Short Book Reflection: We Should All Be Feminists

I read We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In this short essay, Adichie eloquently illuminates how gender inequality is not and should not be only the concern of women, but that rectifying this inequality is also the responsibility of men. She discusses how the word feminist is used as an insult and the ‘single stories’ (to use Adichie’s own words from a different talk) people have for feminists. She calls her readers to action saying that the way we raise boy is just as harmful as the way we raise girls. She implores the reader asking, “What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender” (p. 36)?

I think this book is incredibly useful as for language teaching purposes for a variety of reasons. First, the book is largely a print version of her TEDxEuston talk given in 2013. This could be a great tool for a listening exercise as opposed to a reading activity. In addition, as Adichie is Nigerian, it would be wonderful for English language learners to hear speakers who do not have the prototypical English accents that are often found in English language classrooms. This could open up further social justice topics up for discussion such as discrimination based on accent. Second, as reading material, the book is very short, only 42 pages. According to a few different readability measurements, it has a reasonable reading score of 65 on the Flesch Kincaid scale. Finally, it would be excellent for studying narrative language forms such as the past tense as well as structuring persuasive forms. It could lead to a discussion of ethos, pathos, and logos and their different affordances for persuasion.

Some key points in the text that I would like to use with my students as discussion and reflection points:

  • What do you think of when you hear the word, feminist? (pgs. 9-11)
  • Adichie in this essay and in other works said that if people are told something over and over or we do something over and over we will begin to believe that thing or think it is normal. What are things your culture says about women? About men? What do we believe is normal simply because we haven’t seen it any other way? (p. 13)
  • How are men affected by the typical gender roles we assign? What does it mean to be a man? (pgs. 26-27)
  • “Culture does not make people. People make culture” (p 46). Do you agree?

The book I think is highly aligned with the texts we’ve engaged in as well as the discussions we’ve had in class. Particularly striking is that feminism is not just for women; it also affects men. One part of her book did make me wonder her stance on the LGBTQ+ community. As Nigeria does not have any legal protection for the LGBTQ+ community, it would not be surprising if she is not an ally of the LGBTQ community. She frames gender roles in a very binary way and refers to only heterosexual relationships.

Miranda Doremus- Reznor

4 Responses to “Short Book Reflection: We Should All Be Feminists

  • keyue Song
    3 weeks ago

    I agree that all people should find their places in social justice endeavors, whether they are oppressed or privileged. This can also lead to discussions about the intersection between one privileged identity and one oppressed identity, and how should these people find themselves in the discussion. I have heard one opinion that male and female are not genders or sexes, but two personalities, like extrovert and introvert personalities. Can we bring this topic to the class discussion as well?

  • Mia Dunfey
    3 weeks ago

    Hi Miranda, I think the first point of Adichie’s you bring up is so important. Pressure, blame, and solving gender issues are too often put on women’s shoulders and educators need to be aware of how they teach these subjects. I think your discussion questions nicely align with that by including questions directed toward men. However, I agree with your critique of the invisibility of the LGBTQ+ community. From what I remember when I read this book, she calls for destroying the gender hierarchy and yet only mentions the gender binary, which neglects those who are non-binary, trans, etc. I think this is a great starting point for breaking down misconceptions of feminism but when teaching, it would be important to expand upon the concept of gender.

  • Deniz Ortactepe
    2 weeks ago

    Hi Miranda,
    I enjoyed reading your reflection and good job discussing both affordances for language classrooms as well as limitations. I think this form of critical perspective help us identify the strengths in any work we do with a grain of salt – we cannot be perfect. And although this form of binary thinking is criticized a lot by critical feminists – you will remember Enns and Sinacore’s chapter, we need to understand where she comes from. Sometimes we need small battles/battles that we can fight.
    I would like to comment on a couple of things you mentioned – having the TED talk (multimodality) and the reading (textual) is great for differentiation too. Some students can prefer to watch the video, while others can read the book.
    And you mentioned the accent issue as well – yes, I think it would be a good started for accent related discrimination and bias but also it’s a good segue into ownership of language as well. Who owns English?

  • Rebecca Jot
    2 weeks ago

    Hi Miranda,
    Thank you for bringing to this book and TED Talk to my attention. I found CNA’s The Danger of a Single Story to be very informative and I look forward to hearing her speak to the issue of feminism.
    To the point of how we raise boys, I was wondering what your thoughts were about the expression ‘toxic masculinity’? I have wondered whether this phrase is too loaded to be used in constructive dialogue. Does CNA use this term?
    What’s your opinion?

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