I didn’t get to be outside at certain times at night. He got to stay out much later (mind you, he is also three years younger than I am). I get asked if I know how to cook. He doesn’t. I am told why I don’t smile more. He doesn’t.
And the list goes on…
I think one of the major reasons why I decided to become a Women’s Studies major, and not anything else, was because I felt so suffocated, miserable and angry by these ideologies of gender. I needed the discourse not only to better understand gender inequality, but also began to deconstruct these constraining ideologies that I grew up with—slowly I began to see that I was capable of so much more than was “assigned” for me. It’s obviously easier said than done, because it is so engrained in our minds and the systems in place is rigid. But it’s a start.
Adichie makes it clear in We Should All Be Feminist, that it’s hard to be our authentic self in this time and age—but that’s only because we are making harder than it needs to be. We are limiting boys and girls, by placing them into fixed categories of masculinity and femininity. This stunts their growth as human beings. It prevents them from flourishing into strong intelligent, sensitive, emotional, creative, loving, compassionate, respectful people. I’m so sick and tired of hearing boys be told to not cry or feel. I’m so sick and tired of hearing girls be told to not be aggressive or opinionated. And this is why Adichie believes we should all be feminist—it affects everyone in a particular way.
Although we haven’t talk about this book in class yet, I wanted to lay out my thought and then come back to them and hopefully expand on this. We were, however, about to able to her voice on Beyonce’s track, FLAWLESS. I’ve heard many many many times about how Beyoncé is not really a “feminist.” Maybe because of her lyrics or the way she is visibility portrayed in the media. I think for young black girls, especially, they look at Beyoncé as a role and want to become like her because she is “accepted” as black woman in Hollywood. But this is perplexing, because she is an exception and there is, to a certain extent, an influence by the mainstream culture.
I personally thought the same thing that maybe Beyoncé wasn’t a true feminist, until someone in class had mentioned that in one way or another, she is. Beyoncé is able to deliver Adichie’s message to the masses with her platform. With this song people become more curious about ideologies of feminism and in turn, may do more research on the subject. Beyoncé has used her position of power to get this message across and talk about these issues more publicly. Being a feminist takes many forms and I see it more and more every day.