Chimamanda Adichie shares 15 point manifesto on how to raise a feminist

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an award winning, Nigerian author, who writes about feminism and women empowerment. Her work has been translated in 30 languages and has been published in The New Yorker, the Financial Stripes, and the Zoetrope. Her most recent book, Americanah, released in 2013, has won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and was later named one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year.

She had built a career on explaining gender equality, and why it’s so important for the decisions we make not to be the result of unfair gender bias.

Photo: Wellesley College 

Photo: Wellesley College 

In a recent Facebook post, Adichie, outlined 15 points of advice on how to raise a feminist:

1. Be a full person.

  • She explains that while being a mother is wonderful thing, teach her not to solely define herself as being a mother. Being a mother shouldn’t only be who you are, but a part of who you are. Also, stop using the line “doing it all”, because it implies that any domestic tasks are only for women and they somehow have to do it all.  

2. Do it together.

  • It’s important for the mother and father to share the tasks around the house and raising the children. She discusses how women shouldn’t use the term “help” when it comes to their husbands pitching in or taking care of their children – he is doing what he should be doing.

3. Teach her that ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense.

  • There is nothing that a girl should or should not be doing because she is a girl. Boys are raised completely differently than girls, and the things girls are told they need to do, simply don’t apply to the boys. Adichie states that cooking and cleaning and taking care of children are skills that both men and women need to learn – it isn’t something that women are just born with. Once women realize that there is nothing they need to do to get or keep a man, they will no longer see marriage as a prize they need to earn by doing those things.

4. Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite.

  • Feminism Lite is the idea that female equality is conditional. That is ok for a woman to make her own money, have a job, dreams and goals; but at the end of the day it shouldn’t interfere with her primary duties of being a wife and mother. She mentions analogies used like “he’s driving but you are in the front seat”, to illustrate this destructive way of thinking.  

5. Teach her to read, teach her to love books.

  •  If your daughter sees you reading, she will understand how important books are and what she can learn from them. Adichie states that even if she doesn't go to school or get a formal education she will be smarter than those who do - because she has read books her entire life.

6. Teach her to question language.

  • Language is crucial to the raising of your child because the words that you use, come with a set of beliefs and implied meanings. “Language is the repository of our prejudices, our beliefs, and our assumptions. But to teach her that, you will have to question your own language,” says Adichie. For example, do not call your daughter's princess, because with a princess comes the need for a prince to save her.

7. Never speak of marriage as an achievement.

  • Marriage is not a life goal, or something for young women to aspire to. We teach girls that getting a man to propose is the goal but we don’t teach boys that marriage should be a goal for them as well.

8. Teach her to reject likability.

  •  Teach her that all she has to do in life is be herself, and if people (men included), don't "like" it, that is OK. Women feel a lot of pressure to change who they are, what they wear and what they say because someone might not like it or like them for it. Stay true to who you are, that's what's important. 

9. Give her a sense of identity.

  • Make her aware of who she is. Teach her to accept the things that she loves about her culture and her identity and to reject the things that she does not. Teach your daughters to not value people based on how much money they do or do not have and not to have too much focus on material things.

10. Be deliberate about how you engage with her and her appearance.

  •  “Encourage her participation in sports. Teach her to be physically active. Take walks with her. Swim. Run. Play tennis. Football. Table tennis. All kinds of sports. Any kind of sports. I think this is important not only because of the obvious health benefits but because it can help with all the body-image insecurities that the world thrusts on girls,” says Adichie. Teach her that of she wants to wear something she can, regardless of what society says she shouldn’t be wearing.

 11. Teach her to question our culture's selective use of biology as 'reasons' for social norms.  

  • We use biology to explain the promiscuous and sometimes dangerous ways of men but do not use the same excuse for women. When a couple is having a child. the woman is referred to as "carrying his child," instead of theirs. 

 

12. Talk to her about sex and start early.

  • Adichie says that women need to be open and honest with their daughters about sex, and teach them that participating in a sexual act isn’t something to be ashamed of. Make her aware of the emotional consequences of having sex before she is ready but if she does make her comfortable enough to be able to tell you. Sex isn’t something that only happens in marriage but a beautiful thing. Teach her the language to use when talking about sex as well.

13. Romance will happen so be on board.

  • It is important to teach our daughters that love isn’t something that they give but something that they should take and expect. Girls are taught that love means sacrificing themselves but boys are taught that when someone loves them they will make sacrifices for them. We need to create a world where women don’t think that the only way for them to get married is if the man proposes, but make them feel empowered to do so if they choose.

14. In teaching her about oppression, be careful not to turn the oppressed into saints.

  • Adichie teaches that even if someone if considered “bad” or not so nice, they still deserve dignity and respect. Many women feel they have to be seen as angles in order to get what she should already be getting, as a human being. 

15.  Teach her about difference.

  • Acknowledging difference is what makes us understanding and humane. It is not healthy to think of your way of life as normal or universal. Teach your daughters that people come from different walks of life Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. “Teach her not to attach value to difference. And the reason for this is not to be fair or to be nice but merely to be human and practical. Because difference is the reality of our world. And by teaching her about difference, you are equipping her to survive in a diverse world,” explained Adichie.

Would you raise your daughter using any of these 15 points?