One thing that I especially liked about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” was the emphasis on collective blame for the current state of our culture when it comes to gender. Adichie consistently uses “we” when outlining the faults of how problematic gender constructs is in our society. When it comes to issues of inequality, there is often a division (such as viewing things as “us vs. them”) and there is often strong blame against the opposing side in justifying why one group experiences such inequality, discrimination, et cetera. However, Adichie’s use of the word “we” doesn’t create a division between women and men; it emphasizes the need for both parties to be involved in feminism in the strive towards equality of the sexes.
When I read the quote, “What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender?” (Adichie 36), I couldn’t help but think about my three year old host brother Carl in Sweden. He would often wear his sister’s dresses to school and to play in, completely unaware of the social constructs around boy clothes and girl clothes. When we were out in public, people would often smile adoringly at him rather than look uncomfortable and judgmentally at him, as I have often seen in the United States. It was such a contrast to compare Carl, who is completely innocent of the gender constructs at this point of his life, with how children are typically raised in accordance to their respective genders. According to societal gender constructs, Carl is exhibiting gender confusion and typically, the adults in his life are expected to immediately terminate his “girly” behavior in order to ensure that he grows up as a “proper boy.” But for Carl, it wasn’t about dressing as a particular gender; he wore dressed because he wanted to be just like his older sister. The issue for me is that society would have twisted Carl’s admiration for his older sister into something ugly and questioned his masculinity (mind you, he’s three). While I felt immense proud of Carl, I also felt a great deal of admiration for my host parents for letting Carl decide how he wants to present and express himself to the world. My host parents, in agreement with Adichie, realize that “the problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are” (Adichie 34). While I had previously thought it would be very difficult to raise a child without imposing gender roles because it is so deeply engrained into our culture, my Swedish host parents show how effortless it is and how liberating it can be for their children to grow up based on their interests and potential. While gender is still very much a part of our everyday lives, it is also very important to realize that progress is (slowly but surely) happening, as exhibited by conversations happening today questioning the necessity of gender constructs, the all gender bathrooms in campus, the introduction of gender fluidity. While it may seem farfetched, I am hopeful that our generation can move further towards social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.