In a world where “feminism” has become such a commonly-used phrase , Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie hopes to clear up what the powerful term actually means.
Earlier this month, the Nigerian author released her latest book “Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,” a 63-page guide to what feminism truly encompasses. The idea for the book came together after a friend–named Ijeawele– asked Ngozi for advice on how to raise her daughter as a feminist.
“I think the way that a lot of girls are raised in so many parts of the world is that idea that you have to be likeable,” Ngozi said in an interview with NPR about the short book. “And likeable means you have to kind of mold and shape what you do and say based on what you imagine the other person wants to hear…”
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Elaborating further, Ngozi went on to emphasize the importance of women and young girls learning to value authenticity over likeability. “For me it’s the consequence of likeability; it’s what that idea of likeability does,” she added. “And I think instead we should teach girls to just be themselves, and that idea that you don’t have to be liked by everyone. And it kind of makes me wonder what kind of world would we have lived in if women had been allowed to be their full selves?”
A little over a year ago, Ngozi herself had a baby girl with her husband, Dr. Ivara Esegee. While she’s fairly private about her own life as a parent, the 15-point guide aims to help mothers raise independent girls based on ideals she herself believes are essential to the process.
“My general approach is teach the child that we don’t understand everything,” she says. “‘I don’t know, and it’s OK that I don’t know.’ I think it’s important to just say to kids, ‘Look, there’s difference in the world. The norm of our existence as human beings is difference. We’re not all the same, and it’s OK.’… Then it makes them just kind of shrug when things that don’t fit their own narrow existence sort of appear to them.”