By Mary Enweremandu
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian author who has received various honorary doctorate degrees from the likes of William’s College and SOAS University of London. Her books gained recognition worldwide and have been translated into more than thirty languages.
Adichie is a true symbol of Black excellence as she continues to defy expectations and challenge boundaries. Although there are many reasons why one should read Adichie’s works, one that stands out to me the most, is her unwavering dedication to portray the prominence of feminism.
We Should All Be Feminists (2014).
In Adichie’s 2012 TED talk and her book titled We Should All Be Feminists (2014), she reminded us about the fundamental messages of feminism and why it is crucial to maintain this ideology. During her TED talk, Adichie discussed the negativity associated with the word feminism, especially in the Nigerian context. She mentioned an instance in which she was advised by a journalist whilst promoting a book to “never call [herself] a feminist because feminists are women who are unhappy because they cannot find husbands”. Adichie did not adhere to this mindset expected of her, instead, she criticised how society teaches ‘girls to shrink themselves’.
Her criticism is further developed in her book ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, a New York Times bestseller. In this book, Adichie argued that feminism is not about hating men, a point that I think many red-pill podcasters would benefit from knowing. Instead, feminism advocates for equality for both genders. She also discussed gender stereotypes which can be delimiting for men and women. The book went on to explore how gender normative roles cause inequalities that are manifested for both genders.
We Should All Be Feminists, alongside her TED talk, are powerful reminders about why and how we should uphold the feminist manifesto. As Adichie stated during her TED talk, “a feminist man or a woman” is someone “who says yes there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it, we must do better”.
Half A Yellow Sun (2006).
Another highly recommended book that depicts the versatility of female characters is Half a Yellow Sun which was set during the Biafran War in the late 1960s. The two female protagonists Olanna and Kainene represented the multi-dimensional characteristics that can be associated with womanhood. Olanna is an emotional idealist, whilst Kainene is pragmatic and practical. I argue that despite their differences, these characters show how gender stereotypes are broken. Whilst the character of Olanna may be associated with adhering to traditional feminine ideals through her emotional vulnerability, Adichie underlines how one-dimensional it is to view these characteristics as fundamentally feminine. For example, it was also Olanna’s emotional vulnerability that allowed her to have a sense of sympathy which led her to be involved in political and social activism during the war. The character’s ability to assert herself in the context of war, considered socially masculine, highlights the complexity of womanhood and the important and integral role women play in society.
In various societies, including Nigerian society, women are expected to adhere to socially constructed feminine traits of being caring and maternal. However, Adichie challenges these stereotypes by constructing Kainene as a woman who is business savvy. Kainene thrives in the business world, which is arguably reserved for men. Her allegiance to this world stands as a rejection of the patriarchal ideology which traps women as being inherently family-orientated and marriage-driven.
Purple Hibiscus (2003)
This book underlines the importance of autonomy for women in a climate that maintains oppressive traditional norms. The protagonist, Kambili, embarks on a journey to find agency and empowerment as a woman whose father is oppressive toward her. On this journey, she learns to question patriarchal structures whilst finding her voice. Her aunt, Ifeoma, is portrayed as a character who acts as a barrier against gender norms. With someone by her side who embodied agency, independence, and freedom of thought, Kambili eventually found herself and the voice she needed.
With a strong educational background, it came as no surprise that Adichie highlighted the importance of education in this novel. Through Ifeoma, Adichie emphasised the value of education, its beauty as a tool for both men and women, especially in societies beyond the Western world where women are usually denied this right. Women are not just vessels who exist to appease society’s norms. They too deserve to explore and have thoughts of their own. Hence, this book is important to readers who want to see the silent and submissive stereotype challenged through strong female characters who defy expectations and disrupt normative gender roles.
Through just these three books, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds her readers about the importance of feminism and gender discourse. Adichie’s books are globally received and she has not allowed stereotypes nor intersectional barriers of race and gender to inhibit her success.
Illustration by Chiara