This book is a “book-length essay” adapted from the author’s 2012
talk. While the title might be off-putting to those unaware of the
feminism — many people mistakenly think it is synonomous with misandry —
author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie uses the actual definition: “the belief and aim that
women should have the same rights and opportunities as men; the struggle to achieve this
aim”, as do I.
Much of it is composed of anecdotes from her life in Nigeria, and her feelings about them.
What I Liked Least About It
Perhaps what I liked least about it was something already mentioned above — that it
is primarily anecdotes (personal stories), as well as claims without backing. The claims very
well could be true (and I think they are), but to any person who needs to be convinced that
feminism is necessary, I think it is better to include citations. If you say “the
majority of famous cooks in the world... are men”, did you just assume it based on your
own impressions, or is there a listing of them somewhere that shows this?
There likely are people who better respond to Adichie’s personal style of
storytelling than to analyses of data or logically-constructed arguments. I’m just not
one of them.
What I Liked Most About It
I liked that it was from a non-American perspective. As a lifelong U.S. citizen, almost every book
I’ve ever read has been written by Americans, for Americans, which creates a narrow
perspective. To have someone from another nation — on another continent — write
something like this is refreshing.
I liked that what she said was true, as far as I could tell (from my own impressions, and from
my own prior research). At no point did I feel like “she’s just bending this fact
to suit her agenda”. In every case, it looked like her agenda is supported by the facts.
I liked her response to the now-common trope question about the very name of the movement —
why call it “feminism” if your true aim is equality? She answered:
“Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general
— but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to
deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was
not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem
of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about
being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then
proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem
should acknowledge that.”
The book reads quickly; I think I finished it in less time than it required Adichie to say it
in the TED Talk video (about half an hour). This makes me want to not recommend
purchasing the book; why pay full price when you can watch her speech online for free? On the
other hand, I saw another reviewer say the same thing before I purchased it, and I paid for it
anyway, partly to boost the sales and to financially support the author, and partly to have a
copy of it onhand should someone else want to read it — a friend, one of my children,
Like any persuasive argument, Adichie’s won’t work on someone deep on the other
side. Persuasive arguments work on people who are already on the fence. If you’re fully
convinced that women and men are already treated completely equally by the law and societal
systems, then this book likely won’t persuade you. Alternatively, if you know the
misogynistic structures exist, but agree with them, this book won’t persuade you
either. The intended audience is (I assume) people who are already in the process of coming
over to a more feminist way of thinking; for many of them, it might do the trick.