Posted in #LivingThroughLit, Inspiration

#LivingThroughLit #2

A Letter to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Ms. Adichie,

I never understood the controversy around the word “feminist” when I was younger. I only saw it as a way for women to gain the necessary empowerment to undo the expectations imbued on them by men. I also previously lived in New York City, a fervently liberal area, so I was accustomed to conversations of the feminist structures and continuously supported by my peers. So when I identified as a feminist in a new town and school in Texas, I was dreadfully ridiculed by male friends of mine.

“That’s such a stupid term.”

“Women and men are supposed to be equal, so it’s hypocritical of you to say you’re a feminist.”

“Stop saying that, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Some of my so-called closest male friends went as far to deem women objects of the kitchen and subservient to male dominance.

“Women belong in the kitchen.”

“You’re a woman, shut up.”

“Women can’t be ________.”

I understood that these comments were intended to be funny, which of course, was their intention: to create humor. As a result, I made no refute. I simply conversed the rest of the night without remarking on earlier… “jokes.”

Over time, however, it was continuous; there didn’t seem to be an end to them. I admit, I became accustomed to it just as I was to the loving support I received in New York for the complete opposite behavior. It became a shadow in my everyday life: always around but never noticed. I found myself questioning what it meant to be a feminist and realized that I could never rebuttal these “jokes” because I didn’t have the comprehensive evaluation and analyzation about what it was that I was fighting for.

Then, I read your essay, “We Should All Be Feminists” and listened to your voice.

You opened my mind to the idea that feminism not only emphasized female empowerment, but recognized a prevalent change that hasn’t happened quite yet: the shift from the old traditions of gender to the more modernized and fair ones. You described several personal stories and depictions of gender discrimination that society so rarely pays tribute to, even women. One point particularly stuck out to me: the fact that some idealize that women are supposed to teach men how to respect and provide the proper attitude toward these conversations and situations. Essentially, this is holding women responsible for men’s behavior. “Congratulations, you can be treated equally, but you have to be the one who takes accountability for it.”

And here lies the problem.

Boys are still not being taught the proper etiquette necessary for the path to equality. Instead, they are reinforced in these inappropriate behaviors.

These stories revealed a bit of an unborn realization for me and I began to finally acknowledge the inner and outer edges of feminism and its purposes.

In other words, I finally knew how to fight back.

You helped me realize that I handled it all wrong before, that I wasn’t speaking up and therefore reinforced my friends’ manner. You helped me realize that conversation is necessary, that our perspective is necessary, no matter how difficult it would be to make myself heard.

Normalizing discussions surrounding gender inequality is a key step toward understanding feminism and where it stems from. If society simply listened rather than arguing the inevitable progression our era faces, the term “feminism” wouldn’t be tossed around as a negative connotation.

However, when I confronted my friends with my grievances, I made the same mistake. Instead of opening the table for discussion and presenting a conversation in which all participants would feel comfortable opening their minds to, I didn’t give them the chance. I was plagued by anger and misunderstanding, which led to a fenced discussion going nowhere but down.

I mention this because it’s not that I blame one side or the other for the issues we face. Quite the opposite, in fact. This is an issue that stems from humanity’s inability to compromise. In other words, we’re so stubborn that we forget about the variety of perspectives that aren’t our own.

The way you reinforce this idea on your TED Talk,”The Danger of a Single Story,” demonstrates the importance of activating open-minded strategies of thinking. The simple solution of listening is so frequently discarded because of the normalization of stereotypes and biases.

But you remind us of its efficacy and continue to fight for its prevalence, and I wanted to thank you for that.

You have influenced the way I approach heavy problems and the progression of my activism. You’ve showed me new ways of thinking and the advantages of utilizing my imagination and creativity for communal purposes. You’ve provided me with the strategies needed to have interesting and productive conversations with various sides of an argument.

I hope to see you speak in person one day and continue to read and analyze your work, as it has impacted me and my perspective substantially.

Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Sources:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Quotes (Author of Americanah). (n.d.). Retrieved December 21, 2020, from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/11291.Chimamanda_Ngozi_Adichie

-, R., By, -, Rajitha SRajitha S is a former journalist with a national daily and is currently on a break teaching mass communication to undergraduates at a private college in Bhutan., S, R., Rajitha S is a former journalist with a national daily and is currently on a break teaching mass communication to undergraduates at a private college in Bhutan., . . . -, A. (2019, September 16). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie And Her Feminist Activism Through Storytelling. Retrieved December 21, 2020, from https://feminisminindia.com/2019/09/16/chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-feminist-activism-storytelling/

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