Adichie: “Why should a woman’s success be a threat to a man?” Blog Post by Ruzina Khatun

Ruzinapic

“A feminist is a man or a woman who says, “yes there is a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it. We must do better””.

In 2013, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie made an appearance on Beyoncé’s album with the track ‘Flawless’. The track includes samples from Adichie’s TedxEuston talk, “We should all be feminists”. Adichie and Beyonce (‘Queen Bey’) joined forces to promote feminism to a widespread audience and eliminate gender inequality. So why was Adichie’s speech given global prominence?
This speech discusses the unhealthy stereotypes and expectations that women face in society. Adichie begins with a few personal accounts she has had growing up in Nigeria. She tells the story of her male friend calling her a “feminist” which was directed as an insult. As a feminist, she feels that she needs to explain her relationship with makeup. The word feminist is associated with “heavy baggage” and it means that “you hate men, you hate bras, you hate African culture.” Instead, Adichie wants to be identified as a “happy African feminist who does not hate men and who likes lip gloss and who wears high heels for herself but not for men”.

As a child, her dreams of being class monitor was crushed because she was a girl. All these personal accounts demonstrate her own experience with gender inequality. Adichie then focuses on the pay gap between men and women. For example, in Nigeria, people assume that a woman’s wealth is from a man. In the workplace, a woman’s work effort is just the same as man’s, yet their paycheck disregards this. They learn to not speak up for themselves as they are worried about coming across as too aggressive. These gender expectations are internalised which result in double standards for men and women. While men are praised for being tough and aggressive –women who act in the same way are criticised. Gender bias in a workplace is real and findings show that a woman’s perceived competency drops by 35% when they are judged as being “assertive” (Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2015/08/25/gender-bias-is-real-womens-perceived-competency-drops-significantly-when-judged-as-being-forceful/#785c71672d85).

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Adichie’s speech reinforces Simone de Beauvoir’s critical theory, The Second Sex, which argues that women are oppressed and made to be inferior to men–simply by the fact that they are women. In a world which is male-orientated, how can a woman expect to accomplish the same as a man? Adichie agrees with Beauvoir that, although women and men are different biologically,” socialization exaggerates the differences”. Thus, the origin of gender roles and inequality are products of society and social experiences.

Childhood is very important to socialization. Boys and girls are expected to conform to strict and confining gender roles from a young age. Adichie argues that, “We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way… We teach boys to be afraid of fear, of weakness, of vulnerability. We teach them to mask their true selves…” She asserts the idea that, it is not only women who suffer from socially constructed gender inequality, but men also suffer from these disadvantages.

Adichie says, “Culture does not make people. People make culture”. She proves that feminism is not strictly a female experience and culture will not change unless individuals acknowledge this. Adichie’s speech gives meaning to complex ideas of why we should all be feminists.

 

 

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lily Money on December 11, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Hey, I thought this was a great post. I first leant about this Ted Talk and it was the first time I came across Adichie by listening to flawless. I complete agree with her idea of feminism. Even today, women are still scared to identify as a feminist because they are worried that people might think of them as a ‘man hater’. I was once watching an interview with Beyoncé where she says the word feminist use to frighten her, but then she came across this author and realised feminist applies to all of us because it is equality for both sexes. I like that Adichie address that men suffer as well as women; such as the narrow view of masculinity that society has.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Fern Dalton on January 10, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    Wonderful post! Was a joy to read as your thinking is so similar to my own. Feminism, unfortunately, isn’t understood worldwide, nor do people know the correct meaning of the word and it is something that needs to be taken and addressed seriously.
    I like how you have linked childhood to your post also, because it is so true. Having grown up with two brothers, my room always pink and theirs, always blue. Not hugely significant but significant enough, even when it came down to the colour of our toothbrushes or whether to get a female/male dog, childhood is the key motivator to defining the two different sexes.

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  3. Really enjoyed reading your post! Unfortunately we do live in a time where words are still misinterpreted by the many. It is typical for boys to be associated with blue and pink with girls and the word feminism is only a female term. I think we also need to appreciate how many people are now also speaking more openly of this topic. More men are getting involved with gender inequality especially in the film industry which I believe to be a great help in showing the true meaning behind the term feminism. Raising awareness through media like Beyonce’s song also helps eliminate those stereotypes of what a feminist is and hopefully keep raising awareness of unspoken topics to help make changes.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Ella Bukbardis on January 19, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    Hi Ruzina,

    This is a great post! I thought it was a really good idea to mix popular culture (Beyonce’s music) with second wave feminism to create a really well rounded message. Linking childhood with feminism is so important as how a child grows up in society is integral to their well being.

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  5. Great post, Ruzina. I think that Beyonce’s adoption of feminism and the inclusion of feminism and gender politics into pop culture has been overwhelmingly positive for the movement – it makes feminism seem more accessible and appealing to a broader audience and allows the general populus to access theories like De Beauvoir’s (through Adichie’s speech) in a more ‘user-friendly way’.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Carmen on January 24, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    A very interesting post which engages in the idea that feminism is acknowledging that there are gender imbalances and the term ‘feminist’ is not limited to only be used by women but men can also take part. I believe that that gender is socially constructed, it is an ideal that belongs to its context/setting and is therefore not biological. It is something we are conditioned whilst learning at a young age. This is shown through the fact that Adichie was unable to become class president despite qualifying for the position.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Sara on January 24, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    Hi Ruzina, This is a great blog post as you look at the link with pop culture and the problems with gender imbalance. The part of the idea of gender roles and inequality as social constructs were really interesting. You could have gone farther to argue the idea that gender itself is a mere social construct which helps strengthen patriarchy. Furthermore, the fact that you have highlighted the importance of childhood in creating the child’s perception of gender is a great touch.

    Reply

  8. Interesting post, Ruzina. Like Lily, I first came across Adichie’s work when listening to Beyonce’s Flawless. This shows how much of a positive impact pop culture has on feminism. I liked how you linked Adichie’s voice to that of Simone de Bouvoir – both are extremely powerful women who share a hatred of patriarchal society.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Rachel Chandar on February 27, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    Really good post Ruzina! It really is an ongoing problem how feminism is associated with being ‘heavy baggage’. There is a lot of misunderstanding around the term, which is very frustrating, and so people associate many negative connotations to the word. And as Adichie states, feminism is not just a female experience, but it should be understood and taught properly. I also really liked your incorporation of childhood as being very important to socialisation.

    Reply

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